As I am sitting down to write this week’s edition of On the Horizon, my 7 year old daughter, Eva, is busy working away on one of her birthday gifts. She received a sewing kit from her auntie, and in it are all the materials for her to create her own little stuffed owl. It’s pretty cute, but it also requires a lot of side-by-side learning. This is one of those moments when I’m in a little over my head, as I am not a master at sewing, not even close! What I have noticed, however, is that she is much more able to solve her own problems as she continues to struggle with her kid-safe needle and thread. This whole activity is a perfect microcosm of what learning should be, a kid engaged in an activity that interests her (she’d have given up on Lego long ago), is stretching her (it even says it’s for 8+), and has a clearly defined product. My role has gone from helping her set up and demonstrating how to pull the needle and thread through, to a cheerleader on the side.
So, what mark should she get?
My friend, George Couros (@gcouros), posted a link to this articleby Bill Ferriter. In it Ferriter talks about the good old, SWBAT acronym, and for those of you relatively new to the profession, SWBAT stands for students will be able to. When I was teaching math, all of my lesson plans would contain SWBAT, and to be honest, it was pretty easy to come up with these objectives, especially for my senior level math classes. While it was easy to create a statement to put on the board (i.e. students will be able to identify the numerical coefficients from a quadratic equation and use the quadratic formula to solve the equation), it wasn’t always easy to measure what they had learned. In the end, I was focusing on what was measurable, not what was meaningful.This brings me back to Eva’s sewing activity. How do I measure what she has learned, and how do I share this with her mom who is currently at work and not seeing the process? I could count the number of errors she has made, but will that be an accurate measurement? I could record how long it took her, and then ask her to complete another one, but will that be an accurate measurement? I could find out if any other kids her age have sewn an owl kit like this and set them side by side and see which one looks better, but will that be an accurate measurement? The funny thing is that’s how I used to measure learning when I was teaching other subjects, like grade 5 social studies, or senior psychology, and as I reflect, I am sure I wasn’t always measuring what was important. As Eva was working, I asked her, “Eva, what are you learning?” Her response was, “I’m not learning, I’m just sewing”. Interesting. I bet if I had given her a sheet of addition questions or a spelling list she’d be able to formulate a different answer to that question. Has she already been trained to think that if it isn’t readily measurable it’s not really learning? If so, that makes me a little sad.
As we continue along our learning journey this year, keep asking yourself, “am I measuring what’s measurable or what’s meaningful?”
Here’s what lies ahead this week:
Jon Yellowlees is popping out for a visit
Cross country meet in Langham
SCC meeting 5:00 pm
EA PD meeting 8:00 am (library)
IA magazine sale fundraiser kickoff (9:00ish ~ library)
School pictures (in the gym)
Holly Kruger at school to meet with various teachers