Complexity in Assessment

Why are so few people challenging the idea that breaking complex ideas and performances into their (alleged) component parts, then teaching the parts, won’t yield students who can deal with complexity? If a (make believe) music standard called for students to be able to play a set of piano pieces well with regard to rhythm, accuracy, volume, and phrasing, we would simply break that down. Can the student play with the appropriate rhythm? Check. Can she hit the notes accurately? Check. Can she play with all of the key elements simultaneously, to produce beautiful music for an audience? Oh– the learning objectives never ask anyone to put those pieces together in rich performances.  Denise Wilbur comment on Grant Wiggins’ blog January 14, 2013

Escher’s hand drawing itself captures some of the problems with assessment that fails to factor in the big picture.  Assessment that is based on checklists of component elements fails to account for the x factor, the genius.  Where on earth is that in a checklist.  Escher’s drawing, which hits the high points of fidelity to high standards of realistic representation, totally rexplodes the medium with its questions of self-observation.

hand draws itself

If a teacher had to grade this, what mark would it get?  What would be the best way to grade it?

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