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The Bare Minimum

St(art) (From Flickr)
St(art) (From Flickr)

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.

Opinions

  1. Post comment

    I really appreciated this post, this is something I began practicing my second semester. I began to care about the quality of my learning and not necessarily the grade that comes with it. Does this mean my grades get better by coincidence? Not really, it means that I will learn what I know is useful to me.

    Somedays I think that in Education we need to be focusing more on if we actually want to be teachers and not just the grade that we will be getting. It’s hard to get this point across. I wrote a post where I basically advocated for students who are motivated by the subject to continually be reassessed. Not just given a single chance then moved on. I believe grades are still important, but only when used as a measure for personal success. At all times we need to remember what our motives really are.

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    Wow, if I could have reached this level of thinking way back in university. This is exactly what I struggle with every day when I teach my grade 7 and 8’s. Please just have passion for the learning and the rest will take care of itself. Report cards go out next week and alas I am figuring out percent grades to put on them. It’s what parents expect, it’s what the students expect, but I know they deserve better. I just don’t know how to get there. With future teachers like yourself making this kind of strides, I know we will get there eventually.

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    This sounds like my exact train of thought this past year at the UofR! My entire life has been about getting “the grade” and doing exactly what needed to be done to get the grade, regardless if any real learning occurred. It was my pass/fail classes this year that really allowed me to let go of “doing school” and finally, truly learn.

    You are very right…it is time we stop caring about our grades. It isn’t grades that leave lasting impressions and shape the people and teachers we become.

    Enjoyed stumbling across this post!

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