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To Standardize or Not to Standardize, That’s Not the Question

November 25, 2013

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a challenge of blogging every week of the school year. However, November has been incredibly busy and I have fallen off the blogging train. I have four posts that I need to write this week in order to hit my goal of one post per week. It’s going to be a busy week of writing and reflection!

Earlier this month, I received confirmation that I have been selected as a marker for the Grade 12 Social Studies 30-1 Diploma Exam. I have marked the exam before. However, the last time I marked the exam I was in a somewhat different head space regarding assessment. I will honestly say that I do not like the diploma exams. An assessment that is worth 50% of a students’ overall grade is ridiculous. Students are asked to sit for anywhere between 2 and 1/2 hours or 3 hours to complete an exam that has the potential of determining their acceptance to post-secondary institutions. If they have an Alberta Education code, they may qualify for double time. What if they have a bad day? What if they have a bad week? Is this fair and does this make sense?

The province wants teachers to utilize the Inspiring Education document as a model. The Minister of Education, Jeff Johnson, signed a Ministerial Order on Teaching and Learning in May of 2013 which makes this a requirement. The core focus of Inspiring education is to help guide students in becoming engaged, ethical citizens who have an entrepreneurial focus. I agree with all of these ideas and have written about this before. However, if we think the Inspiring Education model is so important that the ministry is willing to make it a Ministerial Order, how does the diploma exam fit? What components of Inspiring Education does the diploma exam promote? Honestly, I cannot find an answer to this question. I do not see the exam as promoting any quality of Inspiring Education.

To me, the diploma exams fly in the face of Inspiring Education and the spirit of the Ministerial Order on Student Learning. Teachers are asked to teach and assess our students in a non-standardized way and encourage multiple modes of representation. We are asked to encourage our students to be engaged, ethical citizens who are able to access information, build networks and connect with a wide array of people in order to solve problems in an entrepreneurial spirit. Why then ask us to prepare our students for an assessment worth 50% of their overall grade which does none of this?

Still, I am going to Edmonton in January to help mark the exam. I will do so as I feel it will help me understand what the province is looking for. But this is less about education and learning and more about playing a game.

I would really appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

Have a great day,

Sean Beaton

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