WHAT WE HAVE DONE?
WITHIN A LEARNING
James C. Manley and Nancy Ware
When we developed an interdisciplinary general education program, we began with the questions: "What do we want to do and what ought we to do?" Our answer was to make educated persons out of ourselves and our students. About three years into the program, we asked, "How do we know what we have done?" Had we indeed met our goal to change all concerned?
Most often we want to change our students to make them more like ourselves so we can recognize ourselves in them and thus throw ourselves into the future. Have they inherited the culture we value? Perhaps greater gains would come if we recognized their otherness, and the difference between our present and their future. If we related to them as "thou," to use Martin Buber's term, rather than as "it," then perhaps the talk between us that takes place in the classroom now might make some difference in the future.
The danger in assessment is that we distance ourselves from what we are looking at, assuming a superior posture, and then checking off the boxes on our chart. We report back, like nurses to the doctor, the data on our patients' blood pressure, pulse, food intake, and so on. If all goes well we release our patients from the institution, cured of the conditions with which they were admitted.
How can we know what changes we have effected in our students? We do care about how they will shape the future, and we assume that how they understand, feel, and act in our classrooms has some bearing on their future lives. We know that it is easy to take credit for changes that would occur without our help. Much that we observe can be attributed to the maturation