I promised in my last entry to talk more about student assessment, especially as it applies to transformative (knowledge and wisdom oriented) verses traumatic (data and information oriented) learning. 

First, whether there are in fact two different major learning pathways is not really a question much anymore.  In my book, "Unlock the Genius Within" I explored this issue not from an ideational perspective (gosh, that's a good idea) but rather from the perspective of neurobiology (how does such learning actually occur within the brain).  The actual neurobiological details would require more than several additional entries; for the moment I'd like to stay focused on student assessment.

Not many would argue that traumatic learning (teaching) lacks good assessment tools. Testing has become so developed an art that testers often spend as much time talking about test "washback" as the reliability and validity of one after another test, be it true-false, multiple-choice-single-answer, multiple-answer-multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank short answer or essay.  It's all well and good that there are excellent devices to assess traumatic learning.  But what about curiosity-based, discovery-driven, mentor-assisted transformative learning? Right now we assess second learning pathway learners mainly by testing how much data and information they retain, not their knowledge (how to apply what they've learned in different contexts) or wisdom (when to do it appropriately).  In essence, the problem is one of apples and oranges.  Should one expect apples to look, feel and taste like oranges?  I don't think so. A fundamental issue in exploring the role of second pathway learning is to develop appropriate assessment tools, so let's look at some of the tools that I've tested and applied at Intercultural Communications College in transformative learning situations.

We utilize a combination of portfolio, publication, introspection (self-assessment), peer-assessment, Delphian capstone projects and application projects.  All address of these are more focused on knowledge and wisdom than data and information acquisition, though they clearly involve the latter to some extent at least.  The point is that the emphasis is on evaluating what transformative learning does - changing a students point-of-view (usually widening it or actually initiating a paradigm shift), making learners more adept at using what they know to solve problems in different contexts, and when to appropriately apply this knowledge.  Replacing testing (appropriate for apples) with transformative learning assessment tools (appropriate for oranges). 

Admittedly, I'm short-shrifting this important area, but given the time and space here, I'm satisfied for the moment to simply bring the issue into the open and mention that transformative learning assessment tools do, in fact, exist.  With these tools, educators can assess student progress within the realm of transformtive learning.

There's an excellent book entitled SelfDesign by Brent Cameron, and another entitled "Learning as Transformation" by Jack Mezirow and associates in which the topic of assessment of transformative learning is explored in more detail.  The former address mainly K-12 (childhood), the latter mainly post-secondary (adult) education.

It may come as a surprise that these tools actually exist and are both reliable and valid. They do, they are, and they should be used much more in our educational system, as currently there is little information on whether teaching can in fact impart the knowledge and wisdom the U. S. National Academy of Science pointed out we lack and so desperately need in our contemporary educational system.  The assessment tools are there. Now it's up to educators to decide to apply them. I do. 

Daniel S. Janik