Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Road to Mastery is Littered with the Wreckage of Past Failures

What do you say to a student who is taking every opportunity to learn and extend their competence and understanding but who, as a consequence, is accumulating a catalogue of hard-won errors? Most especially, how do you encourage them and convincingly explain the less than excellent grade you've given the work they've produced? If it’s true that we learn from our mistakes, what sense does it make to discourage failure and to commend success? Whilst the commendation of success necessarily acknowledges the overcoming of error, it also tends to encourage conservatism by focussing attention on what can be achieved with certainty rather than what might not; between what is a genuine challenge and what is merely difficult.

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo


This Brazen Teacher said...

YES! Well said.

Lori Stevens said...

Hey Jim, I haven't check in with you for a while~ Busy painting!
You spend a lot of time grappling with the process and consequences of grading. I find this an interesting issue at the college level, and curiously the "same but different" from my experience and quandaries at the secondary level.
For years, my secondary colleagues and I equally bickered about the value of grades, those little devils. Do we wrap our attention in mathematical concrete-ness, so to speak, or should grades remain part of that same human endeavor that learning is. Perhaps grades should be assigned by thoughtful and insightful teachers who are wholly present in student learning, justified creatively by such teacher. I suggest failure can absolutely be applauded when the attending learning is dynamic?! Doncha think?

Post a Comment