Effects of evaluation on learning

How is it possible to write a procedure for absolutely every possible situation, especially in a world filled with unexpected events? Answer: it’s impossible. [Yet] procedures and rule books dominate industry. – Norman

Evaluation requires that a known phenomena be measured or quantified against its former self or another.

In learning, this can be seen as being ‘backwards’ for what is examined or measured is always known beforehand. This implies that students cannot be engaged in creating or having novel experiences in learning as there would be no standardized way of measuring outcomes of such a process.

As a result, learning is a replay of the past. As long as it is measured, every aspect of it has to be known beforehand including its outcome, all the elements to be measured, the units of measurement, the rules governing the measurement, the subject (objects) to be measured and so on and so forth.

For the measurement to occur then, the phenomena has to be performed in a closed environment, where space, and time boundaries have to be imposed on the subjects. Carse refers to this phenomenon as theatrical, because everything that happens in it have been planned, rehearsed and done before, the ‘future’ outcome is also already known; all that is required of the participants is to re-live the past and to do so seriously to make the ‘acting’ real and believable. This, Carse says, requires an abandonment of one’s freedom, which is achievable through self-veiling.

Intrinsic motivation as immeasurable;

One and a more important aspect however remains immeasurable; intrinsic motivation, simply because its personal and unique for every individual in any phenomena. What is measurable on the other hand; extrinsic factors, are accounts that justify an involvement in terms of means and ends relations, in terms of function or subordination to larger organizational objectives, in terms of success of failures, or in terms of factors that enhance performance criteria.

Intrinsic motivation escapes comprehension for outside observers without appreciation of particular skills, conceptions and learning abilities that people bring to a phenomenon. Any operationalization of these experiences in terms of objective measurements, as provided by mechanical devices or scales imposed upon those who have these experiences, fundamentally fails or at best correlates with the phenomena to be explained and encouraged.

Designers acknowledge an intuitive ground, another kind of knowledge they cannot easily talk of but in emotional terms, whether these express admiration, visual pleasure, or simply the desire to touch or possess the object of their emotional attention. People with intrinsically motivating experiences are similarly short of words describing what they experience. Thus there are 2 kinds of understanding to distinguish:

  • Embodied understanding – a manifest in doing and in the case of intrinsically motivating activities, in doing something self-pleasingly well
  • Discursive understanding – manifest in accounting experiences to others,

Carse (p. 134) argues that we understand intrinsic motivation of others when we understand our own. He continues to explain that this leads us to abandoning all efforts to explain the intrinsic motivation of others when we see that our intrinsic motivation and uniqueness cannot be explained. With intrinsic motivation, individuality cannot be measured because it is not equitable to another. We can only see the difference, and uniqueness that one is from another.

We understand nature as source when we understand ourselves as source. We abandon all attempts at an explanation of nature when we see that we cannot be explained, when our own self-origination cannot be stated as fact.

…nature is absolutely unlike. An individual recognizes nothing on the face of nature (since everything is different from the other)

Evaluation creates Waste Persons (Carse p.134)

Measurement and evaluation categorizes people into classes; we shape and fit nature into one or another set of societal and institutional goals. In so doing, we create 2 classes of people: 1) workers: those whose source (genius) can be exploited as resource (for productive work) and 2) waste persons: those whose source does not fit into resource that society wants.

Waste persons are those no longer useful as resources to a society for whatever reason, and have become apatrides, or non citizens. As waste, they must be placed out of view – in ghettos, slums, camps, retirement villages, jails, trailer parks… It is society that declares some persons to be waste. Human trash is not an unfortunate burden on a society, an indirect result of its proper conduct; it is its direct product.

Education vs Training (Carse p.19)

To be prepared against surprise is to be trained.

To be prepared for surprise is to be educated. Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there. Training regards the past as finished and the future as to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.

Success Vs Failure

…as a teacher, my power to control what children will think lets me separate successful students from failures very easily.

Successful children do the thinking I assign them with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to study, I decide what few we have time for. Actually, though, this is decided by my faceless employers. The choices are theirs — why should I argue? Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity… Gatto (1992).

Learning as interaction with and creation of novel experiences (Vicente)

In comparison to the design of computers for human interaction, learning environments, tools and practices, ought to be designed afford learners the creation and enjoyment of novel experiences. Vicente argues that in work, interfaces should not be designed so that workers may just execute tasks as demanded but so that they can deal with novel challenges that arise in their work. Following this approach, one can suggest that learning ought to be designed in such a way that learners can engage freely in areas of novelty that are of interest to them without fear of judgement, punishment or conformance to societal and institutional goals. In such a scenario, there may not be a rationale for evaluation; the creation of human waste.

As can be seen in the Engagement, Causes and Effect Matrix, the effects of extrinsic motivations can be equitable to characteristics of waste persons; sick, indulging in avoidance behavior, intellectually and emotionally dependent on others, performing poorly, in cognitive tasks, etc

also see:


9 thoughts on “Effects of evaluation on learning”

  1. Good morning,
    Thank you for describing and explaining some very important points about measuring and education.
    In a time of KPIs, it is very important to know that one can only measure things one already knows about. So KPIs are good for maintaining an enterprise but are very bad in creative and innovative environments (at least if they are what counts most).
    Education needs to prepare you for a future that is yet unknown. So education cannot aim for transferring knowledge but must be more like a live experimenting team project guided by teachers that do not teach but mentor. The only things that need to be taught are the basics of reading, writing, calculating, drawing, etc. But even there, it could be useful to leave a bit of space in the beginning to discover things on your own so to have a real interest for getting the problem solved when the teacher tells you about how to get it solved.
    What do you think about it? And what are the consequences you draw from your writing for your work and life?
    May the force be with you,

    1. If I may recommend a book on intrinsic & extrinsic motivation it would be – Finite and infinite games by Carse. He philosophically discusses these and how they apply in life.

      At the moment I have my eyes set on humanistic & democratic education. I cannot tell where I end up but just that now there is a beginning…

      1. Hey,
        that sounds great, a beginning to humanistic & democratic education. Have you seen my tries for (college) education? I added Carse’s book to my reading list, thx! Maybe you want to tell me more about what roads you see at the moment and what would be the reasons to take one or another way?

      2. Well you told me that you were right at the start of a kind of a journey (“At the moment I have my eyes set on humanistic & democratic education. I cannot tell where I end up but just that now there is a beginning…”). So I asked you where you could imagine to go and what possibilities/directions (“roads”) exist. Hope you get my hopelessly metaphoric language now 🙂

      3. Yes, the question is maybe metaphorical. I am hoping to have an open ended study. As Carse warns, defining the future stops everything else from happening so that what was defined actually happens. So as I had replied to your first comment; I cannot tell where I end up but just that now there is a beginning…

      4. ok so now I get back to my metaphorical question. even if you are quite at the beginning, you will discover roads that lead you somewhere. you don’t need to know where they lead you but knowing which roads (possibilities) do exist is sometimes quite helpful not to lose yourself on your way. think about it and if you find some roads, let me know 🙂
        May the force be with you,

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