Friday, February 16, 2007

Fair Isn't Always Equal by Rick Wormeli - Reflections

Reading this book has made me think of something I read several years ago (sadly, I don't recall where) about our education system. The argument was that in the US we do our pre-K and graduate schools better than anyone else in the world. Our K-12 and colleges are another story. That isn't to say that we don't do those well, they are just not as outstanding globally as our pre-K and graduate institutions. I'm left wondering how much this has to do with grades. In pre-K students are learning for the thrill of learning. While information on their progress is conveyed to parents (and possibly students as well), they do not receive grades. Our strongest graduate institutions are similar. Students are working for the knowledge (and of course, the degree), but they often do not receive grades. If they do receive grades, they are not below a B. Interesting.

It is easy to think that grading students puts the emphasis on those letters rather than on the information they are learning. One argument for grades is that students will not bother to do the work without them. However, that is clearly not true for pre-K or graduate school. Is it possible that we have socialized students into valuing grades over learning? Is it possible to create an environment in which students are focused on learning regardless of, or in spite of, grades? It is something I would love the opportunity to try.

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