I’m reading Ken Robinson‘s The Element, which explores how one finds or develops their passion/aptitude. It has particular ramifications for the education sector because as I wrote in an earlier post, Robinson believes teachers/schools have a social and moral obligation to cultivate students’ unique gifts and talents.
Early on in the book, Robinson explores the notion of intelligence and how our measurement of ‘academic’ intelligence emerged during the Enlightenment, which held scientific and verbal reasoning as the pinnacle of intellect.
Robinson argues rightly that public education in the 19th century was built on a limited understanding of knowledge and intellect. Schools existed to meet the demands of the Industrial Revolution and therefore depended on a quick one-size fits all approach of assessment.
A good read on this world view is given by Raymond E. Callahan in his book “Education and the Cult of Efficiency” who shows how the industrial model was codified in the first two decades of the 20th century.
Of course if we know this to be true, then why do we continue to validate standardised testing? Because as Robinson writes, we are framing the question incorrectly. It is not about how intelligent you are, rather how are you intelligent?
Mathematical and verbal reasoning while important are two elements of intelligence. It encompasses much more and while teachers may recognise the special skills and gifts in their students, they are restrained by a draconian system of assessment.
There is a pervasive and powerful view that still exists in our own society that students who don’t score high marks in the HSC are somehow less capable.
If we want to personalise learning for every child, then we need to seriously examine the way we assess student learning otherwise we will fail another generation of learners.