Re: grades

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Mon, 26 Aug 1996 08:53:11 -0400

On Sun, 25 Aug 1996, Marcy Bauman wrote (about):

> research that shows that people who are
> rewarded for doing tasks not only do them more poorly than people who
> aren't, they also cease to do the tasks when the rewards are withdrawn.

Thanks for the book recommendation. What you cite here is, for
me, the real and long term tragedy -- how many people can't wait to get
through with school so as to shelve the "pleasures" of reading,
writing, and learning forever.

I think some kinds of writing, such as conversational, have more
intrinsic pleasures than other kinds, and this may have a carry-over
effect to life after school, but still I worry that once
education gets a firm hold on electronic communication (coming soon to
your neighborhood schools) kids will turn off to that, too, as soon as
school is out.

As always, there is some good news to report. I heard a discussion
on the local NPR this weekend among principals on the topic of "What's
working and what isn't" in education. It was a small group (and that may
or may not say a lot) that was unanimous in saying that what works is
getting out of the way of, and/or enhancing, kids' *enjoyment* of learning
and exploring. The specifics of how to do this included such things as
opening up the campus to parent visits on a drop-in basis, having school
cookouts and other fun events, as well as looking at alternatives to
letter grades whenever possible. When was the last time students' parents
or children showed up in a university class or played on a class
electronic listserv discussion? Often, ironically enough, the good news
is happening in "lower" education, rather than "higher."

Anyway, as with the earlier move on this or some other thread
towards a focus on the metaphor of "liking" student work, and away from
control or counter-control metaphors, this focus on the metaphor
of enjoyment introduces an entirely different appeal to emotion, which
works and which isn't behavioral.

I think your calling attention to the behaviorist underpinnings of grading
is important!

Bob King