December 23 – i like your curves

152/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Curves! They are all over the place. In baseball – curve. In fashion – curvy. In conversation – someone throws you a curve. And of course in education – marking on the curve. Being that I am a teacher, this latter use of curve has come up several times in my career. I know that “the curve” represents the majority of people: most are average in height thus supermodels are technically freaks of nature 😉 Most of us are average in weight – TLC shows us the outliers in their programming. Most of us are also average in intelligence. Thus the averages cluster into the center of the curve, the normal curve. Enough of my lesson on that 🙂 While getting my teaching degree, one of my Education professors (oh how I wished I remembered her name – I have seen her around though) questioned our class about grading and grading on the curve. We had a very informative discussion on how students should be assessed on their abilities and not marked on a theoretical curve. I was inspired by that discussion but also dejected in that I knew that my grade in that university class was going to be put on that same curve as most of the courses I had ever taken, I was assessed that way. I am usually not the type of person to broach a subject in a large group setting but I just had to say something and I did – respectfully even though I did use the term “hypocrisy” in my questioning. I thought there would be some type of reprisal but she was very forthcoming with her response and told me that I was right. This didn’t help alleviate my fears but she continued on. She said to the class that this was the first time that it had been brought up to her and that she would definitely evaluate each and every one of us on our potential without fitting us to the normal curve. I didn’t know where my potential would lie and I also thought perhaps she was paying the requisite lip service but she kept her word. I noted the grades at the end of the term and the majority of the class was at the high end of the spectrum. I don’t know if that was consciously done or that’s how we all ended up but that moment changed the way I assessed – never, ever marking on the normal curve. I, to the best of my abilities, assess every student for what they do in the class and not comparatively to others but to the objective standards for assignments and projects that I have set up and I allow for bonus marks because if you put the extra effort in, you should be awarded and rewarded. Thank you Education professor for getting me to think about assessment and evaluation early in the game and put me on the path that is justifiable for my teaching. In your honour, I skew the curve for the students benefit 😉

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