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Not everything that counts can be counted…

November 3, 2008

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” (Einstein)

There was a delightful moment for me at the end of Josef Hine’s presentation on black and white photography (which I believe will be shared again on presentation night).   I asked him to go back into his powerpoint so I could have another viewing of my favorite photo in his portfolio – a striking image of the lower half of a tree taken in his back yard.   Joe, Scott, JH and I ended up in a lively but good-natured argument about whether a ladder in the background of the shot enhanced or diminished the image.   Such is the nature of art that we can take different viewpoints (although Scott did admit later that he countered Scott’s opinion just for the sake of “winding him up”!)   I was even inspired to trot out the old cliche about “beauty being in the eye of the beholder”.   

The point of this anecdote is that I was reminded of the value of these finalizations, and the worthy challenge of evaluating learning in the project based learning environment.  Sure, the advisors fill out a rubric and evaluation form that eventually translates into credit and a grade on the transcript.  Far more meaningful though, and less easy to count, is the dialogue between student and advisor that occurs during discussion.   I’ve sat in on several finalizations this past quarter and have been repeatedly impressed by the way students are encouraged and challenged to articulate the learning that has taken place during the project.

A similar process is taking place in the middle school where students are developing the skills and gaining the confidence to engage in this process.  Immediately after Josef’s presentation, I happened upon a circle of students in the Green Advisory where Bob and Annie were guiding students as they presented their first quarter projects to the group.   As I passed by, Sarah Goodwin was sharing her posterboard on the subject of Ancient Greek Government.  Bob and Annie were using a rubric created for the purpose of

giving the student and family feedback on the project.  Once again though, as with Josef’s project, the authentic evaluation was happening in the process of presenter, multi-age peer audience and advisors interacting.   It takes a great time commitment to make this happen for 26 students, but I would venture to say that it’s time well spent.


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