The Greatest Struggle

Published: 2011-10-31 10:55 |

Category: Grading | Tags: teaching

I went to Kentucky this weekend to visit my parents. It was a great weekend and I’m glad I was able to spend some time away from thinking about teaching or grading. We all need refreshers…make sure you take them periodically.

When I returned home Sunday afternoon, I had a stack of exams waiting to be graded. We have just finished a chapter on biomolecules (proteins, carbs, lipids, etc) and I gave a test to check their understanding. Typically, I give a few multiple choice as a quick check over some basic content, but the rest of the test is written, applied knowledge that asks for reasoning and defense. The questions are open-ended and allow for varied responses based on their interests and personal growth.

These tests had more blanks in responses that I have ever seen. Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated with the results. I finished the grading, threw the number at the top of the page, and put them away. Where had I gone wrong? They got it in class when we played games or discussed…why the disconnect?


Fast forward to Monday morning. I saw this tweet from Stacy Roshan when I got to school:

"Education system is not designed to cultivate our natural talents" via @SirKenRobinson keynote

—Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo) October 31, 2011

I love the RSA Animate video of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk. I watched it earlier this year, but I went back and watched it again. My problem is that I’m continuing to teach and assess in linear fashions. I have missed the inherent genetics of learning.

Learning is not linear. Learning is not prescribed. Learning cannot be pigeonholed into separate chunks of discrete knowledge that are measured by tests alone.

Learning is dirty. Learning is exciting. Learning should be personalized, varied, and integrated.

The greatest struggle I have is changing my own teaching paradigm, not getting kids to write on a test. I try to challenge myself to think outside of my box of training, but I still struggle to actually work outside the box. We are doing a disservice to learners by continuing to test and use those scores as gauges of their learning. My kids didn’t fill out my test because it was boring…it didn’t ask for relevance and it certainly didn’t give any chance for creativity.

Do they get a free pass on this one? No. I need to correct my mistakes, but learners also need to recognize the fact that leaving a blank does not help the situation. We’ll spend some time remediating and then move forward.

So, how do we reconcile the dichotomy? I have no idea. I am still responsible for preparing them for the state exam in May…but, I am not going to worry so much about the single exams. It is a struggle and it is the reality of education today. But if we give up and give in, then we’re not helping anybody in the long run.

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