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BIFOCAL ASSESSMENT at the ASCD Conference, San Antonio, TX

I was leafing through the ASCD San Antonio Conference program and it looks like we are finally in the 21st century! It seems like every other presentation title includes a link to 21st Century Flat Changing World of Globally Connected Learning! Ok, I am playing the fiddle on the 21st century bandwagon like everyone else—and it is a conference theme. But even as we bring in new technologies, and new teaching and learning strategies, our educational community is still half blind as we look around for assessment tools that reflect what we know about from brain research, thinking skills development, and disciplinary learning.

Last year Kim Williams and I wrote a journal article for the ASCD-Plymouth State University New Hampshire Journal of Education and here is the link www.thinkingfoundation.org/david. Kim gave our article a great starting point by going back a few centuries and then into the future … to an invention that gave us the metaphor for what happens when Thinking Maps are used in “21st century classrooms” for formative (and summative!) assessment:

  • Among his other revolutionary accomplishments, Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals to allow us to see things more clearly—that which is right before our eyes as well as that which typically requires closer inspection—with the same tool. The most effective, revolutionary tools are elegant in their simplicity, leading to complex applications. Thinking Maps, as a fundamental language of cognitive patterns, have shown promise to become a revolutionary model for transforming educational assessment. This set of visual tools allows us as teachers the capacity to see student content learning and thinking processes through the same bifocal lens—viewing the content at the surface and the cognition more in depth. Our cognitive age requires that our assessment tools keep pace with our new understanding about how the brain learns and processes information. In this writing we offer tools for educators and learners to determine not only “what” is learned but also “how” it is learned.

On Monday, March 8, Kim and I will systematically present student work that reflects how we can move students to a high level of fluency with Thinking Maps so that teachers may assess and students may self-assess the discipline specific concepts being developed while at the same time seeing the development of thinking processes. Read more on the ASCD presentation.

Of course, in Texas, as in most other states, one of THE most important needs is captured in this question:

How do we assess ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS on their content learning as they are on a developmental path toward fluent language use in a second language?
What happens when one’s language abilities prevent students from fully expressing their best thinking?????

So we will address what Dr. Stefanie Holzman wrote about in her chapter of Student Success with Thinking Maps, and explicitly brings forward in this interview at Roosevelt Elementary School in Long Beach, CA

… if you want to assess their content learning… leave it in a map!

If the above video does not play, download the free Quicktime Player for Windows and Macintosh.

SPREAD THE WORD to colleagues about our presentation and we hope to see some of you there!

…thinking IS the foundation for learning…



Bifocal Assessment:
Combining Teaching and Learning with Thinking Maps
David Hyerle, Ed.D. and Kimberly Williams, Ph.D.

Session # 3201

12:15 – 1:15 pm Monday, March 8
Where: Henry Gonzalez Convention Center, Second Level
ROOM 217, C Room Capacity is 190


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