Woah… Just Woah…
Honestly, Kohn just kinda blew my socks off… There were so many moments where he really just knocked me off my game & really made me question my way of thinking… To tie back to previous discussions – that’s part of being mindful in your teaching though. Reading things, especially things outside of your normal way of thinking, and reflecting on it. This article was definitely an exercise in mindfullness for me.
“When school is seen as a test, rather than an adventure in ideas,” teachers may persuade themselves they’re being fair” – Woah…. This has been me lately… I literally had this thought this week… I’m currently working with our Senior Design class this semester and one of things I’ve been asked to do is develop rubrics for the course assignments. Previously this has always been a small class and it was easy for the professor to kinda just go with however he wanted to grade it that year. This year, the class size more than doubled and he wanted a little more structure that could be easily transferred from year to year. I discovered Canvas’ rubric setting and quickly fell in love. But one of the things I’m learning is that when I have a rubric that I’m grading from, my grading tends to be really rough… I tell myself that that’s the fair way to do it and that this is how the students can see up front how everything will be graded… But the more I read this article, the more I realized how this doesn’t jive with the rest of my teaching style. I’m very collaborative. I want to get to know my students and I really want to focus on how their learning the material and transferring it to knowledge instead of just memorizing information… I did struggle with the fact that this seemed to be written for students in secondary education but I can see in the effects of grading that he listed at the beginning in not only my students, but my peers, and even myself at times.
I do think grading has its place in higher education. (I definitely don’t think I could tell my department next year that I’m throwing out the gradebook for my class.) But I am intrigued by the applications for my classroom and combining these ideas with others I’ve seen to comprise my own “grading style” if there is such a thing. Through working on these rubrics for Sr. Design, I’ve actually been thinking a lot about what kind of assessment I want to in my class next year… The course I’ll be teaching is our Intro to BSE course which has both a lecture & lab component. I’ve been looking at in-class assessments, more problem-based lab assignments, and even lab quizzes to make sure they come prepared. This idea of not everything being graded is really interesting to me now. Maybe the lab quizzes can be self-graded at the very beginning so they can ask questions before we start about what they don’t understand. The in-class assessments don’t need to be graded either and can just be for helping the students assess their own learning during the “lecture” time. “We Assess What We Value” and if what we value is students leaving our classroom being able to apply the knowledge provided to them in our course, being able to problem solve, or even just knowing how to learn then in the words of Kohn himself maybe “grading is problematic by its very nature” to what we’re trying to accomplish.
I’ll leave you with the one part in particular of this article that really struck me personally. It was the story of the student and his zen master. As a very goal-oriented person, I literally make goals everyday and I’m better when I make goals & deadlines for those goals. But it’s true. When you focus so much on how close you are to that goal, no matter how important, enlightened, or critical it is…
“If you have one eye on how close you are to achieving your goal, that leaves only one eye for your task.”
Woah…. Just Woah….