How do I know

The issue of grading and assessment are a real source of trouble for teachers I feel.

Which of the following statements most reflects your opinion about grading?

– It serves to distinguish the good student from the bad students.

– It gives students feedback.

– It is an institutional requirement.

– It gives the teacher feedback.

Perhaps, you feel that grades should be a combination of some of the above.  Furthermore, if you reflect on your grading process within the context of a learner perspective, do you think that the grades are serving their purpose?

Lowman in Mastering the Techniques of Teaching lists several “Myths of Evaluation”

1. The quality of education that students receive is commensurate with the difficulty of earning high marks.

2. Differences in grade point average reflect differences in student quality.

3. Hard grading and student satisfaction are inversely correlated.

4. Strict grading is necessary to motivate students to study.

5. Tough grading encourages memorization, while a nonjudemental classroom atmosphere is necessary for higher-level learning or for independent or creative thinking to occur.

In what ways might grading actually be a barrier to student learning?

Lowman J.  Mastering the Techniques of Teaching.  2nd Edition. Jossey-Bass. 1995.

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Wholistic teaching

“This belief in man’s duality has other pedagogical consequences for a perennialist.”

This was a statement made in a book that I’ve been reading. Although it was published just under 40 year’s ago, some of the pedagogical paradigms are still in effect today. In fact, some of the principles still serve as the foundation of education today.

But, I digress. Let’s define a few terms before we proceed. Lapp et al. describe a worldview of man from a dualist perspective.  In other words, man is part material or physical and part immaterial or spiritual. Interestingly, this seems to align mostly with a Biblical worldview.

Next, the authors point out that this view of man has a “pedagogical consequence”. In other words, how we teach intersects with who we teach. The teaching methods or strategies and the learner are intimately related.

Finally, the author describes the teacher as a perennialist. A teacher that takes a perennialist approach emphasizes the past and longstanding principles that have stood the test of time.

What I take from this reading is that who you are as a teacher and who you are teaching strongly influence how you teach at the very core of the teacher’s and learner’s being.  When is the last time you considered the personhood of your students as you developed your teaching strategy? Does it make a difference?

I think it might.

For example, if we see the learner as an empty container to be filled, we may use a pedagogy that attempts to fill that container.  As a side note, implementation of pedagogy is critical as well.  One might immediately think of a lecture as the poster child for filling up the learner.  However, in the hands of a master teacher, the lecture can evoke critical thinking.  But, the lecturer must be limited to a few key concepts or the learner may be overwhelmed.  Back to the issue at hand,  What if you saw the learner as an apprentice?  How would this change you pedagogy?  Is there a difference between a young learner and a returning to college learner?

While we must operationalize teaching in simple terms, it is easy to see that there is a place for the scholarship of teaching and learning.  The interactions between the teacher and learner alone is complex even in the absence of content.  The next time that you set to reflect on your teaching, consider how you implement your strategy and the potential effects on the learner.  Better yet, ask your learner and do some scholarship!