Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mapping an uncertain future

At the recent lgfl conference, Stephen Heppell (@stephenheppell) used the following allegory to describe the contemporary approach to assessment and prediction: If we hold a rock in our hand whose mass we know, and throw it with a known amount of force, physics will tell us exactly where that rock will land. If we replace the rock with a bird, no amount of physics can help us predict where it will land if we throw it (assuming, of course, it's neither flightless not dead).
Are our children rocks or flightless/dead birds? Or are they unpredictably unpredictable bundles of potential? Who are we to map their futures when we have no idea what that future may be?

Who wants their future mapped on the basis of how they performed in a test aged 7/11/16?

When I'd finished my GCSEs, back in the dark ages of the 90s, I did a thing called the Morrisbey Test. It took the number of s's I could write backwards in a minute, multiplied it by the square root of my blood group and extrapolated from the outcome that I'd be an excellent army officer, architect or binman.
I considered the first, studied to become the second then, after some years spent drinking and getting fat (aka working in finance), travelled the world teaching English before becoming a primary school teacher. I'd been given a "map" but life was a far better guide than any teacher, parent or exam result.

What am I saying? Well, we should be providing the diurnal residents of our classrooms with the skills and knowledge with which to navigate the worlds they encounter,not mapping it out for them. Point them to places they might want to see, but let them get there on their own accord.

Send them on their way with a sturdy stick and a spotted handkerchief brimming with "Well-done!-You're-good-enough-for-anything."

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