Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rethinking How You Think About Grades

I don't really like assigning grades. It's not that I have any real problem with providing feedback to students, but for whatever reason many (though certainly not all) students take grades personally. That is, they view their grades as a reflection of their personal worth or talents (and not of their effort). As such, they feel bad if they don't get an outstanding grade. I don't particularly enjoy being the party assumed to be responsible for others feeling bad (even though I would argue that blaming the teacher for your feeling bad is misplaced).

I was probably as guilty of this as anyone back in the day, but psychologists have learned that this common approach to grades (which is a byproduct of some of our social structures) is very unhealthy. I concur. I strongly recommend reading this article that outlines the sources and consequences of this problem. Here's a teaser to encourage you to click over:
Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.
Check it out.

Bryce as always the articles you find are incredibly interesting. As I grew up I was definitely raised in a home and school environment of a fixed mind-set. Though I don't I ever adopted the opinion that just because I was smart I didn't need to study or work, in other aspects of life learned helplessness feels more common.

This is also incredible interesting when trying understand the differences between the educational environments of American and foreign children. It always seemed contradictory that American universities were so highly sought after when k-12 was ridiculed. This article might suggest that the difference lies more in how American society has been shaped and how that affects teaching more than some structural issue in our schools. So more testing, funding, and school choices maybe less important than a shift in how we all think about learning and our own self-esteem.
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