I’m going to date myself by referencing a cassette tape.
When I was in Mr. Martin’s 7th grade Life Science class, he gave us an assignment—I don’t remember the parameters exactly—but I remember it had to have something to do with the environment. Point is, we had a choice about what aspect of the environment we were going to do our projects on. I chose acid rain as it was a topic very much in the news at the time. In addition to allowing the students to come up with our own topic, Mr. Martin gave us a choice about the format our evidence of learning would take. We could write a report, we probably could have done some sort of infographic, but he also said we could record our report on audio cassette. I’m thinking EASY! I’m a way better talker than writer. I’ll pop in a tape, press record (remember, you had to press the orange record button and the play button at the same time), then it was just a matter of B-S-ing for a few minutes. This will be the easiest major grade ever! (How’s that for some fixed-mindset thinking? (It’s all about the grade)). And, I was pretty excited about using somewhat cutting-edge technology as my project’s media. I soon realized that blathering on tape for three minutes wasn’t going to cut it. I had to do the research, plan out my script, and execute a smooth delivery. That wound up being a lot of work—probably more than I would have put into the assignment if he had just told us to write a paper. In this case, the freedom to express myself in my own way, had made the project mine. This wasn’t going to be my paper compared to 30 others. No, I had the chance to reveal a little bit about myself in the way I presented the project. Now it wasn’t just an assignment, it was a reflection of me. I had to represent. There is a reason I remember this project all these years later: I felt invested in the work because of the choices Mr. Martin allowed me to make about my own learning.
“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.”
— John Dewey
I am excited to be immersed in the COVA learning approach as I work through this program. I appreciate the opportunity to choose how I will present my learning, incorporating my voice into my projects and enjoying the freedom to make them authentic to my life and experiences—both professional and personal. Just as I thrilled at the chance to use technology in Mr. Martin’s class, technology tools today are so much more ubiquitous and varied they offer many more exciting and unique ways to demonstrate knowledge. All of the components of the COVA approach will contribute to my having a sense of agency over my learning because everything is based on choice for me the learner: choice in the types of projects that will reflect my learning; choice in the way I present it; and the ability to relate my learning to my real world experience. No one in this program shares the same life experiences. We all have unique aspects to our lives and jobs that require opportunities to demonstrate our learning in unique ways. Why would we expect (why has anyone ever expected) that the evidence of learning could be dictated by a one-size-fits-all model of assessment? As I continue to learn to shed the fixed mindset, the realization sets in that learning isn’t about the grade—obviously, I’d like to do well and pass—it’s about the process of coming to understand something and being able to relate it to others. That is a unique process to each person; therefore, it only makes sense that each person needs to be given choice, ownership and voice in his/her learning.