Answers in the Data? LO6657

Dr. Scott J. Simmerman (74170.1061@CompuServe.COM)
13 Apr 96 11:38:40 EDT

Replying to LO6615 --

Keith Cowan said, in part, in LO6615

>The Newtonian view of our world was the "right" answer until Quantum
>physics blew it apart. Now many want to believe that the Quantum
>explanation is the right and final answer. Just as the primitive people
>had to invent easy explanations for everything (remember the "god of
>thunder"?), we all want to know "the answer".

We come back to the issue of "Right-ness."

Being a former college professor, one of the political messes one gets
into is the need for a "discriminatory grading system" which can separate
the Knowing from the Unknowing -- We MUST separate the A's from the C's.
It is not PC to give all A's; you get Big Flack from department heads and
academic deans. And it is not appropriate to give "team" grades since one
person will do more than another because they have more motivation,
knowledge, interest, blah, blah. "We MUST," they say, "have in-class
competition to separate the masses!"

Thus, a real issue with education thus can be expressed in a cartoon.
Most of you are familiar with my Square Wheels Wagon metaphor, with the
wagon operating on Square Wheels (tm) while the cargo is round ones.

Another scenario has a manager making the change from Square Wheels to
triangular ones. The result is called three things:

1) Square Wheels to round wheels equals 25% Cost Reduction -- for the
accounting types in the audience!

2) The Cost of Human Capital -- because it is more difficult to move the
wagon forward; the change has negative impacts on the people involved

or, and most relevantly.

3) One Less Bump Per Revolution. You can actually measure the results of
this change as *improvement*

The latter point addresses the primary problem, I believe. Our need for
measurement of learnign in the schools forces us to test on rote memory
skills and not on "learning" or "learning to learn," the skills we need in
the workplace. Pick up one of your children's test papers and you will
see exactly what I mean. If Price will know the different types of rock
(because he has degrees in geology) and we can argue its importance to
telephone customer service representatives in a retail company.

But if all of the classroom learning is driven toward good scores on SATs,
as we're seeing, are we really going to get the desired outcomes we want?
My kids can spout facts of all kinds -- but sometimes I am convinced they
are learning that there are "Right" and WRONG answers to every question.

My point is that we are often measuring the wrong things and expecting
things to improve. Our educational systems are caught up in measures --
they are expected of students and teachers and can often get in the way of

Grading systems set up competition.

Pressures for grades can cause cheating (and it's been documented numerous
times that the pressure to get in med school has caused students in
quantitative chemistry to sabotage (comes from the French word for shoe -
sabot - that used to wind up in the French machinery during their
industrial revolution, I believe; a primitive but effective way to
demonstrate displeasure with management before organized labor) the
experiments of others. Quant has been / is one of the "discriminating"
courses that define acceptance into med school. I don't want someone
outstanding in chemistry to be a doctor for my child, I want someone good
in medicine.

So what's a teacher to do?


Scott Simmerman Performance Management Company, 3 Old Oak Drive, Taylors SC USA 29687-6624

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