On Assessment and Stuff

By Ephran Ramirez Jr

I’ve been thinking about assessments a lot lately. I think one of the challenges we face in this project is creating a unique form of assessment that will work within the framework of modern formal education. Personally, I feel that assessments we use in formal education do not accurately capture the progress or abilities of every student. They just aren’t well-rounded enough – they usually don’t cater to different learning styles and forms of expression, and many forms of assessment that we use just aren’t at all engaging for youth. Yet I fear that if we stray too much in creating our forms of assessment from what formal educators are currently using, we may end up creating something that just isn’t realistically usable by most. The real struggle I’m having is in finding a good balance that benefits everybody involved. Formal education and its standards for assessment are beyond our control, so we are somewhat limited in creating a new, unique, and truly egalitarian form of assessment for computational thinking in physics.

I recently attended the National Science Teachers Association Conference in Los Angeles. It is always a fun and educational experience, and I always leave feeling reinvigorated and full of ideas. While I was there, I attended a couple workshops presented by informal learning spaces, such as the Community Science Workshop Network in California. I’m always impressed by the ingenuity that these youth-focused maker lab spaces display in their approaches to teaching. One thing that stands out to me is choice – giving the students an opportunity to choose their paths, and giving them a wide array of resources to use on their journey.

I also met one of my lifelong role models very briefly – Bill Nye. When I was a kid, I watched his series  (also NSF-funded!) on tv at home and in my classes. I looked up to him and wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I do think that he had a huge impact on me ending up in science education. So this is my quick shout out to Bill Nye, though I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t remember me among the many brilliant science teachers that also met him there.

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