This morning is all about the educational theory.  Here’s what it comes down to:

I love teaching.  It is truly one of my great joys in life, I’m told I’m pretty good at it, and the information I share has the potential to be life-transforming.  But I hate grading.

It’s a problem.

The classes and consultation work I do with parents and teenagers I find richly fulfilling and highly useful to my clients.  They enjoy class time, they get to think about interesting things and do fun and thought-provoking activities, and they go away with more information in the realms that are the most interesting and relevant to them at that time.

On the other hand, when I teach in the college setting, I set up a core curriculum that I want to make sure every student learns regardless of interest, relevance, or attention span.  While I still work to my fullest to incorporate interesting and thought-provoking activities, fun examples, and in-depth conversation, there is only so far I can go in this direction if I have to have a test with a grade at the end of the day.  More of my time is spent on having the students do activities that I do not necessarily think are intrinsically useful (like tests) and on me grading those activities.  This bugs me.

Now, I do teach classes that are not sexuality classes, but instead are child development, general psychology, research, or educational theory classes.  I see these as inherently different.  These classes are oriented towards professional development.  Students will often need the information from these classes to advance either academically or professionally, and the content will be relevant to them in those contexts.  While there are some jobs where human sexuality is professionally relevant (like, say, my job), the majority of my college human sexuality students sign up for my classes out of personal interest rather than professional interest or need.

I wish there was a way I could stop the constant assessment of knowledge and skills in this context.  But I haven’t been able to come up with one.  My professional skill and reputation are relevant, as are the skill and reputation of the college.  So I understand the need for this grading process within the context of the current system – I just wish the system were different.  I think we could go deeper, be more honest, and spend more time on the topics the students are more passionately interested in.

And we could, I truly believe, create an educational system where standard grading is not an integral part of the process.  One of the articles I often have my educational theory students read is about how including the 0 in an average assessment of students’ capabilities is statistically and mathematically inappropriate.  But, they always argue, how do we get the students to do the work if that 0 isn’t hanging over their heads?

Ah, how indeed.

That intrinsic/extrinsic motivational dilemma deeply felt and often used by teachers who work in a compulsory-educational system.  And then students get use to it, and by the time they see me in college, there is little I can do to encourage them to throw off their mantle of feigned disinterest in everything school related and steep themselves in the content I bring to them purely out of interest.

But this is exactly how my students come to me outside of educational systems – full of interest, fun, attention, critical thought, and appreciation of the content.  It’s like a whole different world.

So, any suggestions out there on how to solve my grading problem?  Because I’m throwing myself on the mercy of the Internetz to find me one by the end of the day!  (Okay, not really.  But I’m certainly not turning away ideas!)