The side effects of assessment.

I had a “bad” day assessment-wise yesterday. The kids are still so focused on what grade they get, it drives me nuts. I understand their point of view, they are worried about their future, and I am trying to tell them that GPA only puts them in a bracket. It is college essays and references that clinch it for colleges.

One student asked about why we do homework and check it, once he realized it did not count towards the final report card grade.  I mentioned that half the space of the report card would be devoted to “Learning Behaviors” which include homework habits.  He bluntly replied that he did not care about that.

I felt saddened, that this student I liked and respected (up to that point: I am not sure where he lies with me now I know this about him), felt this way.  But I also worried for him, because I think the learning behaviors do matter, when a prospective recruiter is looking at a person.

Personally if I was a college recruiter, or whatever they are called, I would be much more interested in the person who strives for personal and academic growth because they know that is their responsibility as a human being. I would be less interested in a second person, focused on getting the best grades. Surely the second person is just a “subset” of the first person anyway.

I was really hoping that MYP assessment would put an end to that culture of students lurching from assessment to assessment, rather than focusing on the learning in between. It has definitely decreased the problem, as I do way less tests than in the past, and criteria B (investigating patterns) and D(reflection in mathematics) are requiring students to ask why these math rules work, or what relevance this math has etc.  So we are requiring that they think more deeply about mathematics and make connections.  The ideal is that this pushes kids to have a natural passion, or at least appreciation, for mathematics: the way it works and its relevance.
I guess what blew it for me yesterday was when a student asked “In order to get the challenging and unfamiliar questions (top band criterion A MYP math) the solution is to go to juku, right?”   I answered that you get there through experience and growth etc, but, nevertheless, his comments did have an impact.  I could not help but think, these kids in front of me are just sitting here thinking how they can change that score into an 8, the highest level.  They want a magic wand.

Hopefully today will be better and I will see evidence to turn my thoughts around.


About eadurkin

Originally a HS Mathematics teacher from New Zealand, currently working as Associate Principal in the Secondary School at Canadian Academy, an international school in Kobe, Japan. Married with two children.
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2 Responses to The side effects of assessment.

  1. LIZ,
    I wanted to let you know that in my class math is always a topic on conversation and lately the conversation is changing. Students are saying that they work load is where they are challenged but not overwhelmed. They really are interested in the math and how to figure it out, We were joking about that long math problem with multiple stages and making a mistake in the first stage that makes the entire problem wrong. The feeling I get from most students is that they do not think math is easy, but every day I here more students talk about enjoying math. Your team must be doing something right to hear that from the students.

    • eadurkin says:

      Thanks Darrick it is great to hear feedback like that. I can see why they think the workload is big – they did much more work for the most recent assignment than I had anticipated. For the future I need to stipulate a max length etc, I think.
      Thanks for letting me know they are finding it interesting. That is great to hear. And I must say that is the big plus about MYP – it mandates that it is relevant.

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