Friday, July 31, 2009

Assessment matters

Delightful prompt from today's higher ed on how studying the humanities contribute and how such contribution might be measured.
Are we there yet?

I have had the joy for many years of being involved with students in teaching them less about content and more about processes; how to communicate, what's involved in thinking critically, what is knowledge... However, I note somewhat wryly that come assessment time, I lose their attention somewhat to the courses that seem heavy in knowledge acquisition; ones full of minutiae specific details of right or wrong answers.
And am also reminded of a non-joyous moment of almost getting a years paid leave to study a subject dear to my heart, text counselling, but failed to win over a panel member because his paradigm was entrenched in better or worse, right or wrong rather than in how it is shaped and being used or shaping and using those involved.

Here's the problem, as put forward by Michael Bérubé; How to measure the unmeasurable.
What does this research do, what footprint will it leave?

My own study is really about greater awareness doesn't have the pulling and pushing power that even an ethics committee would respect. They want to know that what is undertaken will change the world in anticipated, good, ways. But whose idea of good is not examined.

Michael Bérubé describes my angst of being involved in uncovering pluralist ways of being; how to develop and maintain pluralist societies that include people who are not pluralists.
He doesn't have an answer though., being a pluralist has its own ways of being :)
So, instead, a commitment to lifelong learning and suppleness of mind.

I cant see that one getting through a Board of studies as a written objective.
And as he says, we do not know how to measure such things.
Maybe that's also why I lost students at assessment times?

We cannot prove it, we cannot show it...
We humanists suffer from the conviction that the unexamined life is not worth living.

And there is the conundrum, how to assess it.

This reminds me also of Annmarie's excellent article on the gold standard in health of the double-blind placebo. While the argument espoused wasn't enough to win me that specific study grant it was still enough to persuade me that rather than proving, research can be about improving...tinkering with adaptability ... knowing things better.

Mol, A. (2006). Proving or improving: On health care research as a form of self-reflection. Qual Health Research, 16, 405-414.

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