Children and Adults have quite a lot in common

… so why do we insist on assessing them differently?

Well, we are all human aren’t we? There must be some very close similarities between a child and an adult, or is it really the case that there is a sudden point when one stops being a child and becomes a different entity all together? I am not talking about legally, but developmentally, can we say a child has developed into an adult on a 16th birthday, an 18th, a 21st or any other time? Surely this is a continuous function where the small differences occur gradually and with time. A close friend of mine is in his 50s and acts like a 16 year old on a regular basis.

What has this got to do with assessment you are asking?

What is good for adults is good for kids.

It occurred to me the other day, while we were working on our assessment system, that we should take lessons from the way we get assessed in adult life, and what helps us progress and improve our practice and our behaviours. We should apply these lessons to the way we assess students, hoping that what works for us, works for them too.

We don’t though, do we? When was your work last graded? When were you last placed on a rubric for your performance? When did someone last write a summative comment to you with no expectation or even permission for a response? I can say that this has not happened since I left University, and even then very very rarely. It is basically a school thing … for children!

Assessment as a conversation

Without the crutch of assessment to help me in life, it is remarkable that I have made any progress at all really. But if I have, what has made this happen? Conversations are a good start. I have had great conversations with people, some who have praised me, some who have pointed out my failings, and the best ones where  people have done both. The point about them is that, being a conversation, I have been able to reflect, respond and request clarification.

From assessment to evidence

But, without grades or rubrics, how do I know that I have done something of value? How do I demonstrate it to others, so they know too? The evidence is in the thing itself. I am proud of the Island Futures curriculum which is innovative exciting and revolutionary, but it is no good me telling you that, or someone giving it a grade or a place on the rubric. The curriculum itself is the evidence. Come to island School and see.

Creating the picture of myself

I can put together a list of the achievements I have been involved in, and decide how to display my talents. I can create the portfolio of the things that show the range of my skills and show you the evidence of them.

All this is obvious, but we still apply different rules for students. Let’s apply the same rules that work for us. Swap assessment for evidence, base the process on conversations and allow the students to put together their portfolio that shows the range of their skills.

What is good for kids is good for adults.

Let’s look at things in reverse. If we have a good assessment system for students, that is formative, empowering and developmental and doesn’t rely on grades and rubrics, can we learn from this?

There are still schools who base their staff appraisal, or performance management, or whatever it is called in your system, on the metrics of class results. That end up grading teachers as bad, good or outstanding, and sometimes pay them on this basis. Why not use the same system for the adults as you do for the students. If it works for one, it should work for the other.

What we need is an assessment system for students, that gives them control over what evidence they choose to demonstrate their skill development, which is based on conversations. In the same way we need an appraisal system for teaches that gives them control over their portfolio to demonstrate their development and is based on conversations.

These are the same thing. Is there a system out there that does this. I don’t think so. We will make one. When we have it, I will put it on this blog.

Happy grading!


One thought on “Children and Adults have quite a lot in common

  1. I LOVE this idea. My youngest has had a taste of this with the 3 way learning review, however that only happens once a year.
    Maturity and willingness to learn are key to evidence based assessment but even if you have those in abundance changing parent attitude and culturally embedded expectations are another hurdle. That’s not to say that the problem can’t be solved though.
    I look forward to seeing how your innovative idea of assessment develops.


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