How’s this for bonkers?

The fact we’re coming up to A-level results soon set me browsing for educational news, and I found this gem:

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/students-should-choose-own-grades-reduce-stress-school-university-professor-dr-richard-ricky-watson-a7884596.html

I am thoroughly relieved to see that this guy’s university have told him in no uncertain terms that his idea’s not happening.  I almost wondered whether it had been made up just to provide an easy target for educational traditionalists (or send some of them into apoplexy).

But I am afraid he is only at the extreme end of a tendency that is far too common – brushing things that are problems or unpleasant under the carpet, rather than dealing with them. Of course no one likes getting a poor grade. But until it’s understood and internalised that there is indeed an issue, how on earth can anyone improve? Pretending that it isn’t a bad grade, or changing it without a reason really isn’t a solution. Imagine that happening in medicine – “oh, it’s too stressful to tell the patient that they have diabetes, so let’s invite them to make their own diagnosis and we’ll have that on their record instead”

I suspect most teachers have dealt with somewhat less extreme versions of this. For example: pupil gets 50% in mock exam. Teacher, trying to be generous and encouraging, sets grade boundary so that this is a C grade, knowing full well a D is more like it.  Teacher offers to predict B grade for external purposes (“well, it’s always good to go one up to allow for improvement, and with a following wind, and the right questions…”). Pupil and/or parent has hissy fit that an A or A* is not being predicted.   Teacher may opt for quiet life and give in… at which point pupil often starts to think “Yay, I’ll get an A”, rather than the more logical “Right, I really need to work now”.  And then – guess what – pupil actually gets that C or D in the real exam. At which point, the really outrageous pupil and/or parent turn with fury to the teacher “But you predicted me an A”!!

We need a culture change – we need to be able to be honest as teachers. And we need to encourage learners to be able to accept that their performance may not be what they’d like it to be. Sadly, I can’t see it happening any time soon.

 

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