Choose your own assessment

In the changing room where I go swimming, there’s a machine that does everything. It measures your height, weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), and about half a dozen other things. I’m surprised it doesn’t measure my waist and shoe size as well. Yet, after using it twice, I have given up on it.

i speak your bmiThere are several reasons why. First, I don’t understand terms like BMI. But that’s not a very serious reason because, of course, I’ve looked them up and have gained some modicum of understanding.

A more serious reason is, second, that after putting in loads of effort, my BMI and weight went up. This was the opposite effect to the one I’d intended, and Elaine’s reassurances that fat was being converted into muscle did little to help me stave off the feeling of despondency that started to creep over me.

Third, measures like BMI are not necessarily as scientific as they appear. So, although I’m not suggesting they’re useless, I don’t think it’s worth getting too hung up on the precise number.

A fourth, and related point, is that as far as I can gather the guidance that accompanies these kinds of numbers is based on generalities, and is not specific to an individual. I’m not suggesting they’re of no use at all, but that, again, it’s pointless to obsess about it.

So I have found a much better measure of how I’m doing: shirt size. Since embarking on my personal weight loss campaign I have gone down two shirt sizes. This is much more relevant and practical a measurement than BMI indexes.

I believe that everything I’ve said so far pretty much applies to assessing people’s ICT understanding. Any assessment scheme which attempts to assign a level based on a few questions or pieces of work is almost bound to be inaccurate. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say the more precise the assessment, the less accurate it probably is – especially if it’s based on a narrow range of evidence and/or a snapshot. Within the parameters of your school’s assessment policy, I think you have to decide exactly what it is you mean by “ICT understanding”, and then set about measuring it in a way that makes sense to you and, crucially, your students. Obviously, you have to assess ICT to some extent in an objective way, so that the outcomes have currency beyond your school’s walls, but it is important to recognise that that isn’t the whole story. Simply aiming to get some numbers out of the assessment process isn’t enough, in my opinion.

For what assessment might mean in practice, see 5 Tips For Assessing What Students Know.