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How to Ungrade | Jesse Stommel
""I can't think of a more meaningless, superficial, cynical way to evaluate learning."
~ Cathy N. Davidson

The work of teaching shouldn't be reduced to the mechanical act of grading or marking. Our talk of grading shouldn't be reduced to our complaining about the continuing necessity of it.

If you're a teacher and you hate grading, stop doing it.

Across education, we've normalized absurd levels of grading, test-taking, and standardized assessment. And yet letter grades are a relatively recent phenomenon. They weren't widely used until the 1940s. In “Teaching More by Grading Less,” Jeffrey Schinske and Kimberly Tanner cite the first “official record” of a grading system from Yale in 1785. The A-F system appears to have emerged in 1898 (with the “E” not disappearing until the 1930s) and the 100-point or percentage scale became common in the early 1900s. According to Schinske and Tanner, even by 1971, only 67% of primary and secondary schools in the U.S. were using letter grades. The desire for uniformity across institutions was the primary motivator for the spread of these systems.

As I was preparing to write this piece, I looked through the sections on grading from a dozen or so U.S. teaching and learning centers. What I noticed across the lot of them is how their language around grading emphasizes “efficiency” (the word repeated incessantly) while reducing individual students to cogs in a machine that ultimately seems to have little to do with them. The work of grading is framed less in terms of giving feedback or encouraging learning and more as a way of ranking students against one another. Nods to “fairness” are too often made for the sake of defensibility rather than equity. What disturbs me is how effortlessly and casually this language rolls off Education's collective tongue. And I'm even more disturbed by how many otherwise productive pedagogical conversations get sidetracked by the too easily internalized ubiquity of grades.

The page from the Berkeley Graduate Division offering “Tips on Grading Efficiently” is pretty standard fare. The very first bit of advice on grading for new graduate student instructors raises more anxiety around grades than it alleviates. And at the same time, as is all too common, grading is something new teachers are encouraged to spend as little time on as possible: “Too often, time spent grading takes away from time spent doing your own coursework or research.”

Without much critical examination, teachers accept they have to grade, students accept they have to be graded, students are made to feel like they should care a great deal about grades, and teachers are told they shouldn't spend much time thinking about the why, when, and whether of grades. Obedience to a system of crude ranking is crafted to feel altruistic, because it's supposedly fair, saves time, and helps prepare students for the horrors of the “real world.” Conscientious objection is made to seem impossible.

I've been leading workshops on grading for years, and when I talk about why I don't grade, I often hear back some version of, “but I have to grade” ... because I'm an adjunct ... because my institution requires it ... because grading is necessary in my discipline ... because wouldn't you want your heart surgeon to have been graded? The need to navigate institutional (and disciplinary) pressures is real, but I would argue teachers grade in many more situations than grading is useful and/or actually required by institutions. And, as I've said before, I care less that my doctors are graded and more that they've read all the books of Virginia Woolf or Octavia Butler, because critical thinking is what will help them save my life when they encounter a situation they've never encountered before.

Peter Elbow writes in “Ranking, Evaluating, Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgement,” "Let's do as little ranking and grading as we can. They are never fair and they undermine learning and teaching." I believe pedagogy is personal and idiosyncratic. My approach won't necessarily work in each classroom, at every institution, for all teachers, with every group of students. My hope with this and my previous posts about grading is to challenge stock assumptions, describe what has worked for me, and explore alternatives that might just work for others."
jessestommel  grades  grading  education  schools  teaching  ranking  2018  standardization  efficiency  institutions  sorting  ungrading  assessment  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  excuses  process  rubrics  highered  highereducation 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Why Talking About The Future of Museums May Be Holding Museums Back | Know Your Own Bone
"Many resources focusing on “the future” are actually communicating about emerging trends that are happening right now…and when we call them “the future” we do our organizations a grave disservice.

Here’s why:

1. Things that are characterized as the future within the museum industry generally are not about the future at all

Check this out: Embracing millennials, mastering community management on social media, opening authority, heightening engagement with onsite technologies, breaking down ivory towers with shifts from prescription to participation, engaging more diverse audiences, utilizing mobile platforms, understanding the role of “digital,” breaking down organizational silos…These are things that we frequently discuss as if they are part of the future. But they aren’t. In fact, if your organization hasn’t already had deep discussions about these issues and begun evolving and deploying new strategies at this point, then you may arguably be too late in responding to forces challenging our sector today.

2. Calling it the future excuses putting off issues which are actually immediate needs for organizational survival

What if we called these things “The Right Now?” Would it be easier to get leadership to allocate resources to social media endeavors or deploy creative ways to grow stakeholder affinity by highlighting participation and personalization? Are we excusing the poor transition from planning to action by deferring most investments to “The Future?”

Basically, we’ve created a beat-around-the-bush way of talking about hard things that separates successful and unsuccessful organizations. For many less successful organizations struggling to find their footing in our rapidly evolving times, their go-to euphemistic solution for “immediate and difficult” seems to be “worth thinking about in the future.” When we call it “the future,” we excuse ourselves from thinking about these issues right now (which is exactly when we should be considering if not fully deploying them).

Contrast this deferment strategy with those of more successful organizations who invariably and reliably “beat the market to the spot.” It isn’t pure chance and serendipity that underpins successful engagement strategies – these are the product of ample foresight, planning, investment and action…all of it done many yesterdays ago!

3. The future implies uncertainty but trend data is not uncertain

Moreover, common wisdom supports that “the future” is uncertain. “We cannot tell the future.” Admittedly, some sources that aim to talk about the future truly attempt to open folks’ brains to a distant time period. However, much of what is shared by those we call “futurists” is not necessarily uncertain. In fact (and especially when it comes to trends in data), we’re not guessing. I’ve sat in on a few meetings within organizations in which trends and actual data are taken and then presented as “the future” or within the conversation of “things to discuss in the future.” Wait. What?

Certainly, new opportunities evolve and trends may ebb with shifting market sentiments…but why would an organization choose uncertainty over something that is known right now?

4. We may not be paying enough attention to right now

I don’t think that referring to “right now trends” as “the future” would be as potentially damaging to organizations if we spent enough time being more strategic and thoughtful about “right now trends” in general. Many organizations seem to be always playing catch-up with the present. If organizations are struggling to keep up with the present, how will they ever be adequately prepared for the future?

5. Talking about the future sometimes provides a false sense of innovation that may simply be vanity

To be certain, we all need “wins” – especially in nonprofit organizations where burnout is frequent and market perceptions are quickly changing. The need for evolution is constant and the want for a moment’s rest may be justified. That said, it seems as though talking about “the future” (which, as we’ve covered, is actually upon us) is often simply providing the opportunity for organizations to pat themselves on the back for “considering” movement instead of actually moving. To have the perceived luxury of being able to think about the future may give some leaders a false sense of security that they aren’t, in fact, constantly trying to keep up with the present.

Talking about “the future” seems to mean that you are talking about something that is – yes – perhaps cutting edge, but also uncertain, not urgent, not immediate, and somehow a type of creative brainstorming endeavor. While certainly brainstorming about the actual future may be beneficial (there are some great minds in the museum industry that do this!), it may be wise for organizations to realize that most of what we call “the future” is a too-nice way of reminding organizations that the world is turning as we speak and you may already be a laggard organization.

Think about your favorite museum or nonprofit thinker. My guess is that you consider that person to be a kind of futurist, but really, you may find that they are interesting to you because they are actually a “right-now-ist.” They provide ideas, thoughts, and innovative solutions about challenges that are currently facing your organization."
museums  innovation  future  futurism  now  programs  excuses  vanity  change  procrastination  certainty  uncertainty  2014  strategy  talk  leadership  administration  socialmedia  communitymanagement  authority  millennials  engagement  technology  edtech  mobile  digital  organizations  nonprofit  personalization  obsolescence  colleendilen  nonprofits 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The Internet’s Own Boy — The Message — Medium
"I don’t believe the system can be saved from within, but I’m glad many of my friends do — I might be wrong. In fact, I’d love to be wrong. But I couldn’t look in the face of my beloved and tell him I believed his life’s work in political reform would be effective. I was too damaged, I’d seen too much terrible violence from the American system to believe in it anymore."



"The American people have spent my whole life telling themselves stories that let them off the hook when it comes to being responsible wardens of our country and our world. And you’re still doing it. You’re even using my dead, beloved Aaron to do it, whom you let die. People love to say Aaron was a genius, and prodigy, and there’s no one like him. But he wasn’t. He just cared and believed in things and he let his care and his belief move his life. You could do that any day, any minute. You could be like any of the characters in this movie, all of whom are real people, and let your convictions be more important than your job or your mortgage or your debt or any of the million little things Americans let keep them small and separated and afraid. You could organize your communities. You could help Taren’s efforts to pressure companies into being better actors on the global stage. You could help by contributing to Larry’s superpac attempt to reform our broken democracy. You could listen to Ben’s stories of political reform, and get involved in the issues he talks about. You could even come over to my side of our grand debate and try to work out how to build a society without government as we know it.

But you can’t just sit there and call Aaron a hero and a genius and whatever. He is dead. He is dust. He is now just one more of the millions of victims of this American dream that has only been a nightmare for so many.

Your ass will be in a seat watching a movie. When it is done, get up, and do something."
openaccess  technology  internet  quinnnorton  aaronswartz  2014  activism  convictions  excuses  systemschange 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The Fischbowl: What If We Said No?
"In each group we were having really interesting conversations around a variety of education topics and the topic of standardized testing came up (of course). In each group there was pretty much a group groan, and then a general statement of dislike of the tests (or at least the quantity and frequency of them). But what really struck me in each case was the sense of inevitability, the feeling of being powerless. In each one of those discussions the assumption was that we did not have any control over this situation, that some things were "out of our control" and we just had to deal with them. That got me wondering:
What if we said no?


I'm serious. What would happen to us if we simply said no (or perhaps, "no thank you" to be a bit more polite). It reminds me of a story I heard once from Cris Tovani who was talking about some social studies teachers in her building talking about how they "had to do" such and such. She simply asked them, "Why?" They responded that the "state" mandated it. So she went and researched it and came back and told them that no, actually, the state didn't. So they then said the "district" mandated it, so she looked into that and it turns out that wasn't true. They then replied with "well, we have to cover it in our curriculum." Turns out that wasn't the case either. They just had assumed all these years that someone was telling them they had to do it. Turns out it was no one but them.

So here are my (serious) questions. What if Arapahoe High School said "no thank you" to the PARCC tests? What exactly would happen to us? Is there state funding associated with (not) taking those tests? Accreditation? Would our school board close us down? Would Secretary Duncan stop by and yell at us? What exactly would happen? I mean parents can choose to opt their students out of the tests, so what if all of our parents did - surely that's their right and they couldn't close the school down. Could they? (By the way, I truly don't know the answer to these questions, but I think someone should ask them.)

Arapahoe is a high performing school in a high performing district. We've been a John Irwin School of Excellence with the Colorado Department of Education since the award's inception, and we consistently exceed the state averages on the state-mandated CSAP/TCAP/ACT. What if we said that we'll give the PARCC tests, but only once every four years. It's not like the Common Core State Standards are going to change during those four years. (After all, next year's Kindergartners will likely still be employed in 2075, and we're implicitly saying to them that the Common Core State Standards will still be relevant to them then - so surely once every four years right now is enough.)

What if we said that would give us a baseline of data to work with (and to be held "accountable" with), with a check-in every four years, but that we didn't need to spend weeks testing all of our students each and every year? What if we said that we believe that the high quality assessments that our teachers already develop and give our students provide us with the timely, relevant, meaningful on-going data necessary to help our students learn? After all, we devote ten PLC days a year to develop those essential learnings and common assessments, either we think those are worthwhile and provide us valuable information about our students - or we don't. If we do, why would we need to take away instructional time, spend a significant amount of money, and put stress on our students and teachers each and every year simply to give the PARCC test?

Who is the someone that says we have to do this? What exactly are the consequences if we don't? If there actually are consequences that we don't like, can we propose that those consequences be modified or waived if we can demonstrate that we are already doing better, more timely, and more effective assessments, and that giving the PARCC tests each and every year is not only a waste of time, but actually decreases learning time for our students?

I wonder if we'll find out that - just like at Cris Tovani's school - it turns out it's nobody but us. I anxiously await the answers."
karlfisch  teaching  2013  cv  excuses  education  cristovani  fear  courage  criticalthinking  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  commoncore 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Photo by caseyneistat • Instagram ["How To Be A Filmmaker. an abridged essay from 2007."]
"12.14.2007
Mexico City
Casey's Space (Righty)
Mexico City, Mexico

If you want to be a filmmaker. really want to be filmmaker, give it everything you've got. Your excuses are your own, everybody's got them. Too busy with your job? Quit. Don;t have a camera? Steal you mom's. Can't afford a computer? get 2 VCR's.

Doing what you want in life is hard but you're definitely going to die at some point in time so you should at least try."
2007  wantingit  motivation  howwecreate  constraints  excuses  life  filmmaking  caseyneistat 
august 2012 by robertogreco
tuesday :: 7-11-06 – The Show :: Replay [A favorite episode revisited]
"I think the genesis of the concept of brain crack came from the synthesis of a couple of things that I was thinking about for a while. There is a wonderful excerpt from Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird” which warns against fantasizing about accolades that might come with writing…

For about a year, from 2002 to 2003, I was in the practice of realeasing a new project every day. I began to notice that there was a list of projects that began to build up that I never executed, but considered my favorite nonetheless. When I would actually start to tackle these projects a serious disappointment would set in as the work came out rough and without the sparkle that it had in my mind. I wound up overworking them…trying to save them when they shouldn’t have been saved, all because I had given them so much value in their soft & nebulous idea stage."

[Original post: http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2006/07/071106.html ]
zefrank  ideas  procrastination  excuses  execution  doing  making  creativity  sharing  trying  braincrack  via:robinsloan  classideas  perfectionism  failure 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Weblogg-ed » Yeah, You’ve Got Problems. So Solve Them.
"We say we want our kids to be problem solvers, but all too often, when faced w/ challenges of a changing educational landscape, we don’t offer solutions. Instead, we offer excuses as to why we shouldn’t solve the problem, why it’s better to just keep on keepin’ on. & solving these problems is getting easier & easier, actually, as more & more schools have already done the heavy lifting to find & implement solutions. It’s not like anyone needs to reinvent the wheel any more. & it’s also not like you need a solution overnight, either. Frame the problem, create a timeline & a process, & have at it. If you had say, 2 years, is there really NO way to solve that access problem?"
management  willrichardson  education  innovation  technology  teaching  problemsolving  modeling  actingversuswhining  policy  leadership  planning  excuses 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Fake Rocks, Salami Commanders, and Just Enough to Start | 43 Folders
"*Fear of Apathy. “I can’t start this until I’m positive the work will never become dull or difficult.” *Fear of Ambiguity. “I can’t start this until I know exactly how it will turn out (as well as the precise method by which I’ll do it).” *Fear of Disconnection. “I can’t start this until I’m totally up-to-date and current on everything.” *Fear of Imperfection. “I can’t start this until I know the end product will be flawless.” *Fear of Incompletion. “I can’t start this until I’m already done with it.” *Fear of Isolation. “I can’t start this until I know making it will never be lonely.” *Fear of Sucking. “I can’t start this until I’m already awesome at it (and know that even horrible people whom I dislike will hail me as a genius).” *Fear of Fear itself. “I can’t start this until I’m guaranteed that making it will never be scary.”"
art  creativity  procrastination  fear  productivity  merlinmann  inspiration  motivation  excusemaking  excuses  process  work  writing  humor  gtd  making  doing  glvo  barriers  failure  starting  learning  tcsnmy  diggingin  cv  iteration 
august 2009 by robertogreco
Obama Pens a Notable Excuse for 10-Year-Old Student - Washington Wire - WSJ
"At a town hall meeting, Obama took a question from a man who said the he was there with his daughter who was “missing her last day of school for this.”
barackobama  schools  schooling  excuses  humor  education 
june 2009 by robertogreco

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