Assessing thinking and instruction

More from Sternberg on thinking styles – this time with regards to instruction and assessment together:

“…in order for students to benefit maximally from instruction and assessment, at least some of each should match their styles of thinking. I would not advocate a perfect match all the time: Students need to learn, as does everyone, that the world does not always provide us with a perfect match to our preferred ways of doing things. Flexibility is as important for students as for teachers. But if we want students to show what they truly can do, match of instruction and assessment to styles is essential.” (p.115)

“…different methods of instruction work best for different styles of thought. If a teacher wants to reach and truly interact with a student, he or she needs the flexibility to teach to different styles of thinking, [-p.116] which means varying teaching style to suit different styles of thought on the part of students.
By far the most common form of instruction in schools is the lecture. College years, for most students, are consumed by lectures. So are secondary-school years. Elementary-school years are more variable, but almost always include a heavy dose of didactic instruction.” (pp.115-116)

“The multiple-choice format is often criticized for a variety of reasons, [-p.120] such as that it does not allow people to express their own thoughts or to see things in a way that goes beyond the given information. At one level, these criticisms are correct. At another, every form of assessment has both advantages and disadvantages. For example, multiple-choice items have the advantages of being relatively quick to answer, reliable over a long period of time, and objectively scored. The problem is not with multiple choice, but with the sometimes exclusive use of multiple choice, or of any other single type of test item.” (pp.119-120)

“Essay tests do not benefit particular [thinking] styles, per se. Rather, whom they benefit depends on how the essays are evaluated. This fact implies that it is important for students to know how they will be evaluated. In my own case, the very first essay test I had as an undergraduate required me to answer brief essay questions. The professor did not indicate how the essays would be graded, and I incorrectly thought that an essay test at the college level meant that the professor wanted us to think creatively. In fact, the test was scored on a 0-10 point scale, with a point given for every fact mentioned that the professor wanted you to mention. So much for creativity. It’s not the essay format, but the evaluation scheme that determines who ‘wins out’.” (p.121)

“Projects and portfolios (collections of students’ best work) tend to reward [thinking] styles that are quite different from those typically rewarded by [-p.122] short-answer and multiple-choice tests. It is for this reason that it makes particular sense to use both formats in assessing student performance.” (pp.121-122)

“…even interviews tend to reward some styles over others. Sometimes we falsely believe that an interview is somehow a privileged form of assessment – that it can tell us the truth, whereas other measures cannot. So in screening for admission to a school, written applications must first be read, and then interviews may be used as a basis for making final decisions. In hiring people for a job, also, written applications often serve as a prior screening device to select those worthy of being interviewed. Those who do the best in the interview are then hired.
The problem is that interviews are not a privileged form of assessment, and indeed, their validity is highly questionable. They are no different from any other form of assessment in rewarding some styles and penalizing others. For one thing, interviewers will tend, on average, to like people who are like themselves, as we found in the analysis of teacher-student match in styles. But for another, interviews almost always benefit those with an external style over those with an internal style. Internals may be shy and slow to warm up, with the result that, just as they are warming up, the interview is coming to a close. Unless they are being hired, say, for a sales position or some other position that requires immediate warming up to customers or others, their being internally oriented probably will not be disadvantageous on the job, despite its being disadvantageous in the interview.” (p.122)

“Most mathematicians would make lousy accountants. But why? Do they lack mathematical ability? Obviously not. For the most part, they are at or near the top of the scale on any test of mathematical ability that anyone can come up with. Moreover, they were able to become mathematicians only by virtue of high levels of achievement in mathematics, so that they are not people whose abilities simply go unrealized. rather, they seem to differ stylistically from accountants in major ways. The kinds of problems they like to work on are completely different. For example, few mathematicians would want to learn tax codes; but few accountants would want to spend their time doing mathematical proofs. Accountants and mathematicians may or may not have the abilities to do each other’s jobs; what is clear is that stylistically, the requirements of the jobs are worlds apart.” (p.133)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine; italics in original) Robert J. Sternberg (c1997) Thinking Styles. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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