Education Corner 5

The EC readers have some class work rather than homework so please do read carefully and participate today
Little Willy's Evidence
Look at Little Willy's math problems. Look the problems over, correct them and then make some comment on Little Willy's work. How did he do? What has Little Willy learned? Just comment about what you see here. Look carefully.
1) 2+2=4
2) 3+3=6
3) 2+4=7
Comment: __________________________ ___________________________________ __
If you are like most readers, you will see there are certain things you can say about Little Willy and these problems. You could say "Little Willy is doing addition." That would be true. You might go further and say "Little Willy is doing simple addition problems" and that is also true. You might also say "Little Willy is doing simple addition problems using one digit numbers" and that would be good and very true as well. However, if you are like most people you probably looked at Little Willy's problems and then said "Hey, Little Willy missed #3. 2+4 is 6 not 7." If you saw this, you likely said this right away and, of course, you are correct. 2+4 does not equal 7. Some people (most) are actually happy when they see this obvious mistake. They report that they thought the mistake was accidental and they like to find mistakes. They say they like to find out when something is wrong and point the error out. Students say they "feel smart" when they find mistakes made in books or by their teachers. We could also ask how we should mark Little Willy's paper. Some of you might say "Get a red pen and mark that #3 wrong." Let's let Little Willy know right away that #3 is incorrect—#3 is wrong. Yes, that would certainly show Willy that one was wrong—#3. A big red mark—an X. Finding out what is not correct is important but it is not everything.
Let's stop and think for just one moment. You could have said "Hey Little Willy got #1, #2, #4 and #5 correct." You could have looked at the problems and said "Four problems are correct." That is an equally correct answer, Right? Of course, it is true and correct but somehow to say four are correct does not seem as important as the idea that one was wrong. Think about four out of five being correct. That certainly is not bad. If you are playing baseball and you go to bat five times and get four hits—that's .800 or eight-hundred as baseball players call it. If you are playing basketball and you make four out of five in shooting that is 80% (the same as .800). And 80% in basketball is quite good even great. And all students know that 80% is usually a B or B- and that's pretty good. So maybe we could have looked at little Willy's paper and said "This is quite good Willy got four correct and only one incorrect. I think I will put four big C's next to #1 #2 #4 and #5. We look to correct the paper with numbers or quantitatively. In education we measure this way—quantitatively. If we measure with words—like Little Willy did good, poor or bad that is called qualitative assessment and words like these are not how we measure. Good, average and poor does not give us evidence where 90%, 70% or 50% gives us better evidence.
This is just a little activity to get you thinking about this idea of assessing or evaluating or even grading. The mistake was made on purpose. It was made for several reasons. First, it was made to show you that perhaps we all look for or zero in on the negative first and maybe that is not always the best way to see assessment and evaluation. The mistake was made so that you might think about assessment, evaluation and grading as seeing what is right or correct as well as what is wrong or incorrect. Second, the mistake was made so that you had something to correct and improve for Little Willy's paper for next time. We are happy for Willy and his 80%, but we cannot ignore the fact that Little Willy somehow believes that 2+4=7. We must help little Willy, and in this case it is very easy. "Hey Little Willy," you might say. "Next time you see 2+4, make two marks and then four marks on your scratch paper—then count them up. You will have six." Or "Little Willy, next time put up two fingers on one hand and four fingers on the other. Use your nose to count them and you will see that 2+4=6." We want beginning teachers to think this way. We want a parent to look at what is right AND what is not right. Then, we want you to look at all this through the "eyes of improvement." We know that if you look at evidence as how to improve teaching and learning you will be better for this. If there is something incorrect—what must we do to make it correct? If Little Willy misses lots of problems, like four out of five, then somehow we must say—can the teacher do something better? Can the teacher do better if he uses some manipulatives or rocks or marbles? Results of tests and scores that represent learning are far too often used for ranking students and schools or used to criticize teachers and the schools. When results are not good, the first thing we must say is—how can we improve this? This year EC will discuss some test scores of Pohnpei students. No one will be happy with the scores but if we think improvement we will not be discouraged. And EC will offer some ways to improve teaching so we can get about improving student learning. Student learning can always be improved. Evidence will show us some areas needs lots of improvement other areas not as much. But think improvement!
Lastly, how would you say Little Willy did—qualitatively (with words)? If you know Little Willy is in the first grade, you probably say he did pretty well or not too bad. If the student is called Little Willy because he is a short 12th grader, you might say not too well or pretty bad. This is because adding these simple numbers are first-grade benchmarks and not 12th. Either way, Little Willy gets 4 out of 5 or 80%—which is the quantitative answer but the fact that it represents a 1st grade benchmark is very important-so words do have a place here.