Wednesday, January 14, 2015

System-gaming vs. learning

A student told me today she sometimes thinks high school is all about teaching you how to cheat.

Maybe hyperbole. But maybe not. But I've been chewing on that this afternoon and evening.

I've often wondered similarly about CT's new teacher evaluation system. If improperly done, and it's all about points and ratings and scores and judgements on your worth and future, what's a teacher to do? You figure out how to make it work. You figure out how to survive. You learn to play the game.

I'll never forget a struggling students advice to another struggling student a few years ago in my general science classroom: "Just play the game. You have to learn to play the game."

That's what happens when we use accountability as a driver. All it does is produce system-gaming (and poor morale). It certainly doesn't produce the kind of motivation we want. That takes autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

So if it's true that high school is becoming a training ground for cheating, to whatever extent, what are we to do?

We could clamp down on the cheating, put up more and better dividers, more confusing test versions, use cell-phone jammers, make harder tests, drive harder, be tougher, and let the beatings continue until morale improves.

Or we could find ask what's wrong with the system and ask what we can do to make school about learning.

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