My maths teacher in high school had this really unfunny joke he used to tell all the time (didn’t they all?!).

Pupil: ‘Sir, can I borrow your ruler?’

Sir: ‘No she’s at home today’

That was just a barely relevant aside about tools for measurement.

Here’s an idea for a research project…

It starts with a frustration at the limitations of assessment: vital in a lot of ways, but only tells a fraction of the story of teaching and learning. I recently realised that this was a good example of using a ‘simple’ tool to work out a ‘complex’ problem.

Assessment is a science of measurement.

Initial assessment: point a

norm / criterion referenced etc.: your carefully calibrated unit of measurement.

Summative assessment: point b

Draw a straight line between the two, measure the ‘distance traveled’.

It’s one dimensional geometry.

Complexity science is the paradigm shift that realises that with many problems, the points don’t join up in straight lines, don’t stay still in any dimension, or even stay as points; they could get bigger or smaller or turn into homo sapiens.

…and there’s these complexity scientists all over the world trying to figure out ways of visualising that complexity in order to better understand it…. in order to solve complex problems.

so… I want to investigate how people visualise their learning process. I think a good way to start would be to see that as mapping their learning journey. If we start drawing maps over the a to b graphs of assessment, we’ll start seeing the steep climbs, the brick walls, the scenic meanders. These metaphors are already embedded in our language (as are the geometric ones of course), but if we actually visualised them in some way, we might understand our own – or our student’s – learning process better. It could make for better feedback cycles, and I think would enable more people to learn how to learn: become critically reflexive.

AND the added bonus is that if you commit to engaging with complexity as your method, you HAVE to look at all influencing factors or your model fails. So there is nowhere to hide for thorny issues such as identity, intersectionality, politics, community.

Thank you @teachnorthern for the question. And #rhizo15 for the latest round of rhizomatic thought explosions. You rock my world.

I have purposefully not referenced this any further. I think the next step will be to start collating all the things that got me to this point, and all the leads I’ve yet to follow up. At this stage that seems more daunting than coming up with ideas.