I’m a professor and I know it is all about learning. Who cares about the grades? Right? What matters is whether or not students comprehend the material and can use it in real life. In my world, I want counseling students to understand the nature of trauma, how to recognize it and respond well to it when evident in their clients. I don’t care if they get an A or a C as long as they are competent. And, I know that some students test poorly and yet are exceptional counselors.
Yeah right, grades DO matter
But ask students and parents of school-age children, and guess what–grades do matter. Good grades get better scholarships; get parents off your back. Good grades get better internships. Good grades make teachers think you are smarter. Good grades help you feel better about yourself. Wait…those last two…are they true? Yes, even if it shouldn’t be that way and probably worth another post at some other time.
Is there a relationship between good grades and learning?
But how close are getting good grades and learning? Can you get good grades and not really learn? How many readers aced a history or statistics test years ago but now couldn’t tell you the first thing about the subject? You can memorize, recite, and forget…and get good grades. So, we know that you can teach and study to the test (notice I didn’t say learn) without learning.
And yet, let me suggest one positive relationship between getting good grades and learning. The student who learns to get good grades (but hopefully isn’t obsessed or controlled by them) has learned to
- Decipher what the teacher is looking for and to complete assignments as required
- Learning: decoding, organization, self-assessment, predicting time/effort needed to complete tasks
- Get the information needed to complete an assignment
- Learning: speed reading, efficient categorization of material
- Deliver the information needed in an appropriate format
- Learning: concise communication, learning to differentiate between essential and non-essential material
The real reason I’m writing this post
Okay, the real reason I am writing this post is that I just helped my teenage son take a difficult, on-line quiz that covered an inordinate amount of material. He was allowed to complete the quiz while having the material still open. However, the amount of material he had to read and understand comprised overwhelmed his ability to remember what he learned and where he learned it. So, I taught him how to read the quiz question and then go back to the multiple e-documents and use the “find” button on his web browser to find the pertinent information he needed to answer the question.
Did I help my son learn or just to get a better grade on his assignment? If he chooses to not read the material in the future but just use the search functions, is that a failure to learn well or did he learn to become efficient in work?
[Note: those looking for my blog summary of Integrative Psychotherapy, ch. 6 will need to come back tomorrow. Running behind :(]
How much do we really benefit from instruction? Yes, instruction increases our knowledge base. That is certainly true. But do we benefit–does our behavior really change from it? Do we learn and does it show? Allow me the freedom of hyperbole here…
This question about instruction was raised in my Sunday School class on Isaiah by our teacher John Timlin. Consider the following examples:
1. The first Fall (instruction was given and rejected) happens. God remakes creation through the flood. What happens next? Noah’s son mucks it up.
2. Israel is warned against falling away from God by Moses as they enter the promised land. He not only tells them what to avoid but that they will likely do it anyway. What happens? Israel turns away from God to pride and idolatry.
3. The Prophets warn both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms that unless they turn from their idols, God will punish them via Assyria. First the Northern Kingdom falls. Does Judah learn from this? No. Read the passage of Ezekial 23 adn the two sisters for a graphic image of this not learning from instruction.
Fast forward to today. Does information about the risks of drug use, unprotected sex help? Some, I’m sure. But not as much as we’d like to think…
So, what does God do? he blinds the people (Isaiah 6:9ff; parables in the Gospels) so that we are left without any doubt that our salvation comes only from him. In Isaiah 6 at the end, there is only a stump left. We the vine are a mere stump. And out of that stump, the root of Jesse grows and we are grafted back in as branches.
Yes, we learn from instruction, but not enough to save ourselves. Thanks be to God for his rescue plan!
It never fails, I temporarily lose my wallet when I have to be someplace. Last night, while getting ready for an early am flight today, I couldn’t find my wallet. Looked in all the usual spots, including my pockets but no wallet. I knew I had it a few hours before so it couldn’t be far. And yet I couldn’t find it. So, off I run around the house looking here and there with a growing sense of urgency. My wife didn’t even get up to look. She’s been through the fire drill too many times before.
Adding to the sense of urgency was my last trip where I got to the airport only to discover to wallet and no photo ID.
Why is it that things like wallets disappear right when they are most needed? Well, if I’m honest, that is the wrong question. The right one is, why don’t I always put my wallet in the same place every time when it is not in my pocket. The answer is likely that I don’t think about the crisis until the crisis. I’m too willing to put it in the right spot later when it might be more convenient for me. This method “works” for me a good portion of the time. The crisis only happens every time I go on a trip. Now if I went on a trip every week, I suppose I’d learn faster…
Ever have that problem–that you keep remembering you need to learn some important thing but only seem to remember AFTER the fact? Some things I learn with only one mistake–like the time I went to fix a lamp cord but hadn’t unplugged the lamp yet. Other things need a couple of times–like the 2 times I accidently cut an extension cord with an electric hedge trimmer. Then there is my forgetting to wipe the table after cleaning up the kitchen and the dishes. We’ve been married 17 years and I’m still learning to go and wipe down the table in the dining room.
Relationally we fail to learn as fast as we might. An extrovert keeps thinking his/her spouse would want to go to a large party. We starting conversation with “constructive” critism but fail to remember that it rarely goes well. Or we say, “I probably shouldn’t tell you this but…” and wonder why no one trusts us with their secrets.
What is the lesson you keep forgetting to learn?
Oh, I found that wallet in my computer bag. Now what possessed me to put it there? Probably not wanting to forget it…