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Deflections: Just semantics


What’s in a word? Plenty, as it turns out.

At a recent meeting, some folks were discussing how best to evaluate kids—sort-outs, they’re called—to place them on house league teams. One chap threw out the term “development” to be interchangeable with “evaluation.”

He was asked, “How is evaluation development?” He couldn’t really answer, so he tried defending development as the cornerstone of what we do in minor hockey.

For one thing, development isn’t just the cornerstone; it’s the entire foundation. Most of the walls, too. Furthermore, evaluation and development are quite different, whether in hockey or anywhere else. For instance, in Ontario’s school system these days, the very use of assessment has been narrowed to three choices: assessment of learning, assessment for learning and assessment as learning. Each has a different meaning. So one could very well slide over to sport training, hockey in this case, and state that there are similarly three types of evaluation: evaluation of, for, and as learning. None of these links to development per se since the very purpose of evaluation at the beginning of a season is to create balanced teams.

Evaluation of learning? Nothing’s been taught yet. The kids are mostly on the ice for the first time. 

Evaluation for learning? Using eduspeak, it would mean that these scrimmages are tools to determine if the kids have learned anything from previous hockey experiences. For instance, do novices coming from the Initiation Program know where to stand on a faceoff or how to avoid offside? From this, coaches would adjust development programs according to what was observed. In this instance though, it’s been months since the kids were on teams and will be another few weeks before teams are created. There’ll be minimal evaluation for learning.

Evaluation as learning? In a school setting, kids are given tasks that determine if and how much they’re learning. It’s sort of a self-assessment approach. For hockey sort-out scrimmages, however, there is no self-assessment by the children and the activity is adult-generated and conducted. Indeed, the kids would have chosen scrimmage, too, but the nature of a scrimmage doesn’t really allow a child to self-assess much of anything. They just want to play.

Does development even come from evaluation, or vice versa? To some extent, yes to both. Evaluation results will usually highlight what the development needs are for a group. Conversely, as a coach works through his development plan, there is an on-going evaluation of the kids needs and progress. So the terms are linked. But certainly not the same.

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