Education is about evidence

Today’s blog entry has been motivated by a number of events that I have been involved in over the past few weeks. These events have led me to wonder whether people have been taught to challenge (respectfully) the status quo or do we just continue to accept what we are told. It posts more questions than I have statements or answers and I would be curious in your opinion.

Recently I was involved in a conversation at work where the powers to be have decided to change the assessment methodology on a trial basis. This results in an effective assessment where each student is required to score 100%. The justification for this approach is that they require students to be competent. However, when challenged and, highlighted the 100% does not mean competent some people were taken back by that. For me a 100% pass mark/competent-not competent grading is ineffective assessment of the uptake of learning by the student. What will occur is a number of small informal assessment tasks during our phase of training and at the end of our phase of training they were required to demonstrate a 100% compliance with whatever assessment task has been set.

I raised a concern that to achieve the 100% several things must happen. The educator will need to develop assessment tools/tasks that are so simplistic in nature that they truly assess nothing other than surface level learning. Or, as the assessment tasks roll along the educator will need to provide hints and prompts to the students to ensure they achieve the required mark. Either of these approaches are an ineffective if educational strategy. The response I received was we will do as we are instructed and make it work. Do you think I am overreacting or may have got it wrong?

The second event, while trivial, to me is reinforced that people are unable to validate their statements and engage in a Socratic-style dialogue to assert the veracity of their statements. This second event occurred on Facebook. Some colleagues of mine and I stumbled across a Facebook site which was making some ludicrous claims in relation to the future actions of police officers at the G 20 conference in Queensland Australia. Having had some knowledge of how police officers operate I felt that the claims on their Facebook site were not just specious but legally incorrect. So, I asked them to provide evidence of the claims and/or provide documentary evidence to justify their statements. The response from the site administrator was at best childish, at worst offensive. Undeterred I asked again where was there evidence? Rather than deal with the challenge to their veracity my colleagues and I have been blocked from the Facebook site. The greater irony is that their Facebook site states that they are for freedom of speech, but then claimed that anyone who challenges them is being disrespectful and therefore deleted from the site. Should freedom of speech include the right to be disrespectful? Or have I just got it all wrong?

All of this has left me wondering whether people are able to engage in the effective dialogue where ideas are challenged and evidence is presented to support various claims? Also I wonder whether young people today are skilled in the idea of research and evidence validation.

If we accept that statements/points of view stated in the public domain should be challenged then why are so many clearly specious statements not challenged? Is it just a case of groupthink or something more nefarious?

From my point of view over the past few years I have seen some unrealistic and outrageous claims made in relation to politics/policing/climate change/law/education and so on and so on. I have until very recently ignored them. I did so because I was not sure whether I wanted to take on the battle. But, as someone who values the truth – whatever that may be – and has spent some time in their career seeking the truth of decided that it is time to challenge.

So, I have begun to challenge and I am happy to be challenged; are you? Would you be willing to present evidence for your claims and not just your opinion?


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