One of my favourite scenes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy involves the Golgafrinchans who, having been tricked off their own planet, find themselves on Earth and set about trying to colonise it. The following video clip shows their attempt at inventing the wheel.
It’s an amusing and apt analogy that regularly pops into my head whenever I’m stuck in a meeting with people discussing minor details whilst the major problem remains unsolved. It’s about skewed priorities and blinkered ignorance; those frustrating facepalm moments when you want to scream. Remember Tim’s face in every episode of The Office? It’s that.
But what has this got to do with anything? It all comes back to this question of how to measure progress, which is distracting us from the vital task of devising systems that effectively record and make best use of formative assessment. In our desperation to quantify progress we are putting the cart before the horse, devising metrics and setting expected rates of progress, and then working backwards, attempting to pin the curriculum to specific numerical values in order to make it fit into a preconceived notion of progress . The big, glaring, issue is that we’re focussing on the finishing touches before we’ve got assessment nailed; and we really can’t begin to work out what constitutes expected or better than expected progress until we’ve finalised our approach to assessment and have some usable data. The assessment wheel is hexagonal yet we’re arguing over its colour so let’s true it up first and then worry about the details.