A bullseye on the wrong dartboard…

It’s great when something you design elicits an unsolicited “Oh, I totally get it now.” This design did that for a few people in my former school district and for that I am excited. It is so important to remember that most design- and even most art, has function. It can be something that might seem insignificant, like a quick presentation to your colleagues, or something enormous like the rebranding of a major corporation.

Both are important and the work you do will reflect who you are and make connections between you and your audience whether large or small. Second, they both have function. Two vital thinking points for your design: 1) Do you have a clear idea of the function? 2) Does your design, as simply and clearly as possible, reflect that function? However, what isn’t addressed here is whether or not we are hitting the bullseye on the wrong target when we create something like this.

Confusion abounds surrounding testing in education and which assessments are formal and informal, formative or summative, competency-based or standards-based, where and how each is administered, and what purpose each type of assessment serves. When asked to create a model to help explain this and clear up the confusion as we launched a new set of assessments to fill a perceived gap in accountability, the question I should have been asking wasn’t how do I best represent the system. The right question is whether or not this is the right system at all.

Outside of certifications (here’s my most recent opinion on those), there are very few practical, authentic activities as adults that mirror the multiple-choice test we were subjected to as students and that we continue to subject our students to. The idea brings me back to an amazing podcast episode about creativity with Mitch Resnick from the MIT Media Lab, where he asks if we are measuring what is most important or simply what is easiest to measure. In other words, are we throwing darts at the board in our eye line because it is the closest and most obvious target or are we taking the time to find out which board the competition is actually being held on and hitting the bullseye on the correct target? Are we even playing the right game? Are we holding darts and everyone else is playing chess?

In the case of the assessment graphic, I can confidently say that we weren’t asking the right questions to make sure we getting to the purpose of the assessments and asking the questions surrounding the authentic role assessments play in our district. Writing a quick post and recognizing we could have done better doesn’t absolve me from the responsibility I have in perpetuating that system, but I believe in the idea that when you know better, you do better. Let’s all strive to ask the right questions and make sure that when we hit that bullseye, it’s both accurate and precise.