Living and Learning with Risk: Against Rubrics and Grades. How "Ungrading" Allowed My Students to Try Some New Things
I gave my students freedom to write (present) what they learned however they wanted. They were terrified; how could they get an A without a rubric??--and then they reveled in it. We took risks together, and learned together.
Parents of college students: When you see your kids at Thanksgiving, don’t ask them how they are doing (in terms of grades). Ask them what they’ve learned. Ask what they have enjoyed. Ask what is magical, transformative, even useful.
And students: Don’t play for praise. Don’t learn for me.
Sink in, really be there, and forget about your teachers. Forget about me.
Play, learn, climb the log for yourself.
The correct and inevitable guilty verdict in the sad case of the “Atlanta Cheating Scandal” is a reminder that the current system of high-stakes testing drives all participants in schooling to their wits’ ends—and beyond. Surely parents want the best for their children, teachers want the best for their students, administrators want the best for their schools, superintendents want the best for their districts. But when it all boils down to a few numbers, and the numbers can, carefully, surreptitiously, and illegally, be changed, it should not surprise us that the temptation to do so becomes irresistible, in some cases.
[image source: http://www.featurepics.com/FI/Thumb300/20110801/Cheating-Test-1956141.jpg]
A huge shakeup in the world of higher education was announced on Wednesday: The SAT would again be transformed. But the bigger questions are hard to address, so like Ptolemaic astronomy, we fix the details without questioning the system.
Just after the 2013 gaokao, Chinese parents in one small city complained, rioted, saying, "We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat."
I found out by accident. One of my students had a job staffing a reception desk. They talk about my class--but don't even bother to let me know. When the students are buzzing with interest in the subject, when they don’t even tell the teacher about their out-of-class conversations—this is worth every moment.
Read it on Huffington Post, or here
There is a drama unfolding even as I write: thirty-five suspects have been indicted in a criminal conspiracy, and only a few of them have surrendered to authorities. They face decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines. The deadline for all to give themselves up is today.
Is this about drugs? Kidnapping? Treason? Securities fraud?
Nothing so alien as that; it is an everyday criminal context: It’s about administrators and teachers changing answers on standardized tests in order to boost their schools’ and districts’ scores
I have been thinking a lot lately about money and grades. Not for the reasons you may think: that I want more and better of both (or to “give” tough grades). But because they share interesting qualities. My thinking is analytical rather than greedy.
Money and grades, I propose, are both supersigns.
[Also see this and comments on PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity]
In an exasperated Facebook post, one of my young friends complained about her first-semester college class. “Don’t you hate it when you raise your hand and know the answer and your teacher doesn’t call on you?” I replied, know-it-all professor and adult that I am: Isn’t it about what you’re learning?
And she replied, “No, it’s because you have to answer questions a certain number of times to get points.”
The point of learning is to get the points.
You have probably heard that a teaching assistant grading final exams in a large Harvard class noticed suspicious similarities among the responses. That assistant notified authorities, and now a full-fledged investigation is underway—scrutinized by public attention. As someone who has studied college cheating and plagiarism, I find this case, like so many before and yet to come, provocative. Here are some of the things I wish to say about it.
Susan D. Blum
Who doesn't think there is something wrong with education? Anthropology has a lot to offer when we think about how to raise up our young--in often unexpected ways! Join me as my thinking about higher education unfolds.
SusanBlum.com by Susan D. Blum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.