Measuring impact needs to be part of any assessment strategy

What if we turned assessment upside down and, instead of starting with looking what the student can do or what they know, we started to measure the impact of students’ ideas and actions? What if, instead of having assessment center on skills and knowledge in relative isolation (a test, a product, a presentation), we looked at what students did with these skills and this knowledge. If we focused on actions—which are both part of and the result of learning—we could even assess learning based on processes, reflections, reiterations, and the effective use of competencies. 

How about we focus on the discipline of finding human problems worth solving and creating new offerings in response (Design Thinking?)? What if we focused on the ideas that actually get out there, those that leave the design table and actually bring about positive change for oneself, the community, the environment, and even other species? And if these ideas don’t make it out the door, we use the process as a learning opportunity for the next iteration, the next idea, the next project? How would that shift our focus and mindsets as teachers learners, schools, and parents?

What if we assessed students based on the impact their work has on him/herself, others, and the world?

Impact is the only thing that matters in the end. Impact is what provides value and it is qualifiably and quantifiably measurable. Impact is the reason we do anything, carry out any action, because we intend to have a result. That result is impact.

My doctoral dissertation was supposed to be the pinnacle of academic achievement. Great! I actually enjoyed writing it, but close to no one read it. It had very little impact on the world (though it impacted me indirectly, which changed the way I interact with the world, and that has results, but this is pedantic).

Some people have accelerated global movements with a three-word slogan. What has made more of a difference to the world? Those three words or my dissertation? Gandhi used silence to effect change. Even doing nothing can be a well-chosen strategy that has global impact.

We need to go beyond standards that are indulgent and put the spotlight on the student as an isolated entity. We need to assess by measuring impact. How does an idea help people have better lives? How does a creation improve the environment? How does a project save animals? These are the questions that matter, not whether the plan itself is beautifully written (though tat can help with impact).

This is nothing more than what takes place in the professional world; we are evaluated on impact and deliverables. The way we collaborate, lead, communicate, think… all affects the rate of impact.

Imbedding impact in how we assess student learning will create a culture of innovation, authenticity, and empathy because we will nurture a human-centered mindset that contributes to positive change. We don’t drop the other measures of assessment for and of learning, we just refocus on what matters, making the world, others, and oneself a better place.

Let me know if this resonates with you and we can share ideas.

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