Higher marks

#results

"If you use it in your writing, you'll get higher marks."

I heard it earlier this week from a teacher whilst observing their lesson. Is this question problematic? How many times have you said a sentence like that to a student? Do you find yourself locked into telling students that results and grades are what their education is for?

How else could we finish this statement so that we try to foster the love of learning, love of originality, love of invention and love of curiosity?

"..., you'll leave me speechless."

"..., I will want to read and more from you!"

"..., you'll engage your readers."

"..., you will stand out of from the crowd of mediocrity."

Okay, so maybe my examples are not exactly all spot on, but they're likely all better than setting your student's goal only on a number or letter (=grade) pre-defined by someone at Pearson, OCR or some other AQA, who does not know your students hopes, dreams, likes, pet peeves, quirks, oddities, all these things that make them unique - namely, their identities. 

It really does go back to the question: what is this all (education) really for? Do we teach  numbers to numbers (i.e. all level 3 learners aim at level 3b) and tell our students that exams are all or do we take a principled education-is-for-learning approach?

There seem to be two different approaches to how to get stellar performances at exams? 1 - keep telling your students that exams dictate all (the year 10s in my tutor group seem to believe it!) and learning is subject to them; 2 - making the learning the greatest priority and let the generated thirst for knowledge result in good exam results. The 1 is top-down (knowledge serves exams); the 2 is bottom-up (exams serve knowledge).

Easier said than done, I hear you say. We're within systems driven by performance data, both that of students and our own. Numbers, data and results pervade almost every aspect of school. Does it leave any space for qualitative - the generation of curiosity which feeds learning and which overcomes barriers? Perhaps not.

Not unless you make space for it in your classroom. Not unless you make it a point to alter the message you give your students. At the very least, we can justify to our students why they would get more marks by writing this way - that it's not just for the marks sake, but that the type of writing they'd produce is more effective, unique, funny, outrageous. Better yet, show them how their writing changes the world, doesn't copy it, makes it a fuller, more profound world worth living in. 

Far too many times have I argued that students should follow my advice to get exam marks. 

"Educare" is said to mean "drawing out". Shall we draw out knowledge and passion for learning, not exam points?

I will surely try.

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Kamil Trzebiatowski

Kamil Trzebiatowski

EAL Coordinator. EAL blogger. EAL writer and speaker. @pedagoo Curator.

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