[Sugar-devel] Assessment in Karma
NoiseEHC at freemail.hu
Wed Aug 19 16:17:12 EDT 2009
> - Automatic assessment is snake oil, Bryan is well intentioned but
> deeply wrong. See the earlier email at
Or you are wrong. Since you did not define exactly what you have meant
by assessment in your message, I assume that you were talking about
something like automatic grading or creativity assessment versus
something mechanical and mind-numbingly trivial. (Any other assumption
makes your message meaningless in my eyes but correct me if I am
wrong...) Now I will not talk about that you have just presented us a
false dichotomy since it is not too interesting (and can be that I just
have misunderstand and misrepresented what you have been said).
What more interesting is that there is some research in Hungary 
about the prerequisites of learning certain skills which are based on
each other. (So for example reading fast - whole word reading - requires
to be able to read words letter by letter which requires reading out
certain letter combinations which requires knowing the letters which
requires differentiating vowels and so on... Since I do not know these
things in English I did not try to be precise in this example.) The
point of this research is that it is clear now that if a child does not
reach a certain threshold in those skills then he cannot progress in
other skills (these are the critical skills).
Here lies the bane of the Hungarian education system that children go to
school at the age of 6 and they can be +-2 year apart in mental and
physical development. So some children are like 8 year olds and some are
like 4 years olds. Unfortunately this mental/physical difference is
usually totally different across subjects so for example if a child is
totally lame in writing (because he cannot control his small muscles
adequately) but is an ace in math then it is normal and repeating the
class is not an option. In Hungary (and probably a lot of other
countries) the problem is that teaching these basic skills goes
according to the national curriculum and there are no tests which
measure them so if a child is left behind then game over for him. For
example if he cannot reach optimal or finishing level in reading then he
will not learn from books normally since he cannot read fast enough.
Because teaching of reading skills stops at grade 3 or so these children
leave the elementary school at advanced, beginner or sometimes
preparatory level (40% of people in Hungary!!!) and they grow into
functionally illiterate adults who cannot learn anything from books or
read newspapers (or watch films with subtitles so they cannot learn
languages in that way).
Now there are some good news that there exist tests which can measure
the level in those basic skills and these are low stake tests. Usually
optimal level means >90% and finishing level is >80% (in some skills
these are around 80% and 60% respectively). The problem is that
measuring those takes a LOT of time and energy and no teacher wants to
do that. Automatizing at least some of those tests are probably the
biggest thing since sliced bread in education in my humble opinion.
So it will not help teachers giving a mark at all because you know ALL
the children should pass those tests sooner or later. Of course it will
not measure creativity either. What it should do is to measure some
mechanical and mind-numbingly trivial skills what are not measured
without computers because it is mind-numbingly boring for a teacher. Now
the questions is: which basic skills can be measured with a computer and
which cannot? Calling assessment snake oil because it cannot give marks
automatically is at least strange to me...
As the subject becomes more advanced it becomes much more painfully
obvious that my native language is not English. I am sorry for that.
Of course this is not the most important aspect of OLPC but giving these
assessment tools to children in Ghana probably cannot hurt can it?
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