Teacher, what is your measuring stick?

How do you measure student performance? The standard answer is by formal assessments, both formative and summative. There’s also the “impression” one gets, the day to day work on the ward or in the clinic. The case by case discussion, the questions asked, the creative paths taken. I put up some wainscotting on the weekend, and got started thinking about the whole thing.

Teacher, What is your measuring stick?

Bill H-D via Compfight

The boards said 96” long. Right there on the package. They were all shrink wrapped, and looked identical. Being the skeptical guy I am, I measured the first board. 96” bang on.


That was enough for me. I mean, they have tool and die makers that do the fancy beadwork, that’s all exact, surely they have a machine that can cut them all the same length! You can see where I’m going with this.


I needed 48” lengths for my wainscotting. I was trying to cover up some wall damage, and that’s a long story in itself…I measured the 48” from one end, and cut the lot of them. Cut the end off my tube of construction adhesive, gooped up a board, and nailed it to the wall.


The next one was half an inch short. Glue. I used glue, and nails.


After I screamed, I managed to get the boards off. They actually weren’t that stuck. Stacking all the boards together on  the floor, it was obvious that they were all different lengths. Maybe a few were similar. You would think half should be…


Anyway. I got the shortest board, measured that, and used the bench on my deck as a tool to measure. I jammed the board up against the end post, marked the board at the appropriate length, and started cutting.


These were better, but still uneven. I nailed them up anyway, spitting bullets.


The next wall, I used one board as a measure, and cut each board against that one. These were bang on. During the day I reflected how wood, an organic substance, from different trees with different amounts of knots, density, etc, could react differently to the environment. I hadn’t put the boards out on the floor for a couple of days like the instructions said… time. Of course they were all different lengths. Then I hadn’t bothered supporting the long end of the board, I just used brute manual force when I cut them. They probably moved a bit. Then, there’s issue with curve…


This whole experience is illuminating, at least for me. First, there’s the package of wood, labelled to be a certain length. How do our students appear day one? All brilliant, the cream of the academic crop. I challenge you to think of a student that appeared on your ward with less than a stellar track record. Yes, I can think of a couple of rare exceptions…


All brilliant? Or just labelled that way? And what of that student that comes with a few whispers in your ear? You know, the things we can’t write down in 2015. How has he been labelled?


There was also the problem with my sampling technique, that first board that I measured that was 96” exactly. Now I’m questioning myself. How well did I actually measure that board, or was I just expecting to see 96”, and that’s what I read? Could my perception be that distorted? Even if it was exactly 96”, clearly my sampling of one out of 40 was inadequate.


Statistics rears its ugly head yet again.


Success came with my wainscotting when I designated one board my ideal length, put down my measuring tape, and measured board against board, then cut, after remeasuring.


More exact cuts came after I put down my measuring tape.


I wonder just how much use those summative assessments really are, but that’s a bit of a tangent.


Do you find yourself measuring students informally using that one student that was spectacular? The average student that you had a few years ago? We all do this, at least subconsciously. Try to be aware of it.


What is your measuring stick?


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