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Grades, Levels and sub-levels – a grumpy rant

What exactly are these? Once upon a time I believe they used grades to separate students. The top however many got a grade A and then the next lot a grade B and so on and so forth. Seems to make complete sense.

Over time things changed a little bit and then grades referred to a certain standard rather than just sorting the top however many. Again, still making sense.

As time went on subjects (including Maths) then were split and every ‘objective’ (eduspeak has to be put in ”s or “”s) was given a grade. Again this seems to make perfect sense as some things are harder than others so it is logical to separate things out into grade C skills, grade B skills etc.

Then came levels – all objectives were put into levels and students can now see which level they are at and what they need to do to reach the level and therefore improve their understanding.

 Again all this seems very laudable and understandable so why am I having a grumpy rant? Well, last week I found myself at a Parents’ Evening for my 7 year old son. The teacher was talking about English and told my son (who was sat next to me) that if he could start using exclamation marks in his writing then he would be able to reach the next sub-level. This got me thinking.

Do we now put exclamation marks into writing so we can reach the next level, or should he be using them so that he can become a better writer?

The next day I was teaching my GCSE maths class. They all have a grade C already and now are trying to improve that to grade B or A and I found myself telling them that if they can find the right time to use the cosine rule then that would very possibly be taking them up to that A grade. Aaaarrrgggghhhh I’d fallen into the trap – I was no longer teaching why they should be doing it in a mathematical situation but instead helping them to get a grade.

I felt so bad but I know for definite just how much at least one of my students needs that A, as that will get her onto the dentistry course that she wants to study at University.

My brain now continues to to and fro between the idealistic me that just wants to allow students to learn and enjoy maths and develop the skills that will help them when they need to use maths and the pragmatic me that just wants to make sure my students get the grade they need to move on.

I’m hoping that one day I will discover that the two events are not completely mutually exclusive.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Grumpy rant, Teaching

 

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