Thursday, September 30, 2010

Can We Test for "Joy of Learning"

I was reading Jonathan Kozol's Letters to a Young Teacher and came across this quote:

Do the officials "... who's setting education policy policy these days every speaks about the sense of fun that children have, or ought to have, in public school or the excitement that they take when they examine interesting creatures such as beetle-bugs and ladybugs and other oddities of nature that they come upon - or even merely whether they are happy children and enjoy the hours that they spend with us in school."

Is there anyone out there who is designing an assessment about the joy of learning?  Are there policy makers or pundits who even care about this?  If kids are getting higher test scores and are learning that school is boring, should we call that a win?

In his book, Meeting Students Where They Live, Richard Curwin asks a similar question.  He thinks that educators should be asking the question, "At what costs?" more often when confronted with the newest reform trend.  Sure, this instructional program or classroom management technique may result in higher test scores, but at what costs?

When a child, or young adult, feels joy in learning; when her curiosity is fed, she will remain motivated to learn for years after he formal education is over.  But is school becomes drudgery, then the desire to learn may shut down as soon as the goal, the grade or diploma, is achieved.  Heck, we often see motivation and the joy of learning shut down long before the goal is won.  Then we witness the child withdraw further and further away from schooling.

When a child withdraws from school, it's a problem.  When she withdraws from learning and curiosity, it's a tragedy.

We can assess how well our children enjoy learning while we are assessing how well they are learning.  The problem is that assessing joy of learning is an expensive idea.  It take adults spending time with kids, talking to them about their experiences in school.  Kids can't bubble in an answer to a survey question, "Do you enjoy school?" or "Are you curious?" and pretend like this is meaningful information.

In assessing learning we can make that assessment
1. Widespread - looking at every kid
2. Inexpensive and Easy to Administrate
3. Meaningful
but we can only have two of these three.

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