Reflections on Assessments and Grades at This Time of the Pandemic: An Interview with Teacherly

A few days ago, I had a Zoom interview with Ashna Mahtani, Education Outreach Manager of Teacherly, an educational technologies company based in United Kingdom. Ashna and I had a great conversation on what’s happening with education at this time of the pandemic. She had been following some of my articles in this website and my podcast episodes on empowerED Podcast that talked about the pandemic and how it has affected education globally. More specifically, we talked about the relevance of assessments and grades to students and parents at this time when security, safety, and health are the priorities. Sure, the school closures forced teachers and students to move to an online learning environment to ensure continuity of learning, but this question of how we should understand and even re-think assessments and grades still bothers me. Teacherly, I believe, picked this up when I posted a controversial question along that thought during the global conference video hosted by Argentinian Senator Esteban Bullrich and Vikas Pota.

In the short interview, I shared my personal thoughts and reflections about how I see and understand student assessments and grades at this time of the pandemic. I am very grateful to Ashna and Teacherly for this wonderful article and for the new (soon-to-be-released) podcast episode featuring a longer interview with me on their podcast channel: CastTeacherly in SoundCloud

Here’s an excerpt from the article at the Teacherly site:

“When I asked Jim the question ‘Is it ethical to assess students during a pandemic?,’ he had been reflecting on this for a while, in fact, he had already been blogging and posting on social media a lot about the nature of assessments during a pandemic.

He begins our discussion — by unpicking the word ‘ethical’ and goes on to say: “It might be a very heavy word, but if I were to think of another word that would really put out what I want to ask is — does it make sense or is it even relevant to still grade students during this time of the pandemic?”

…Irrespective of a pandemic, Jim states that the education industry was discussing the relevancy of standardized testing. “We, as a community, should be grasping this opportunity to take a moment and reflect on assessments. The goal is not to provide all students with a free pass, it’s really more about taking a breath and embracing a big pause… Why not focus on mastery of skills? Why not focus on helping students to reflect and focus their energy on improving themselves? Why not focus on students’ progress rather than the result of a test?”

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