6 Feb 201717 Comments
Let’s Share The Carrot and Break The Stick!
The school environment shapes us by the processes of assessment, comments, and categorization. It is one of the fundamental turning machines, which develops and molds the way we think. We become our future selves with how well we did during our education. In a way, this experience determines what we will have access to in the competitive work environment. In this sense, it may be the biggest investment of our lives. The goal oriented approach to this process would focus on grades as an indicator of where we deserve to be; however, in practice grades would not help at all, but discovering how we learn and solve problems, which is embedded in the learning process itself, does.
As a student, I have never been motivated by grades. On the contrary, I have always felt stressed about them. However, I was not aware of other ways that is not defined by the pressure of grading, since this process was the representative of whether I should be considered either a good, intelligent, hardworking student or an average student with a tendency to laziness. Students are in a constant fear of losing their position of being a good student and are under the surveillance in terms of their worth. I believe the grade-oriented relationship between educators and students turns the learning experience into a mechanical set of performances, removing the excitement of learning and inflicting the stress of failure.
Grading is reductive in the sense that it imposes a scheme to assess the performances of the students, who have variety ways of learning and processing information. If so, why do we rely on standardized ways of assessing? I believe it rather makes the outcome simpler to translate in to our highly industrialized and data-oriented world. Unfortunately, it still is the benchmark indicator of how one can contribute to the society. I agree with the following suggestion by Alfie Kohn:
“…our point of departure isn’t mostly about the grading, but about our desire for students to understand ideas from the inside out, or to get a kick out of playing with words and numbers, or to be in charge of their own learning, then we will likely end up elsewhere. We may come to see grading as a huge, noisy, fuel-guzzling, smoke-belching machine that constantly requires repairs and new parts, when what we should be doing is pulling the plug.”
The standardized ways of assessing can be beneficial for the educators to present a depiction of the outcome the students’ learning process; since they are considered to be some sort of measurement and an indicator of success, so that the educators can assess their own performance as well. Yet, how and by whom these standardized ways are created, namely the founding definitions of academic success, is taken for granted most of the time. In a world constantly changing and connecting more and more each day, I believe educators need to do better than employing uniform understandings of assessment and to focus on what we can do to minimize the impact of academic assessment on the learning process as Kohn suggests.
February 7, 2017 @ 3:58 pm
While I am one of those people who struggle while taking exams and dislike them immensely I can see their value in certain aspects, such as certification exams. I do not believe the use of student grades as a surrogate measure of instructor success and/or ability is appropriate (re: standardized tests). There are so many variables that can influence student performance on these assessments that it is really hard to say if the influencing factor was the instruction or something else entirely.
I have been asking myself often in reading the blogs this week, “what are the goals of assessment?”, “what are the goals of learning?”, and “where is there intersectionality between these goals?”
I think in understanding the answers (at least partially) to these questions, and appreciating that every context is not always the appropriate context for assessment, we may be on our way to figuring this out.
February 8, 2017 @ 10:12 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. I agree that we need to contextualize our efforts to teach and become more creative in our course designs and instruction techniques. It is the biggest part of our job. However, I believe assessment should not be something that turns the entire process of learning a fight for survival. It should rather promote self reflection and mindful learning. I believe too much emphasis on the assessment/grading paves the way for establishing outcome oriented relationships with the students. One way or another we will be exposed to an assessment process at some point in our lives. I argue that the relationship the students establish with the assessment does not have to be top-to-down, blind to the multitude of ways of learning, and thus, painful.
February 7, 2017 @ 9:09 pm
I don’t like exams either, because they always make me feel very stressful. However, I wonder what if we don’t have any exam in the learning process. Ideally, people want to learn because of their interest. In this case, grade doesn’t matter regarding their behaviors. But for others, no exam means no need to learn if they are not quite interested that material. What will be a good substitute for exams?
February 8, 2017 @ 10:00 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. I found the idea to comment on the students performances as opposed to grading them. Although I also grade my student, I give them the option to revise their paper and resubmit their assignments as long as it is a fundamental part of the learning process. I benefited from self reflection in my learning process. Therefore, I try to give more space to my students.
February 7, 2017 @ 9:38 pm
I believe we had some of the same revelations during reading Kohn’s article. I have been such a stickler for points and grading but it doesn’t really jive with my overarching goals or the kinda culture I want to create in my classroom like the excerpt you used from Kohn. I really resonated with your belief that “the grade-oriented relationship between educators and students turns the learning experience into a mechanical set of performances, removing the excitement of learning and inflicting the stress of failure.” I want to help facilitate that kind of excitement in my classroom.
February 8, 2017 @ 9:43 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. I look for and experiment new ways of establishing a relationship that are not predominantly depended on grades. It is challenging; however, I observe that my objectives in teaching is very much in line with my passion in pursuing this a career in academia.
February 8, 2017 @ 12:52 am
I really resonated with the part of the blog where you said that grades led to more stress than motivation. I have spent way too many years stressed out about grades! I had that same fear that I could lose my status if I let my grades slip. I was terrified during all of undergrad that if I didn’t keep up an A average that I wouldn’t get into grad school, wouldn’t get a job, and so on… It became quite the slippery slope at that point.
I was actually a fairly good test taker in undergrad, which worked well for me at the time. However, since taking counseling classes in grad school, I’ve taken very few tests, so I’ve had to adapt my study methods. I’ve had a lot more projects, papers, and presentations. Those provide an option that is less standardized, not so high pressured, and still motivating to learn. I don’t know if there is any single replacement for standardized testing, but my experience of grad school has been with very few tests. I wonder if that could be expanded to other areas of education…
February 8, 2017 @ 9:36 pm
thank you very much for your comment. I think the question is rather how we conceptualize the assessment process and whether we pay attention to the students’ individual ways of learning. Even if we are required to use conventional assessment techniques, we need to make sure how we frame it and contextualize it in terms of the learning process and the perception of success.
February 8, 2017 @ 1:00 am
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on grades, some of which I can certainly relate to! While I do think that we will probably never be able to truly do away with grades, I also believe that students should be given an environment where the focus is on the learning and not the grade.
February 8, 2017 @ 9:30 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. I am grading my students assignments as well. Thus, this practice such deeply embedded in our minds that it determines almost the grounds of the relationship between the teacher and the student. What I try to do is give them more options and try to get their feedback and share my ideas on their work so that they can think about their learning process.
February 8, 2017 @ 8:08 am
I think this blog made a good point about the source of the assessment standards. “Yet, how and by whom these standardized ways are created, namely the founding definitions of academic success, is taken for granted most of the time.” This make me start to think a lot about how do I define academic success and where are my standards coming from. The definitions of academic success sound like common sense for students and teachers nowadays, but when we really think about this issue, more problems come out of it. Through I hate to admit, often times, academic success commonly equates to “A” s, publications and positions in schools. Where are these standards coming from? And also what is the standard for “A”? All of these require us to always doubt more and think more before we get any “common sense” in mind.
February 8, 2017 @ 9:25 pm
Thank you very much for your comment. My approach to grading is letting the student decide what grade are they aiming at. I also grade my students based on assignments; however, I do not use it as a punishment. I believe a collage student is capable of and have the freedom of making decisions on their learning process. I try to give them more choices. I constantly ask their opinions. I underline that I value their feedback. And I am offering the option to resubmit their papers after I give feedback to them, because I want them to succeed. My initial goal is to make the students work about the task and support their learning process. Interestingly, they rarely get in touch with me. It would be harder for me if more students were reaching out to me; however, I wish they did.
February 8, 2017 @ 6:26 pm
I really enjoyed your post. I too think alot about how and by whom academic success, achievement and intellectual capability is defined. And I wonder what this means particularly for students who are located in poorer school districts, lacking access to a good education.
February 8, 2017 @ 9:15 pm
Thank you so much! I think so that students come from various conditions. If we do not acknowledge that and impose standardized ways of assessing we are just making our job easier and washing off our conscious from ethics of teaching.
February 8, 2017 @ 9:14 pm
I though this made some good points. I would also ask what this means for those with less access to education, such as people living in slums. What does that kind of education look like?
February 8, 2017 @ 9:17 pm
Thank you so much for your comment. I agree with you that education is a marker of privilege in a sense. These students may be pushed for performing their “worth” even more.
February 8, 2017 @ 11:10 pm
I do agree that grading is a fickle subject when it tests the ability of someone’s intelligence. I personally, am not a good test take and as a result, my grades often suffer. The situation becomes way complicated across the country as some school systems has varied grading criteria so how can be combat the qualifications need to get into a university if grades are not an accurate representation?