Should we evaluate knowledge or the process of acquiring it?

Too little of the time I spend on planning for the semester is spent in planning the best way to present the material to make it clear. Instead it is spent on trying to force students to spend the time and effort to learn without giving too many points for the process of learning as opposed to the evaluation of the results.

Homework should be a learning experience. In an ideal world, it would be corrected, but no grade would be recorded. I am not really interested in giving a grade to a student who is making his first attempt at handling new material. It would be like evaluating someone’s driving ability by scoring their first few hours behind the wheel. I don’t care if a person learns quickly or slowly. I am interested in the final results.

Few students are willing to go through the painstaking process of learning, unless they are given credit for it. I have to arrange my course so they receive that credit, or else they will never learn the material. Oddly enough, I don’t care if the student learns quickly or slowly. I had a student this summer in Calculus II who was a slow learner, but the effort she put into the course gave her a high A. It was almost painful to watch how much work it took her to learn. But she learned.

The same students who do not do homework unless a grade is attached to it, were happy to spend as many hours as necessary to learn to drive. One lesson they did not bring away from achieving a driver’s license was what it takes to learn.


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