When Measurement Goes Awry

What do fitness and learning have in common?

They can both be very difficult to measure, and trying to measure complex and nebulous ideas often results in unintended consequences.

Our fitness initiative on campus started with us all getting MOVbands which measure the number of “moves” we make each day. I am still not sure what a “move” is but that is another conversation. For the record, I am really excited and lucky to have a principal that believes in mental and physical health. Educators need to lead by example and modeling healthy choices to students is absolutely essential.

Strangely, we seem to get the most “moves” by simply walking. So we are really measuring who is walking the most.

However, my fitness (learning) goals go beyond just improving my walking (memorizing facts). I can walk (recall) all I want and I’ll continue to only get better at walking (low-level tasks). My whole body (mind) will not get stronger (smarter).

Vigorous exercise (authentic learning) found more often in CrossFit workouts (inquiry based classrooms) does not seem to count as much as just walking (regurgitating facts).

Therefore, if I really want to be “fit” (high test scores), do I lower the level of my workouts (learning) so I can maximize my “fitness” (scores)? I don’t want anyone to think that I am lazy (low test scores) just because my workouts (classroom activities) are on a higher physical (cognitive) level that is more difficult to measure and often does not show up when looking only at “moves” (standardized tests).

I’m not saying there is no value in knowing an approximation for how active I have been all day. But a problem arises when the single data point of moves (test score) is used to make important decisions about prizes (graduation).

As educators we must make sure we are using multiple sources and triangulating our data (Dr. Wayman, this is for you) before coming to conclusions.

I am a supporter of real fitness (authentic learning), which can not be measured completely by one single number.