Posted on March 5, 2011
The Bare Minimum
This semester has brought about a lot discussion around assessment among my classmates. This is what I have found:
As university students, we don’t care about learning. We care about getting a good enough grade to move on. It wasn’t until my class Skyped with Joe Bower that I began to realize this. Joe challenged and pushed our thoughts on grading and what impact is has on real learning.
So I decided to stop caring. Those who know me might think that I have never cared. They aren’t wrong, but what they were actually saw was me being able to get good grades without trying very hard. I always cared and worried about the grade I would receive and how others would view me because of it.
So how am I going to get through my degree without caring about my grades? What kind of teacher will I be if I’m not getting good grades?
For the first time in my life, I now care about my learning. I am finally beginning to see how little the two are connected. Up until this point, I would do whatever I needed to do to obtain the mark I wanted to get. I would do the bare minimum I needed to. It didn’t matter if I wanted to get a 50% or a 90%, I would do the same amount of learning: the bare minimum.
Now, there is no bare minimum.
I look around my classes and am disappointed. My classmates constantly ask how long it has to be, how detailed we need to get, how many resources we need to use… we have all heard them. We don’t know it (I didn’t at the time), but we are simply looking for the bare minimum we need to do to get our grade.
I know these expectations are designed to give us a guide for us to strive above, but more often than not, they serve as a cap. We don’t have incentive to go above and beyond. If we want our grade, and we’ve met the requirements, why go any deeper?
I have a few classmates who are on board with this train of thought. The things we have come up with and shared in the past two months are beyond anything any of us have ever done. They haven’t been graded and we don’t care. We have developed an appetite to learn, and it’s been way more satisfying than any grade could be.
It’s time we all need to stop caring about our grades and start caring about our learning; something no one can grade.