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I have long had an interest in measurement and assessment. Not only what we measure, but how to go about it. I have also long been intrigued with Yong Zhou’s work and his contention that we often measure the wrong thing. It was for this reason that I took to the new book Counting What Counts.

I entered this collection of essays in search of clarity and possible solutions for what and how to better measure learning in the 21st century. Inspired by those like Amy Burvall, Mark Barnes and Richard Olsen, I have always looked for different means measure and support learning. The dilemma is that in some respects the book covers these things, just not in the way I expected. It offers so many different means of measuring attributes such as diversity, personality traits, motivation, creativity, entrepreneurship, global competences and social networks. Each assessment critiqued in regards to their strengths and weaknesses as to what they offer. What is frustrating though is where to start and for that gains.

Each chapter offers plenty of explanation with many different entry points. However, too often the vision offered seems to be largely systemic, something that can be hard to situate within the confines of an actual school or district. Although it left me thinking about the possibilities for assessing, such things as Genius Hour and connected learning, it offers more compass than map.

It feels like the real question in need of answering isn’t what needs to be counted, but why? Although it might be useful to measure how interested we maybe or our global awareness, what seems more important is what purpose does this actually achieve. In an age when counting seems to be a given and we only care about what we can count, the book it at least offers a vision about what we can measure. I wonder whether just as it is problematic to borrow policy from other countries, what do we gain from aiming for some sort of objectivity with learning and measurement? The question then that I am left with is how might we properly count in a way that recognises context the interconnected nature of learning? Maybe I’m missing something, maybe I’m not. As always, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Also for a more thorough review of Counting What Counts, I recommend reading Stuart Taylor’s post.


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REVIEW: Counting What Counts by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Counting What Counts

  1. Julian Stodd provides a useful introduction to quantitative and qualitative data. It is interesting to think about measurement alongside Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swans:

    Now, there are other themes arising from our blindness to the Black Swan: We focus on preselected segments of the seen and generalize from it to the unseen: the error of confirmation. We fool ourselves with stories that cater to our Platonic thirst for distinct patterns: the narrative fallacy. We behave as if the Black Swan does not exist: human nature is not programmed for Black Swans. What we see is not necessarily all that is there. History hides Black Swans from us and gives us a mistaken idea about the odds of these events: this is the distortion of silent evidence. We “tunnel”: that is, we focus on a few well-defined sources of uncertainty, on too specific a list of Black Swans.(Page 49)

    Another book on the topic of measurement and education is Counting What Counts.

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