Get Children to Improve Rather than to Prove

Yesterday’s Campus Seminar* in Helsinki had a delightful set of speakers, ranging from priests to photographers, from hockey coaches to celebrity vloggers. And everything in between.

The afternoon was kicked off with a great presentation by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson on how we should give feedback to students and what the feedback should be about. The bottom line:

This is an excellent piece of advice yet we act against it every day. I know I do, at least. When my 7 year old daughter perfects a cartwheel I say that she is the best gymnast. Or when she reads a text chapter fine I tell her that she is so good in reading. What I should say, instead, is that she had practiced well, done nice progress from last time, spent her efforts wisely, etc.

Whenever possible, we should concentrate on the process and actions rather than on person’s characteristics. On a related note, we should also focus on improving skills at the expense of proving them. Improving is more about the process, proving about the end result. As Heidi puts it, instead of being good, try to get better.

This brings me to one of my favorite topics, testing. High stakes standardized tests are typically organized solely for checking whether the students have learned the things they were supposed to learn. Whether they can prove that they have learned them.

I am not against testing, not at all. I just prefer the Finnish way of embedding tests in everyday teaching and learning activities rather than having them as monsters looming somewhere at the end of the semester.

When tests are conducted often and as a natural part of lessons, they are actually more about improving than proving. By the way, I was happy to notice this morning that MasteryConnect had just closed a serious funding round. Let’s hope they can bring more ad hoc and less high stakes testing also to the US.

This blog entry was only about the first 15 minutes of yesterday’s event. The whole thing lasted for four hours, so there was a lot more going on. The organizers have to do their absolute best to top this lineup in Warsaw in November!

* My employer Sanoma Pro was a sponsor in this event.

 

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