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Benjamin Light

The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement - 83 views

  • First, students tend to lose interest in whatever they’re learning. As motivation to get good grades goes up, motivation to explore ideas tends to go down. Second, students try to avoid challenging tasks whenever possible. More difficult assignments, after all, would be seen as an impediment to getting a top grade. Finally, the quality of students’ thinking is less impressive. One study after another shows that creativity and even long-term recall of facts are adversely affected by the use of traditional grades.
    • Deb White Groebner
       
      SO true!
    • Terie Engelbrecht
       
      Very true; especially the "avoiding challenging tasks" part.
  • Unhappily, assessment is sometimes driven by entirely different objectives--for example, to motivate students (with grades used as carrots and sticks to coerce them into working harder) or to sort students (the point being not to help everyone learn but to figure out who is better than whom)
  • Standardized tests often have the additional disadvantages of being (a) produced and scored far away from the classroom, (b) multiple choice in design (so students can’t generate answers or explain their thinking), (c) timed (so speed matters more than thoughtfulness) and (d) administered on a one-shot, high-anxiety basis.
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  • The test designers will probably toss out an item that most students manage to answer correctly.
  • the evidence suggests that five disturbing consequences are likely to accompany an obsession with standards and achievement:
  • 1. Students come to regard learning as a chore.
  • intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation tend to be inversely related: The more people are rewarded for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.
  • 2. Students try to avoid challenging tasks.
  • they’re just being rational. They have adapted to an environment where results, not intellectual exploration, are what count. When school systems use traditional grading systems--or, worse, when they add honor rolls and other incentives to enhance the significance of grades--they are unwittingly discouraging students from stretching themselves to see what they’re capable of doing.
  • 3. Students tend to think less deeply.
  • 4. Students may fall apart when they fail.
  • 5. Students value ability more than effort
    • Deb White Groebner
       
      This is the reinforcement of a "fixed mindset" (vs. (growth mindset) as described by Carol Dweck.
  • They seem to be fine as long as they are succeeding, but as soon as they hit a bump they may regard themselves as failures and act as though they’re helpless to do anything about it.
  • When the point isn’t to figure things out but to prove how good you are, it’s often hard to cope with being less than good.
  • It may be the systemic demand for high achievement that led him to become debilitated when he failed, even if the failure is only relative.
  • But even when better forms of assessment are used, perceptive observers realize that a student’s score is less important than why she thinks she got that score.
  • just smart
  • luck:
  • tried hard
  • task difficulty
  • It bodes well for the future
  • the punch line: When students are led to focus on how well they are performing in school, they tend to explain their performance not by how hard they tried but by how smart they are.
  • In their study of academically advanced students, for example, the more that teachers emphasized getting good grades, avoiding mistakes and keeping up with everyone else, the more the students tended to attribute poor performance to factors they thought were outside their control, such as a lack of ability.
  • When students are made to think constantly about how well they are doing, they are apt to explain the outcome in terms of who they are rather than how hard they tried.
  • And if children are encouraged to think of themselves as "smart" when they succeed, doing poorly on a subsequent task will bring down their achievement even though it doesn’t have that effect on other kids.
  • The upshot of all this is that beliefs about intelligence and about the causes of one’s own success and failure matter a lot. They often make more of a difference than how confident students are or what they’re truly capable of doing or how they did on last week’s exam. If, like the cheerleaders for tougher standards, we look only at the bottom line, only at the test scores and grades, we’ll end up overlooking the ways that students make sense of those results.
  • the problem with tests is not limited to their content.
  • if too big a deal is made about how students did, thus leading them (and their teachers) to think less about learning and more about test outcomes.
  • As Martin Maehr and Carol Midgley at the University of Michigan have concluded, "An overemphasis on assessment can actually undermine the pursuit of excellence."
  • Only now and then does it make sense for the teacher to help them attend to how successful they’ve been and how they can improve. On those occasions, the assessment can and should be done without the use of traditional grades and standardized tests. But most of the time, students should be immersed in learning.
  • the findings of the Colorado experiment make perfect sense: The more teachers are thinking about test results and "raising the bar," the less well the students actually perform--to say nothing of how their enthusiasm for learning is apt to wane.
  • The underlying problem concerns a fundamental distinction that has been at the center of some work in educational psychology for a couple of decades now. It is the difference between focusing on how well you’re doing something and focusing on what you’re doing.
  • The two orientations aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but in practice they feel different and lead to different behaviors.
  • But when we get carried away with results, we wind up, paradoxically, with results that are less than ideal.
  • Unfortunately, common sense is in short supply today because assessment has come to dominate the whole educational process. Worse, the purposes and design of the most common forms of assessment--both within classrooms and across schools--often lead to disastrous consequences.
  • grades, which by their very nature undermine learning. The proper occasion for outrage is not that too many students are getting A’s, but that too many students have been led to believe that getting A’s is the point of going to school.
  • research indicates that the use of traditional letter or number grades is reliably associated with three consequences.
  • Iowa and Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills,
    • Benjamin Light
       
      I wonder how the MAP test is set?
  •  
    The message of Daniel Pinks book "Drive" applies here. Paying someone more, i.e. good grades, does not make them better thinkers, problems solvers, or general more motivated in what they are doing. thanks for sharing.
  •  
    Excellent summary!
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