"Why measure growth?*" That's the question a new acquaintance asked me last week, and it took me by surprise.
One lesson I've had to learn again and again is that the only way to escape the boundaries of my own perspective is to listen hard to the perspectives of others. These perspectives are often reflected in the questions people ask. "Why measure growth?" I didn't realize this question needed an answer. Like other questions that have surprised me, this one relates to something I take for granted—one of the fundamental assumptions that underlie our work here at Lectica.
Why measure growth?
We measure growth for three primary reasons—to make it visible, to learn how people learn, and to customize learning.
- By measuring growth, we make it visible. Being able to see evidence of our own growth motivates us to grow further. Contrast this with receiving grades or conventional test scores. They compare you with other people. If you get good grades, you may be motivated to strive for even better grades. But if you get poor grades, you're more likely to feel like you're being punished for your learning efforts. By measuring growth, we provide positive motivation for every learner.
- A measure of growth helps us understand how people learn. At Lectica, we're constantly asking how particular growth scores relate to specific skills and knowledge, and how current skills and knowledge relate to the skills and knowledge we observe at the next level. In other words, we're systematically and continually documenting the development of knowledge and skills so we can answer questions like, "Is there an optimal way for people to learn this skill?"
- A measure of growth allows us to determine what a student is most likely to benefit from learning next. This is important, because when we get the difficulty of the next learning challenge just right (not to easy and not too hard), we activate the brain's inborn motivational system. This not only increases motivation in the moment, but supports a lifelong love of learning
If you're a regular reader, none of these reasons to measure growth will be new to you. We talk about these things all of the time, but this is the first time they've been framed to answer the question, "Why measure growth?"
*When we talk about measuring growth, we don't mean the ability to get more items right on a multiple choice test. We measure developmental growth—growth in the level skill with which people apply their knowledge in complex real-world contexts.
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