Knowledge without transformation is not wisdom. – Paulo Coelho
The word “grades” in school can now be equated to the word “terrorists”. Grades are terrorizing both the students and the teachers. Students are pressurized to obtain higher grades and teachers are being gauged by the school authorities based on the grades obtained by their class.
As for the students, too much emphasis on grades creates an aversion toward studies. Since students are “forced” into the system against their will, they do it for the sake of their parents and teachers and not for themselves. This leads to the concept of “rote memory” which has short term benefits but is absolutely useless. A neighbor of mine once asked me to advise her son and give him tips to easily memorize his lessons. When I asked her about the necessity of him understanding the lessons, she just shrugged, saying that it is not a matter of concern for the time being. This kid is only in his ninth grade! This is definitely not one of the best ways to improve the quality of education.
Talking about teachers, there are two kinds of teachers here. The first type is one who cares for nothing but the grades and force their ways on the children. The second type is one who is concerned about the children and the system but is forced to play along due to the fear of risking their job. In any case, the students comply with anguish and even if they come out with top grades, they will be of no value in the outside world.
Looking at the big picture, it is a scenario where each one is forcing the other with something they don’t like for themselves!
The education system is, unfortunately, not aware of the ways of the world. When the kids go out into the world, all that matters is what they know and what they can actually do. Grades mean nothing to the real world. I was thrown out of my school after my tenth grade with the reason that I do not have the capacity to study science (Well… At least that’s what my grades said!). I did take up science in another school, went to college, passed with distinction, and I’m teaching science today!
Hence we should aspire to develop a system to satisfy the long-term goals of the students. Students should gain knowledge which should make them think and explore, rather than transferring it from their books to the test papers. We are now living in an era where information is free, fast and easy to obtain. The key lies in how the teacher facilitates the analysis of this knowledge by the students. Students must be oriented towards becoming knowledge creators, rather than knowledge consumers.
Had every one of us decided to be knowledge consumers, there would have been nothing for us to consume. We read so much about scientists, mathematicians and other great achievers. These achievers worked with the knowledge they had and created more of it. It’s now in the hands of the students to work on these and create much more of it and is the responsibility of the teachers to make this possible.
I agree entirely. I don’t like the competitiveness that stems from grading, causing emotionally frail students to doubt themselves and fold under the pressure. That’s why I have made a system that works for me.
As an example, I created a Fractions test last week for my Grade 4’s. Instead of giving them a letter or number grade, I gave an analysis of what they did well or found difficult. For instance, I may have commented that the student demonstrated an ability to order fractions, record mixed fractions and name equivalent fractions but found the worded questions quite challenging. That way, the students have an understanding of what they could do/found difficult, without the pressure of ranking or humiliation of getting a poor score.
That’s nice! Your method is more practical and realistic. Learning can happen only when the student is inclined toward it and such an inclination can happen only when their minds are free from worries and pressures. Your students are indeed lucky to have you as their teacher!
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I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here: http://bit.ly/99Iyy1
I have to confess I am the second kind of teacher. I really do not think things are as straight forward as you say. There are lots of nuances. It is easy to say what is best for our student is to remove these grading systems. It is easy to say that we should develop knowledge creators and not knowledge consumers.
When you are in the system, as a teacher you negotiate with the tension of what is good for the student and what is better. The tests will not go away or rather it is not within my control. I can prepare them for exploration but if the assessment is not aligned to the learning, they will not do well. I know the standardised tests do not tell all the story but as long as they are there, I have to prepare my students for it. They cannot get into the next instituition of learning, unfortunately, without these grades. So what would you do?
I am not resigned to this. As a teacher I am prepared to change things, but it is sad when you make a post and neglect the real tensions that face every teacher.
As a teacher myself, I am also a part of the system. This is definitely not something which we can get rid of overnight. We’ll have to slowly eradicate it from the system. After all, we created them and it is within our powers to do away with them too.
Creativity and confidence is the need of the hour to get things moving. I have the confidence that I can change. Everyone must have the same. Crying over spilt milk will neither help us nor the pail of milk. It’s time to get some fresh milk!
I don’t think an overemphasis on grades creates an aversion to study. On the contrary, it encourages study. I’d argue, instead, that grade-focused methodologies dilute learning, at least in the classical sense of the word, and discourage inquiry.
Grades do have value and, if used in an appropriate context and environment, can be a useful measurement tool for both teacher and student. That said, with few exceptions the smartest and most versatile people I know didn’t make outstanding grades in school, and all have adapted quite nicely to the real world.
Over emphasis doesn’t discourage study. It discourages learning. I do agree with you with respect to the judicious usage of the grading system. The problem is that grades, at large, are not used in the appropriate context. Hoping to see them put to better use.
Hi yes you can study to pass the test but Howard Gardner has understood that those students in the halls of Harvard and John Hopkins could not answer queries outside their knowledge area any better than the ‘unschooled minds’ that is no better than the uneducated population. Studying doesn’t lead to learning. Its not the same outcome at all. Gardner calls for ‘deep understanding’ which I think is your collaborative inquiry model, no? To teach thinking for understanding is a part of the problem solving he recommends but he says its very hard to teach thinking. I feel that it must be a natural thing to channel, model, mentor thinking alongside others, not too hard but I am as likely to be swayed by my prejudices as anyone, especially my emotional bias, I too am challenged to learn new ways of thinking.The more I think about education conundrum the more I think it to be solved by the uneducation systems. Left of field, I want to provide students with opportunities to watch those spaces, look for and contribute to them!