More on Representations and Doing

My last post was not advocating that we abstain from all representations in education and assessment; that is simply not possible.  What I am advocating is for a carefully evaluation of the representations we choose and how we choose use them.

In example: it’s common to engage in classroom training, based on representations of work actions, with follow up assessments based on recall of those representations.  We are not really interested in representation recall, we’re interested in performance.  Many recall items have limited validity for actual performance or at least this correspondance has not been evaluated.  It is easy to assess if these representations can be recalled, but what do we care if simple recall has a limited impact on performance.  The actual actions needed in the work setting frequently have limited correspondence to the classroom representations and as a result have limited utility.

A better way is to provide multiple ways to support work actions that can include classroom activities, but can also include informal social media tools, communities of performance, searchable web-based tutorial and onsite performance support tools like coaching and collaborative teams.  These tools will likely make use of representations, but those representations will be more closely related to the actual actions required.  With learning assessments and with educational programs, it is always better to choose representations that are more closely related to and valid for actual performance.

Another example is Liz Coleman’s (President of Bennington College) TED Talk regarding the reinvention of liberal art education.  She proposes a more active program of education.  Instead of learning about what ever subject is at focus, it is about learning to actively do.  Rhetoric, design, mediation and other ways of doing education gain prominence because of the ability to actively do intellectual work; to act on challenges, not to recall words (representations) that  are useful only for talk about challenges.  Her great takeaway line: “There is no such thing as a viable democracy made up of experts, zealots, politicians and spectators”.  What is needed are participants.