Instructional System Design (Part 4 of a 5 part series)

How, What, and Why We Evaluate

“If there is not an inherent attracting power in the material, then… the teacher will either attempt to surround the material with foreign attractiveness, making a bid or offering a bribe for attention by ‘making the lesson interesting’; or else will resort to…low marks, threats of non-promotion, staying after school…. But the attention thus gained…always remains dependent upon something external….True, reflective attention, on the other hand, always involves judging, reasoning, deliberation; it means that the child has a question of his own and is actively engaged in seeking and selecting relevant material with which to answer it.” –John Dewey, 1915

like to think about how far education might come if instruction is built more around Dewey’s words and less around standardized testing. We must often build instruction upon the needs of our organizations rather than the needs of our learners. As you begin to pull everything together for your project, remember Dewey’s image: the child with a question of his own, seeking answers. Will that describe your learners?

In an idealistic way, is that the basis of evaluation? Did the child have a question and seek the answer? One of my teachers once asked: “If you aren’t going to evaluate it, why teach it?” It’s a simple enough question. And it seems logical. But what is evaluation?

There are many levels and approaches to evaluation. The readings this time cover several aspects of the topic. Yet in some ways we still need to go back to Perelman’s “Not Questioning the Question.” What do we really hope to discover with evaluation?

Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. As we all know, we learn an awful lot by making mistakes (although we still feel awful). To promote our ability to rationalize, I’ve added a fascinating article – “The Importance of Failure” – so that we all appreciate what a service we give to humanity when we mess something up. Seriously, I feel Unsworth is also warning us not to get caught up in a euphoria brought on by change, without truly assessing where that change is leading. Is the emperor wearing cloths or isn’t he? How do we know for sure, especially at a distance?

Some Things to Think About

  1. What are some of the data collection methods used in online evaluation?
  2. Reflect on the shortcomings of online quizzes and tests.
  3. Can proctored exams be effectively utilized in distance learning situations?
  4. Reflect on three constituents of a program evaluation and the perspective each contributes.
  5. Why it is important to fail?

A few surfing trips…

Please let me know if you found this article to be of assistance or have other items that you would like to see discussed.

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