Publications & Resources

Assessing Active Knowledge

Jan 2000

Robert Glaser and Gail P. Baxter

The theme we would like to convey is described in a 1971 paper by Robert McClintock entitled “The Place of Study in a World of Instruction.” This discussion admirably conveys the spirit in which the approach to educational assessment based on cognitive research can be framed. McClintock reminded us that classical philosophers from Plato to Erasmus considered education as consisting not so much of instruction, as of study. Diverse forms of study were seen as the driving force in education, a view quite different from that in which instruction supplies students with knowledge and thereby accords them a passive role in learning. In this classical conception, instruction was not sufficient because it left “too little room for human doubt, inquiry, uncertainty and the search for ideas” (pp. 171-172). The world of education did harbor a place for instruction, but it was a subordinate place. Instruction should have the mission of making itself unnecessary; learners should become mindful architects of their own knowledge. The true goal of education was to foster study, or in modern terms, constructive cognitive activity.

Glaser, R., & Baxter, G. P. (2000). Assessing active knowledge (CSE Report 516). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).