Co-evaluation of Instructional Practice
by Carolina Serrano-Barquin
Faced with the need to transform both education and instruction, we need to design innovative strategies which are both flexible and creative, although not necessarily complicated; which contain the essential and the universal, both in cognitive elements and in culture, seeking a balance between productivity, return on capital, and technological supremacy (which have hitherto received priority at the expense of the universality of knowledge) and the objectives of social benefit, which avoid creating individualistic and dehumanised societies.
One way of minimising the grave world problems of violence, corruption and injustice is through education; and instruction plays an important part, since it requires a solid instructional base and broad general knowledge. As far a values are concerned, we need the universal values of ethics and aesthetics, which permit a balanced development of individuals and nations.
The creation of new instructional proposals should be preceded by a conceptualisation of man, knowledge and society. Evaluation is an inherent process in these conceptualisations and it conditions instructional practice, since it has implications for social, institutional, curricular and learning spheres.
The present proposal is based on co-evaluation as one of the indispensable elements within instructional practice which allows the development of creativity, criticism and self-criticism, as well as co-responsibility, giving the participant a holistic view, developing thought communication and a real contextualisation.
Thus evaluation acquires its true dimension, as the sharing of meanings freely expressed and valued through the interaction of subjects participating in the instructional process, reinforcing the essence of the evaluation process, which reflects a quanti-qualitative character and process, justified in terms of ethical criteria and not just cognitive ones.
Before proceeding to the subject of co-evaluation, we must conceptualise evaluation as an inherent process in instructional practice, oriented by a permanent critical reflection within the learning process, demanding coherence in the pedagogical conceptualisation being implemented, in the planning of teaching and the mode of communication.
It follows that evaluation is not only a technical process, but a conceptual one. It is commonly recognised that until now, even among specialists, there is confusion between evaluation and measurement: the first implies the second, but includes qualitative aspects.
That is to say that if one is seeking to develop the memorisation of static, unquestionable knowledge, with reproductive, mechanical and depersonalised attitudes, evaluation in such a case will be administrative and bureaucratic, principally for the purposes of control. Defining evaluation in terms of excessive instrumental objectivity is, in my opinion, a highly technified form of measuring, with a manifest obsession for efficiency, where learning is seen as a product, the result of a system, with the pupil as an input and an object, who is denied the possibility of interacting as a subject in his own learning process.
An alternative purpose may be to construct, create and recreate knowledge, wherein the teacher becomes a guide, directing and managing the analysis, reflection and criticism of knowledge with a teaching style involving interaction and dialogue. He does not teach thinking as such, but supports the student as he learns how to think. In such a case, the evaluation process illuminates the learning process. Within these parameters, are derived activities of self-evaluation and co-evaluation.
If it is true that it is not always desirable to evaluate every situation within the instructional and learning processes, we have to be selective in terms of what, how and for what purpose. As a thought, I should like to take up an idea of Pablo Freire, who said that the need to evaluate is a symptom of impatience, which is the real enemy of change. In the light of this remark, I should like to propose that co-evaluation should not be a complicated and conflictive process, but a shared, contextualised and creative activity.
What is important in learning and evaluation is not only the discussion of the selected contents, learning activities and an evaluation of the observable results, but the capacity to stimulate interpretation and valorative judgements of their meanings. To achieve this, we need to have co-evaluation carried out among the people who are involved.
This proposal is based on an interaction among teachers, pupils and contents , to promote and facilitate among the students a process of construction of meanings in the course of instructional activity. The student is in the end responsible for his own learning, since it is he who constructs specific meanings and attributes some kind of sense to the learning situation. These interpretations may be conditioned or modified by the content and by the efforts of the teacher of guide him, direct him and motivate him, but if the student participates in this construction process, he ought also to participate in the evaluation of it. This co-evaluation process is not reduced to an examination of the learning of unquestionable cognitive products, but should consider the experience of the teacher and the pupil, starting from constant criticism and self-critricism.
Consequently there is no basis for removing evaluation and especially co-evaluation as an independent phenomenon from this interaction and from other instructional practices.
Together with a holistic evaluation of the design of instructional strategies, it should contain congruent basic knowledge derived from instruction and formative contents related to attitudes and living, fundamentally based on ethical and aesthetic values, which allow the development of the integrity and sensitivity of the pupil, inducing in him the need to be creative to develop personally, professionally and as a human being.
Co-evaluation is necessary in instructional practice equally in real classrooms and in virtual ones, since in both cases there are only real or virtual variations which impact on the one purpose: instruction. The dynamic expansion of information through the use of new technologies means that learning and teaching are massified and depersonalised, and it is more important to know how to select and use information with proper judgement than to get lost in the tangle of knowledge.
These are, I think, sufficient arguments to revalue co-evaluation as an alternative, to diminish the feeling of isolation and increase interpersonal interaction, since the student by participating in his own evaluation, increases "individual-group-institution" contacts, taking advantage of the principle of multi-directionality of learning.
Other advantages are:
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