EDS 113 Module 4: Why the topnotcher is not (necessarily) the smartest in the class

I went around today asking my coworkers who happen to be literacy and numeracy teachers at an enrichment center seeking their views on their beliefs on grades, specifically summative assessment grades (or report card figures). They start digging up in their past experiences, dating back in grade and high school, when all that matters is either academic rank, or coolness rank. Concentrating on academic rank, some of them who claimed they do not 100 per cent believe grades are a true reflection of intelligence or learning progress in mark equivalency said that they know more than one person who were, in their opinion, way more mentally advanced than the first in class, also know as the Top 1. This has struck me as I probably felt the same way more than once in my own classroom experience as a learner, and
sometimes as a teacher.

One of the teachers at my job claimed that hard work- laziness could significantly improve one’s rank. She claimed further that due to the traditional format of the school system, results could be skewed by intense review and studying before examinations. Very much agree. The review pre test- forget post test has proven so effective that all my coworkers know someone who mirrored the said technique (or perhaps themselves). Another pointed out that no matter how appropriate or highly prepared the assessment are, other intelligences may come into play such that one’s intelliegence domain (see M.I. by Gardner) may be mismatched into the institution one is in. According to her, a student who may have a slant towards a visual- spatial reasoning may do very poorly forcing himself in a liberal degree (and underperforming) when he could be in technical school learning how to reverse- engineer cars.

I stopped and thought about these views and thought that one of the two could be right: we might all be hating on the Top 1 of our respective classes, or they might have a valid point.

But before debunking all thoughts about the way we traditionally grade students, I wish to offer another insight. Our center keeps a strictly small teacher to student ratio, such that maximum number of students is 2 and 4 for reading and math, respectively. I wish to insist how it is still possible to rate and mark the learners accurately thru meaningful and deliberate formative assessments, and high quality constructed summative assessments, and how that keeps marks and progress reports accurate in describing what it needs to describe. Then were do teachers go wrong?

Perhaps grading trickiness is proportional to class size. What this means is that as the class grows in size, so does the lack of accuracy. It could be that a smaller class allows for more differentiated instruction and then differentiated assessment, and this relationship is what creates high fidelity grades and feedback. A larger class may be deindividualizing students into mere ‘group members’ and teachers may tend to generalize more as the class grows in number. I am always highly confident that my one on one student is almost always on the right track as I enjoy greater freedom in making teacher made worksheets and assessments, not having to consider to accommodate anybody. Comparing it to how I handled my 14 year old ESL class in Hanoi, Vietnam a long time ago where I would attempt to describe them in a few adjectives when asked about by my supervisor. Making some sense.

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