Approaching Educational Evaluation from a Relational Perspective – Scherto Gill, Ph.D.
Shifting from traditional measurement-based assessment in schools to educational evaluation of the entire school ecosystem can enhance learning processes, students’ engagement and vitality of relationships in primary and secondary classrooms. It flows into the evaluation of teaching and the school as a whole. Featuring collaborative learning, dialogic pedagogy, and flexible curricula, educational evaluation that comes from a relational perspective truly speaks to the demands of a rapidly changing world.
Season 5 is a Collaboration with the Taos Institute
This season of the Positivity Strategist podcast is a collaboration with the Taos Institute. We’re focusing on the topic of Constructionist Practices as Social Innovation. My guests in this season are Taos Institute Associates who’ve contributed to The Sage Handbook of Social Constructionist Practice. [Links are below.]
Author Bio and Chapter Title
Scherto Gill, Ph.D. is Senior Fellow at the GHFP Peace Research Institute, Visiting Fellow at the University of Sussex, and Fellow of The Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA). Through research, grassroots projects and published work, Scherto actively explores ways to implement ideas such as deep dialogue, ethics of caring, well-being and flourishing in social transformation, harmony, and peace.
Chapter Title: Educational Evaluation: A Relational Perspective
This chapter systematically develops a radical alternative to the assessment tradition in schools. The authors – Professor Ken Gergen is co-author with Scherto – draw on an inspirational conception of schools as sites of collective meaning-making and a relational orientation to educational evaluation.
Schools as Havens for Relationships and Meaning-Making
As for most children, going to school for Scherto was just something she had to do. As she reflects now, she’s aware that it was her friendships that motivated her most. The relationships she developed at school mattered to her. From an early age, she understood the importance of relationships. Today she says:
We are relationships, we cannot dissociate from them. Our relations with others shape us and give meaning to our world.
From the perspective of social construction, relationships are at the core of our being and offer us meaning. In the school environment, the key to success is to have a relational culture in place. Teachers, children, and parents are all engaged. Processes of collaboration, dialogue, and reflection about the entire learning experience enable those involved and impacted to create meaning together through these relational processes. They recognize that curriculum, evaluation, and pedagogy are interlocked so their focus is on the interconnectedness and the wholeness of the experience.
Educational evaluation is a co-inquiry where those who are evaluating and those who are being evaluated come together. They are curious about the value of the process. Their common interest is how children can learn and flourish.
Moving From Assessment to Evaluation
Scherto discusses the semantics of evaluation vs assessment. Measurement-based assessment has dominated our educational systems, thereby increasingly diminishing the learning and the well-being of students and teachers. The conventional language of assessments or measurements aims our focus toward institutional accountability and educational standards. Surprisingly, the term “evaluation” is not often used in education. Educational evaluation is another example of a relational process that we have been listening to throughout this season of Positivity Strategist podcast.
Traditional approaches imprison us in accountability agendas. Scherto suggests we go back to the question: “Why? What is our purpose?” Education should not be about judging, but about enhancing the process of learning, inspiring the student to continue to learn. Most importantly, education is about enriching relationships. By focusing merely on metric accountability, we miss out on the essence of what education is about: the growth of the person. Alternatively, e-valuation focuses on valuing education, in a holistic sense.
If we focus our attention to ask, “what is education for?” Scherto responds with a John Dewey quote:
Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
Who Ought We To Become?
There is massive resistance to shifting from conventional approaches of accountability – metrics and grades – to educational evaluation which is valuing and appreciating what is and what we can become. There are students with their families who are “only in it for the grade;” thereby we acknowledge that our current system demands accountability and assessments. What if we were to begin conversations and the feedback processes, reflecting with our students on what counts as quality in ourselves as human beings and in our relationships? For example, what if we were to inquire into qualities such as curiosity, kindness, generosity, and caring? Together , we might reflect on “how do we measure curiosity?”
Shifting “from care as a virtue and disposition, to care as valuing the cared-for and engaging the community in caring” starts with a conversation. Listening and dialogue are expressions of care. By living the care, we can care for each other and by living the relational, we can enrich the relationships.
At this point in history, it is an excellent time to design a new educational system through a spiritual and ethical process, which answers questions such as “who ought we to become?” from a wholeness perspective. After all, at the core of learning and becoming lies human interconnectedness and interdependence.
Connect to Scherto
- The Sage Handbook of Social Constructionist Practice
- Gill, S. & Thomson, G. (2016). Human-Centred Education: A practical guide, London: Routledge
- Gill, S. & Thomson, G. (eds). (2020). Ethical Education: Towards an Ecology of Human Development, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
- Gill, S. & Niens, U. (eds.) (2016). Education as Humanisation, London: Routledge
- Gill, S. (2019). “Caring in public education”, FORUM: For 3-19 Comprehensive Education, 61:2, 201-208
- Gill, S. (2016). “Universities as spaces for engaging the other: Pedagogy of encounter for intercultural and inter-religious education”, International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning
- Gill, S. (2015). “Holding oneself open in a conversation” – Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics and the ethics of dialogue, Journal of Dialogue Studies, 3:1, 9-28