Guest blogger: Dave Royer
To the reader: the following blog uses the “a” word, so sufferers of “a” exhaustion, be forewarned.
In one of my recent classes we had a discussion; it was not explicitly planned, but we were covering a topic that had the potential to elicit strong opinions. I enjoyed hearing the students’ opinions, and their perspectives were interesting. I think it was empowering for them to have an opportunity to express their opinion and to use materials they had learned in my course and in other courses they had taken to support their opinions. After the class was over, I realized that the discussion was spontaneous and creative and completely outside my assessment plan for the course. Is that a bad thing?
At times, I have found the assessment process to be exhausting and occasionally frustrating, but it has revealed a lot about how I teach and what and how my students learn. My teaching has changed, hopefully for the better, because of it. But I hope that assessment does not evolve in a way that suppresses spontaneity and creativity in the classroom; I do not ever want to hear myself say to a class that we do not have time for discussion (or some other activity) because it is not in the assessment plan. I feel that the interchange that occurred in my class was as valuable to the students’ learning experience as a well conceived and constructed SLO.
One final thought – someone might suggest that I could have anticipated the possibility of discussion and designed a rubric to assess it, but it was pleasant to listen and participate without having to keep score.