Beyond critical thinking

Michael Wesch of A Vision of Students Today fame gave a TEDx talk last year that I revisited the other day when I found myself (frustratingly) having to justify the case for authentic assessment. “But they’ll cheat won’t they?” is the classic response I get when I present the case for an open-book, open-web summative assessment. Some research I did with Amy Wong back in 2009 suggests the contrary but a much more important question is why someone would want to cheat in the first place.

If the test of a person’s ‘knowledge’ is the ability to dredge information from the brain and use this to piece together something resembling a coherent argument in the unnatural setting of an examination hall, then resorting to unethical means for the dredging process will never be beyond temptation.

If, on the other hand, the knowledge to be tested is a person’s ability to think on one’s feet to solve unstructured, real-world problems, generating unique, meaningful and useful responses, how is it possible to cheat?

Wesch uses the term knowledge-able to describe this attribute, which amounts to a little more than being ‘knowledgeable’. The difference between the two is that the latter does not necessarily require you to practice your knowledge, where you go beyond critical thinking to actually create meaning.

Acquiring knowledge-ability effectively ‘future-proofs’ your learning … it is learning that lasts way beyond the ‘test’.