Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Grading, Creativity, and Teacher Education- Making Room fo Complexity

I caught the middle piece of a radio lab broadcast on choice. In it Gladwell (of Outliers and Blink) discusses the impact of explaining choice on the decision making process. In the battle between system 1 (quick snap judgements as in Blink) and system 2 (deliberate thinking), the latter seems to try and counter bias system 1- with the results being less than satisfactory (I borrowed the system 1 and 2 from Kahneman). In this he quotes Tim Wilson's work from VGA.

I started thinking about this effect as I was grading my students work on a rubric. I just finished grading and it dawned on me that my very specific rubrics, valued by my students, seem to encourage students to back away from ambiguity and complexity. In simple terms it means that when the rubric is specific it is economically beneficial for students to respond with simple lessons than complex ones, to choose one or two objectives than a complex integrated lesson. Going back to Gladwell (not fully Wilson's et al. point) forcing students to explain in detail may push them to make simplistic choices and shy away from complexity.

As  nation our testing system seems to be having exactly the same effect. Measuring creativity a popular subject recently may have the same exact effect. By clarifying what we mean by creativity we may be losing sight of the big picture...

Adding to my challenge is the fact that I do not control the milieu for the assignments. It is a negotiation between our students and their cooperating teachers. It is not always clear who sets the tone for the lesson- so I cannot penalize students for having simple lessons because it is not always up to them. The question is how do we make room for complexity- reward it in this context.

I suggest simply rewarding complexity (I know it when I see it) and demanding that simple lessons (like simple dishes on cooking challenge shows) are perfect. This note just like myself is a work in progress: We need more poetry! (A quote from a recent presentation by Sarah Thomas)

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