Performed Learning

I’ve been sitting or the past couple of hours, in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in Dillsboro, North Carolina, in the heart of the Smokies (unimpressive mountain range in Eastern U.S.). I have been working on NECC session and workshop proposals, not the most fun thing to do. Descriptions need to be between 250 and 500 words, which is a black hole. 150 words would be easy. So would 3,000. But 500 is an uncomfortable in-between that is especially difficult for me to balance.

We are up here spending the weekend with my daughter and enjoying the Mountain Heritage Festival, which begins today on the campus. Brenda’s still sleeping, but coffee will bring her down here any minute now.

Last night, we saw a play, put on by the university players. I remember the theatre department being especially active, and attractive, to aspiring thesbians from across the country. The play was Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, and it was excellent. Before the play, I impressed my daughter and her friend, and bored Brenda, by looking up minusia about the play on my Moto Q phone. But that’s not the point!

I kept thinking, during the play, that this is the kind of assessment we talk about when we say authentic assessment. We talk about our children performing well, but performing on tests is not performing. It’s following directions. Performing in a play is also following directions, but it is much more than that. It is expressing your skills, your enthusiasm for life, your love of an art, and a joy for making other people happy (or sad).

Certainly we need to test the basics, and sometimes the bubble sheet is the best way to do this. But when we think of testing, we shouldn’t think first of multiple choice. We should think first of some form of true performance, where students are demonstrating knowledge, skill, love, and enthusiasm, within the context of people, place, and event.

Hey! I’m wasting words here. Need to get back to the conference proposals.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.