Learning or achievement?

Irrespective of the assessment criteria or type of assessment used at the end of a course, we champion the achievement and base ‘learning’ on the final grade. For right or wrong, this is the state of schools, colleges, universities and MOOCs .. a pass grade equals success, not necessarily a quality learning experience.

When a course or programme goes through review, either for changes or it’s new, the conversation will always turn to the assessment. Is the assessment indicative of the course and the course aims? is the assessment type appropriate to the delivery method? Is it a straight forward 100% exam or mix of coursework and exam? If coursework is included in the final grade can the documentation be deliberately vague to allow flexibility in how and what the coursework is (project, group, video, report, tests, etc.)?

All well and good. Well, not really good but you know what I mean. But which is more important … the learning and knowledge acquisition or the assessment grade? Most of us would say the former, the learning and being able to retain an apply the knowledge. But education requires a certificate that shows more than just attendance. It requires to show the standard to which the holder has worked and can work. Without a score or grade (80% or 2:1) there is no meaning to the achievement for an employer to gauge the ability of the certificate holder.

Is there an answer? Could the achievement be recreated and reassessed to accommodate more meaningful information pertaining to the individual and how they ‘work’ and ‘learn’, and what kind of person they are? This is usually a reference on an application, but wouldn’t it be good if this had more emphasis on an application than a grade? Making something that can’t be gamed would be the hard part, anyone can find someone to write a glowing report and review, just like you can find online examples of buying the academic paper or script. 

What comes first when planning your course? The learning, or the achievement? Click To Tweet

You could argue we’ve already got an achievement for learning that goes beyond the assessment with Open Badges. If so, why haven’t we seen them used more widely? What is holding us, or rather the employers, so tight to the grade result and not the achievement? A few years ago there was lots of talk about the scope and strength of Open Badges. Surely that hasn’t gone away. I hope it hasn’t gone away. 

Image source: The Old Adalie Plain (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)