As I was preparing to meet with a teacher for a post-observation discussion, I made some notes about collecting evidence as that was part of the science lesson I observed. The students for whom this lesson was designed, are some of our students enrolled in the alternative program. They are in this program for a variety of reasons, mostly because their academics must be highly individualized for them to access their education. We work hard to provide them with the structure, skills, support, and programs they need. They are an interesting and diverse crew who struggle and have won my heart and many others.
I began a brainstorming about the use of and meaning of evidence collection. I must admit, the track that my thinking took was not aimed at the way it was used in the lesson that I observed. My rumination began on some prior thinking and reading I had recently done on using every activity as an assessment in waiting, that all assignments and activities have the possibility of being an assessment. Assessments provide educators with evidence of learning, skill deficit, gaps in understanding or leaps made in thinking. We humans are masters of collecting evidence. Some of us must do it regularly in order to evaluate others. But all of us do it continually to relate to others and orient ourselves in life and existence.
We all spend our lives collecting and analyzing evidence to back up or refute: our mere humanness, our beliefs and values, the theories by which we live, our self-confidence factors, experiences and principles. Understanding what evidence is, what should be used as REAL evidence and how it should be/can be used or changed is crucial for us to truly be attentive to this practice, nay to this obsession to constantly compare and contrast ourselves.
We must learn to collect evidence mindfully and intentionally. As we “pilgrim through life” it is crucial that we maintain an objective viewpoint about ourselves so that we collect objective evidence upon which to base our life’s decisions. Life = the continuous collection and analysis of evidence to prove or disprove whatever we want it to prove about our perspective, our very BEING. Teaching students what constitutes valuable solid evidence and how to analyze it is crucial to their ability to change perspective, grow and change, problem-solve, collaborate, create, understand, learn, and have a growth-mindset, all, 21st century skills.
Unfortunately, many adolescents tend to set themselves up for self-sabotage so that they continually collect evidence that proves how _______ (fill in any negative self-describing adjective) they are. Some of us remain in that negative mindset forever, never being able to see evidence to the contrary, never being able to lift ourselves out of the adolescent depths of darkness. We are never able to see our light. We create the evidence collection opportunities to feed the shadows that surround us.
It has occurred to me to begin asking students and even adults what evidence they have of whatever limiting belief they have. “Tell me why you believe that. What evidence do you have to prove your theory?” Perhaps too I should assign them to collecting evidence to the contrary. “What evidence can you collect that you are smart, effective, talented, good-hearted, creative, kind, generous?”
And you, Reader? What limiting evidence do you continue to collect? Why not begin a collection of evidence of a different sort: what a good leader you are, how generous you are, how ingenious you are, how unique you are…?