We are told that learning outcomes are the output of a teacher, a student, and a prepared input. (The prepared input is an assignment, job, take-home worksheet, some edtech, etc.) This output is quantized as a fixed assessment: a grade or percent.
The advance of neuroscience is increasingly casting an ominous shadow on the validity of these assessments: they are not measuring what conventional belief says they measure.
Keep reading if you want to understand Shift Sight’s compass for navigating these waters.
Let’s be crystal clear. Teachers are my overworked, undercelebrated, underpaid heroes. Whether or not you agree with my conclusions in this post is up to you – my goal is never to change minds, but to open eyes. Add light, not heat!
Even if you agree with me, dear teachers, I fully appreciate the tough position you are in: parents / industry are shouting demands from one side while the inertia of the defined processes and systems have bound you to a specific path.
There is never blame or negativity here: just respect for everything you do every day.
Money or Happiness
The post title is a play on words, referring to intrinsic development – an unassessable quality. An income rather than an outcome. My wording is a rather ironic abuse of syntax, considering that society tells you to value cash (income) more than good assessments (outcome).
Our outcome determines our income. Good grades should translate to intrinsic development. Does it?
I have previously written that public school is about signaling rather than learning. In an environment where learning is the sole brass ring, cheating would be its own punishment.
What does neuroscience have to say about incomes and outcomes? For one, the environment – an often neglected piece of the learning outcome puzzle – is critical.
Take one dear, sweet child. If this child is overstimulated by the noise, bright light, and quantity of colorful flyers in a class, this individual’s grades will not be as good as their peers (everything else equal). Concentration is scarce and easily overwhelmed.
(Neuroscience tells us that this oversimplified case is extrapolated to reality. One study even found that grades were linked to individual circadian rhythms.)
In this oversimplified case, the grade partially assessed the compatibility of the child to the sensory stimulation in the class. When I say sensory stimulation, you might also think of introverts and extroverts. Studies have shown that introverts are biochemically aroused much more easily than extroverts. Adults try to self-regulate their level of stimulation: go to a party, talk to ___ people, or do not go to the party at all.
Children in conventional schools have little choice with their stimulation level.
You can easily argue that the learning outcomes are correct: an overstimulated, overwhelmed child that could not focus on their work deserves the D that they received since they did not learn the material.
A “D student” will never realize that they could potentially be an “A student” in a quieter classroom because nobody ever offers this to a child. This level of individualization is not available and incompatible with the current system. Think about that: the leading institutions charged with teaching individuals does not have provisions for meeting all individual learning needs.
So instead, we measure and label. Children internalize their labels. One infamous (and possibly unethical, depending on your definition) experiment went as follows:
Some things – and people – are broken when labeled. And yet, society pushes for more labels.
Every child is incredibly neuroplastic: every experience, every sensory input changes the shape of their brain. In fact, the human brain does not contain memories: it is memories. Our experiences literally shape and define us.
I am biased by my experiences with family, children, technology, and education – and an unrelenting desire to improve the environment, community, and local economy.
While other companies are creating edtech e-waste, Shift Sight is designing Jade to be drastically different. We are focused on income rather than outcome. This is not to state that Jade will directly lead to emotional and social development, but we are working overtime with removal of assessments and labels from education.
Self-assessment leads to self-regulation. Self-regulation leads to development where skills and challenges are matched and grow together. We also want fun! The quality of retention (the very definition of learning) is proportional to the quantity of dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter, when the educational material is encountered.
To comply with existing public school systems, Jade is being designed to provide a score based on the student’s interactions with exercises and experiments. But the scores are not based on 100%. In that system, you start out perfect and lose points for being not perfect.
Stay with us while we work to rewrite the rules for your children: for the better, for their future.
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.