The house on the rock stood firm.

This post is my thoughts on a post by Dan Meyer (and its comments – especially 3, 9, and 13) because I think it directly relates to my first post – “what constitutes Mastery?”.

Dan was lamenting the fact that a certain assessment question he created tied 2 skills together and therefore didn’t allow him the ability to determine which of the 2 skills the student would need to remediate because of a low score on that problem. I think Dan’s approach, keeping skills and their assessment separate, is analogous to building a house. What I see being built by keeping the skills separate is the foundation. You can’t build good and long lasting house without a good foundation. But is building the foundation all that the course is designed to do? I know that depends on the course. Pre-Algebra and Algebra I, maybe yes, the foundation is all that is and should be built and assessed. So, “Mastery” can be obtained by the student for building that foundation and only that foundation. But, for any higher math class (as well as physics and my still undecided chemistry), we are looking for the house, not the foundation. Higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy type questions need to be included. Sure, you can still assess each skill individually. Maybe you don’t move higher up the taxonomy until they get a 4, or 5, or whatever your highest possible score is, until they get that score 2 times. But my still big question is “How high does the house get built?” or, “How much finish work am I looking for on the house?” This is what I am having trouble deciding when it comes to these higher level courses.

I guess to put it another way: In high school, are we looking for finished houses? And when/if they take the same subject in college, are they building a new house from the same design but with more intricate details? Or, are they only adding on to a house that wasn’t finished in high school.

Is it possible to call an unfinished house “Mastery?”

I know until I answer that question I can’t determine what skills/concepts will make up the content of my courses and how I will asses them.

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One Response to The house on the rock stood firm.

  1. Matt says:

    Okay, probably lame to be the first to comment on my own material, but I didn’t want to write another entry. See Matt Townsley’s latest. I completely agree (still wondering why a scale of 4 is so ingrained when he has 5 levels of “mastery”?) But, what do we do for the students who are above “thorough understanding” – i.e. ready for higher levels on Bloom’s if we don’t leave room in our scales to reward them for attaining that level of “mastery?”

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