This week’s content has my brain spinning. I have heard much of it before: grades are bad, motivation is key, rewards and punishment are unhelpful. Every time I hear these things, I don’t disagree. There is plenty of proof; however, I am stuck with the same question: how do we fix it?
Our society lives by the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Here’s the problem, though: we disagree about what is broken.
I am no expert, and I have not been teaching that long, but in my experience, I feel confident in saying this: education is broken. We need to fix it.
Grades are a motivator, yes, but they can also motivate laziness. A student can be motivated to get the lowest grade possible to pass. That, inherently, means the student is not motivated to learn; they are motivated to get by. Education should make students learn, not get grades.
I completely grasp the idea of eliminating grades. As someone who loves qualitative data, I see the merit in written summaries, conferences, and conversations. There are more meaningful (and useful) than a letter or a number. I also see how very time-consuming those things are for a teacher. Moreover, I see students compare grades and scores, essentially ranking themselves compared to others but never caring about what was learning and how they are growing. Practicality and education are always at odds.
I always argue that the greatest motivator of human behavior is fear. We fear the bad grade, losing money, disappointing people, and many other things. It’s interesting to think about how education–the fundamental thing we provide to everyone–basically exacerbates and solidifies these fears in people from a young age. Go to the potty? You get an M&M. Don’t? Disappointment. It starts so young, but the sad reality is that it never ends. Life is a cycle of the same game with different scenarios.
I feel like I am just continuing to agree and note the problems, but I am not providing any more solutions. Truly, I think the easiest solution is to try to implement new tactics. It requires research, trial and error, and effort–things that most people dislike. If enough of it is done, though, the new norm will start. We must be dynamic.
Finally, I have some thoughts about MOOCs. My dissertation work is about increasing access to education so that students, regardless of SES or geographic location, can have access to a good education–one that is not determined by things out of their control. For this, I believe MOOCs are great; they are working toward that goal. However, the depth of content and course design leaves much to be desired. I think the idea is awesome, but much needs to be done to improve the quality.