I’m taking a short break from case studies to follow up on an important idea. Watch for more case studies in a few weeks! Last week, Robert wrote about a key pillar for alternative assessments: marks should indicate progress towards meeting standards or specifications
But where did the standards come from? Are they valuable? Do they provide value to others? The nature of specialization is that we learn differing skills in order to bring complementary value to society at large. Do the people who haven't taken the class benefit because the student achieved the standards?
I teach graduate engineering managers, and early in the semester I ask: "who feels confident solving a differential equations problem?" A few recent graduates may raise their hands but none of the veterans (meaning 2+ years since completing their undergrad) will. The undergrad accreditation standards specify that students must be proficient in DiffyQ, and yet just a few years later they no longer feel confident. And they don't need to feel confident because they don't need to use it. And will never need to use it. (Some engineers do use DiffyQ, but all engineers are required to show proficiency.)
So where do the standards come from? Are they valuable? Do they go away when they are no longer relevant, or do they live forever? I have 3 engineering degrees and a 40-year career, and no one has ever paid me to calculate an integral. Why is this a standard? Millions of Americans have college debt but no degree (anecdotally, I understand that lots of engineering students drop around the time they take DiffyQ). While standards may be an alternative to grades, but the question remains - do they provide societal value?
I retired into teaching, but formerly ran engineering teams, and realized that the team was most effective when each member helped the others to learn. My students will learn more from each other than they can ever learn from me (but I get to pick the topics 😁). There are two assignments per week, all involve group effort, and what I monitor is how individuals contribute to the group. When I hired engineers into professional jobs, what most concerned me not what they knew, but their ability to contribute.
"Culture eats standards for breakfast" - standards are necessary, but not sufficient if our goal is to bring value to others.
We will have to agree to disagree. I believe that work is inherently extrinsic in the classroom.
I don't like "work" because of its meaning and the mindset it produces which is that school is about points and rewards and extrinsic motion. I think school should be about learning and a growth mindset that is enhanced by intrinsic motivation. Just because its use is common doesn't make it right. I think we would have a much better climate in classrooms if students are engaging in learning (activities) and providing evidence of learning, not working or submitting work.
David, YES, YES, YES to "Never require perfection" and "Students must demonstrate consistent evidence of learning." And the second point indicates why we should NEVER use the word "work." Students provide "evidence of learning, not work.