Africa · Ghana · Opinion

A CASE AGAINST GRADES

We had our first group presentations in class last semester. We were assigned to groups, given different topics and weekly deadlines for our presentations. We were to present to our fellow students and were graded by a smattering of lecturers.

Generally, the class took the exercise seriously and judging by the planning, research and even dress codes of some of the groups, it was quite a big deal.

All the groups basically presented with the same format with one member after another coming up to present a portion of the group’s topic. All but one. This group did things differently. Their presenters came in pairs and delivered the presentation together much like how a pair of news presenters would present a news item. Incredibly, each pair of students was in sync, with each member of the pair smoothly taking over from where the other left off and thus simultaneously reducing drastically the number of pauses that characterized other groups’ presentations as well as effectively combating the nervousness that usually gripped members of other groups when they came up to present alone.

More than just needing to be different however, they showed flexibility by allowing one member to present alone, probably realizing she would do better alone than as part of a pair.

In those 15 minutes that the presentation lasted, they displayed creativity, flexibility, an ability to think outside the box and the courage to do something other than the norm. Privately, I was also impressed by the vision shown by the group leader who had earlier pointed out some of these challenges in a conversation and had outlined his plan to deal with them.

You wouldn’t have known all this though if you were simply watching the lecturers who were grading. They stopped listening as soon as the first pair of students started presenting and began discussing amongst themselves. When the presentation ended, they bemoaned their inability to grade each of the students individually since the students presented in pairs.

The creativity, the flexibility in presentation, the ability to solve problems related to the presentation as well as the ability to think outside the box were completely discarded because these qualities were either not recognized or couldn’t be graded!

I left the lecture hall feeling bemused. Here was arguably the best presentation we had seen and it was being panned because it failed to follow the status quo.

I could start a diatribe about how this is a reflection of our educational system but I’ll leave that for my upcoming rant about what was a really difficult semester.

I do hope though that this helps someone somewhere refuse to allow the threat of a C or a D, stifle their creative instincts because schooling is supposed to be for learning and not for grading. ~ Senam

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