The Ideal Classroom, Why we don’t Give Graded Homework, and Gospel Analogies

The Ideal Classroom, Why we don’t Give Graded Homework, and Gospel Analogies

By Nate Richardson, editor@richardsonstudies.com

The following link is to a summary recent educational research supporting my claim of the minimally helpful or even hindering role graded homework can play is found here https://www.alfiekohn.org/homework-improve-learning/

Note though graded homework can be negative, feedback on assignments is still critical. Assignments aren’t tests, they are about learning, and thus ought not to be graded. This doesn’t mean we don’t tell them which ones they got wrong and work through that with them. Homework should not contribute to the final grade as a refelction of their worth/intelligence/value, but should rather be a safe place to make mistakes in order to learn and grow. A wise teacher named David Rockwood once said “feedback is the secret to progress.”

This video also supports the theory of altering how we grade students https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl9TVbAal5s&t=0s&index=4&list=PLrNsYvUl_bJ6-yVAGiXxklFrx-0vXlsfO

In the following exhibits we will discuss the ability of a person to become an independent thinker, and thus become like God himself. We will show that GPA is used as a threat and must be eliminated for ideal learning. We will show that the natural consequences of procrastination are enough to motivate a student to not do so. We will show that a loving supportive environment will motivate the unmotivated student faster than the threat/force based traditional method of schooling. We will show how giving practice homework and drills can support learning more than graded homework and graded drills. We will focus the core of an educational system on what a student walks away as in the end, rather than what he can throw into the treasury in the various stages of his existence. We will treat the delicate nature of the individual soul, and show that more persons can find success if appropriate new methods of training are employed. We will show how a benevolent teacher/parent/student can turn the pupil/child/self into a self-contained genius if operating on principles of faith rather than fear. We will not only set up a majestic view of the future for the pupil as other teachers do, but we will, rather than threatening to take that future away via bad grades, walk with them to their destination, where they will learn to fly in their own way and time. We will be these methods, get more people/souls flying than traditional fear-based education systems. We will tie this into the gospel and show not only how to pass the test of life, but what the final exam of life is really about, and how it is scored.

Exhibit A:

-as stated in a general conference address (I think 2018), let the students redo an exam as many times as they wish. The exams will be different, but they will help the student learn each time. The teacher is on the side of the student. This resembles the Lord who gives us opportunities to repent and get our lives in order, even if we don’t deserve it.

Exhibit B:

-have no graded homework. This detracts from showing what they really understand as measured on the final exam. This also saves the teacher much unneeded hassle. There can be optional assignments which automatically are graded for practice to see where you stand, but up until the final, it’s up to you to learn knowledge. You aren’t seeking to score points to buffer your ignorance on the final exam. The student at the beginning of the semester is a very different person than the student at the end of the semester. The student at the end of the semester, we hope, has become someone who loves his subject, and sacrifices for it in repeated passionate devotion, and the reflection of that is beautiful work. But the young student, his work is sloppy, and he, though include to the topic, is not yet fully committed. Tis a shame to count those early days against him by having graded homework. Graded homework leads the student to naturally perform poorly at first, then that poor performance remains on his record, slowing down his future opportunity, so he throws in the towel on the whole business, quenching the little sparks and flames which the professor was trying to create in him to develop a passion for the subject.

Exhibit C:

-assigning homework builds an unsafe environment, as the student is terrified that if they don’t perform with perfection, they will be limited in their academic and vocational career. I often do my homework quickly to get it out of the way so I can actually start learning. I would have had more time to learn if I didn’t have to worry about getting a pesky grade from an assignment in the first place, the homework assignment being a thing which is written in the mind of the teacher, not necessarily in the mind of the student. Since the brain of the student and the brain of the teacher are different, the teacher should not grade homework which has the potential to destroy the future of the child, but use homework as learning experiences. And if you think making a grade on homework which threatens their future is what will get kids to work, you are using force, and forced learning really isn’t learning at all, but is rather a short-term memorization of facts or the professors’ thinking patterns on which they will be tested. A teacher can give homework if that means something to think about and work on, but if the homework is used as a threat against their GPA, it turns into a fear factor rather than a laboratory of genius. God forbid that we grow up learning to merely go around doing what others ask of us, never really learning how to be ourselves, never really learning our own learning style, never really learning that we in and of ourselves are important, not just forever looking up to the professors. If a professor gives someone an A for jumping through their hoops, what does it benefit the student? Nothing. The student may gain a degree, but put him in the work place, and you must tell him at every turn what to do, for he never learned to do anything but what his head leader commanded him. He never learned to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” of his free will and choice, he was always laboring under the burden of fear that everything could be taken from him. Let us rather be loving teachers and parents, and assure our children that we are their mentors rather than their tormentors. Real learning occurs when the student is able to focus on the material, not the critics, not the numbers they’ll give for his performance. The student must be allowed to, within a general and broad timeframe, be allowed to go at their own pace. Yes there is a final exam, but the duration of time between the beginning of the class and the final exam is a time of deep thought, and working the mechanics of the brain, and the brain being a very unique organ, some work deep, some work wide, some fast, some slow, some multi-task, some focus, yes, there are many beautiful variations which must be allowed for. The duration of the semester can be a busy but happy and self-paced time. Some brains need the body to frequently pause for physical activity in order to function, others to pause for social time, time working independent projects of fascination etc., to be at the Hight of their function. So must we do for life, and rearing children in life.

Exhibit D:

-it may be feasible to offer a midterm exam in addition to the final exam to help the students pace themselves, but even this should be for practice, not graded, just to help the students see if they are on track. It’s up to the students to keep themselves on track, or, if need be, to repent and get on track. Like life itself, the longer you postpone repentance the harder it is to repent and the less desire and hope you have for repentance. You have until the final exam to get it right, like how you have until death to get your life right, but life like a college course has a series of things we should learn which really can’t be learned if you wait until last minute, or even if you wait until half time to start playing. Fortunately, God is merciful, and will help even the late bloomers to have access to the gospel blessings, but those who seek the Lord early, how great is their reward! Like Alma warned, don’t procrastinate the day of your repentance until that night of darkness cometh wherein no labor can be performed, wherein it is “everlastingly too late”. This life is the time to prepare to meet God, as Alma said, and similarly, the duration of the semester is the time to prepare for the final exam. Some of the mid-term exam-like opportunities we have in life are taking the sacrament and attending the temple. Therein we gain a feeling (discernment) for what our standing is before God, and an idea (revelation) of what we must do to more fully align ourselves with his will (to ace the final exam).

Exhibit E:

-The final exam of life is us presenting ourselves before God in a 1 on 1 interview, the son standing before the father, comparing one another side by side, to see if the creation has risen to the stature of the creator. All our thoughts, actions, choices, feelings, etc., will shine through our bodies like the morning rays of sun shine over the mountainside, and by our bodies will the Lord God pass judgement upon us, our bodies being the key to our souls, the tablet on which we have written our exams. The final isn’t so much about who you chose to marry, but how you loved who you chose. Not so much about what you did for a career, but how you performed in your career to make an honest quality product. Not so much about the amount of service you gave, but about how much you truly wanted to give it.

As the great teacher Hugh Nibley had his students do at BYU, we essentially attend the course without being bothered by graded assignments along the way which allows unique and deep growth, and at the end write an essay reflecting our knowledge (shows our character) which shows if we get it, or if we missed the point entirely.  The great professor allows the student to choose all the way through, and doesn’t threaten the future of / discourage the at first wayward student by pinning him down to “GPA” mistakes he earned in his “youth”.  Everyone can succeed in the class, it is certainly not graded on a curve of all things! We are tutors and coaches more than judges. We aren’t spending our time measuring people, but stretching them. Then when judgement day finally does come, as we all must pass the SAT/ACT/GRE/judgement bar of God etc. to move on to the next phase, everyone has a good shot at success, not just those who seemed gifted from the beginning. We are all gifted from the beginning, and just need the chance to tap into those gifts in our own time and way. Blessed be the Lord, the giver of all gifts, the master creator of all people!

Exhibit F:

-the blessing of not procrastinating for the final exam is having the time to understand the concepts without the heavy burden of anxiety looming over your head, whispering into your ear all manner of doubts which could greatly if not completely hinder your progress. In other words, don’t give the Devil opportunity to enter your life and slow your progress, rather, seek to do what is right all the way through, making minor course corrections as you go instead of thinking that you can handle major course corrections. Those who don’t procrastinate know the secret joy of school: Learning is one of the most thrilling things you can do, it’s one of the pillars of human joy! Like eating a relaxed gourmet meal in the company of friends rather than shoving cold tasteless leftovers down your throat alone, so is the life of the saint more rewarding than the life of the sinner.

Exhibit G:

-Tuition in college isn’t cheap, and neither is tuition for this life. It costed us all our devotion in pre-mortality to get this far, and it would be such a pity to waste our investment on “this class” called life. Our pre-mortal efforts are forever rewarded by gaining a body which will, after the resurrection, remain with us to our joy forever, but the investments made in pre-mortality go far beyond that, namely in their potential to make us like unto God himself, especially in that we could have an eternal spouse and eternally increasing offspring to rule over.

Exhibit H:

-If we fail this class called life, we won’t necessarily suffer forever, we just won’t know the joys of graduation and moving on to bigger and better things. Things which are exponentially and infinitely bigger and better. In one sense, knowing that we could have qualified for bigger and better yet did not will be a source of torment in and of itself. Failing means that we never learned how to be independent, how to tap into our own brains, our own will, our own ability to solve complex problems one independent step at a time.

 

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