Last August I started incorporating regular visits to the local gym in my routine. Aware that I am not getting any younger and that my work has included substantial periods of time sitting at a screen I really needed to include more physical activity in my life. All was going great, then came lockdown. Fortunately I have an exercise bike and thanks to the lovely weather I have been able to set up a little home gym to keep things moving but I am aware that the balance has tipped somewhat as all my teaching, interaction with colleagues and social life is now screen based. My husband has started leaving the scales out in the bathroom to draw my attention to the need to review the effects of lockdown lasagne and increased home baking..I studiously avoid the hint as I know what is going on and don't need another cause of stress in my life right now.
Last night's #LTHEchat gave rise to a tangential conversation (as it often does) about the National Student Survey (NSS) and measuring student engagement/enjoyment of learning. Of course metrics have been the focus of much in education over recent years with many calling on empirical evidence as a basis for change. A suggestion that the NSS results could include emotional engagement information brought strong reactions;
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! #LTHEChat— Chris Jobling (@cpjobling) May 13, 2020
and a call to discuss such surveys in a future chat. This prompted me to reflect a little on measurement in general. There is a tendency to assume that opposition to measurement comes from a desire to hide away from investigation. I do not believe this to be at all justified in education. Most practitioners want to understand how people find their teaching, we have in interest in knowing what works and what doesn't. There is little satisfaction in working away blindly without feedback. However let's not be naive, we need to know the purpose of such measurements. We need to understand the basis of the judgements and how they will be interpreted. For those working in education measurements and metrics have been used not to inform but to be interpreted selectively in order to advance certain agendas. Used to reduce the costs of teaching by removing experienced practitioners in favour of cheaper labour without a thought for how new practitioners will be supported. Used to pit head teachers and colleagues against each other through league tables. These are not in the interests of learners, they do not support the necessary interpersonal dynamics that create a great learning ethos, they do not help improve your teachers, they create a culture of fear and prevent true collaboration.
Another area of measurement - summative assessments - which have been hugely changed due to the #pivotonline agenda have increased stress and anxiety to our learners this year. We really need to stand up for what is helpful to learning and look critically at what we're measuring and for whom. If we really to wish to serve the learning needs of our students and indeed ourselves we need to question the purpose of measurement - the intended audience, the nature of the interrogation and the awareness of how subsequent judgements impact on the stakeholders. If measurement matters, how and what we measure matter more. If the stakes are too high, I don't want to play. So the scales can go away for now!