Thursday, April 06, 2006

Deconstructing Rubbish

At least three times today, Ds, (in helping DD with her workbook...which she volunteers to do) answered a workbook question in a way that was correct, either in his subjective assessment (which could perfectly well have been demanded by the question as it was phrased) or even in the larger scale of things, but that would have got him marked down as wrong in a schooled context because the answer he gave was not that which had been implicitly delineated by the question.

eg, the workbook required the answer "YES" so that this could be inserted into a crossword space, to the question "Are clowns funny?"

Ds replied "no" correctly, iho and I would say broadly speaking, correctly.

What are we doing here then?

In school: We are telling them to look to play by the rules inherent in the question so that they get the right answer irrespective of the truth of the matter.

In free-form HE: Well, we try:...Ok, that is your opinion which there is little reason to doubt, but there may be another way of looking at the question, say as being a matter of whether everyone finds clowns funny, so you could eg: take a percentage vote, and since there are more adults in the world than there are young children, the latter being the only section of the population who ever actually think clowns are funny, then again you are again right... or some thing similar...

ie: we tell them to test their theories against the data!

We also tell them that questions such as these may not necessarily be about truth seeking, but may be about constraining you to find the right answer, in this case, so as to show the assessor that you have knowledge of a certain set of untested assumptions and that you know how to write down the word YES. Be alert for this kind of debasement of the meaning of words, because if you ever go into the schooling system, this is will happen to you there, though it is unlikely to happen many other places outside of school.

Also, do turn it off after you get out the school gates....otherwise you may well find yourself doing things like going about signing petitions that mean you lose your vote.


Clare said...

O is obviously a very sensible young man!

Are you coming on Sunday?????? You can say you don't want to do it, and I'll stop hassling you ;-)


Anonymous said...

I think that it is very hard to ask good questions and often these work books (used at home and school!) assume a certain sort of recognition of social norms, in a narrow way.

I've noticed how children, especially children who think more laterally, don't assume the average mentality when reading the question so don't get the average response. Or they may take it as requiring a personal response (as it seems your ds did!) when an 'average' response is being sought.

Exams have the same limitations in that they award a mark for a specified answer. An answer that recognises the existence of other aspects or any ambiguity in the question will not get a mark. In the teaching course it is a recognised fact that the highly intelligent will lose a small percentage of marks in exam situations because of failings in the way the exam is constructed and because they see complexity where it doesn't exist.

Carlotta said...

Dear C...the only reason am still hesitating as am still suffering from flu...We are meant to be at HE meets today, but cannot stand up properly for any length of time, so yet again are thwarted. Desperately irritating...and am so sorry that I have failed to provide a sensible answer.

Can manage workbooks though...Dd delighted, Ds not so sure!

Carlotta said...

"I think that it is very hard to ask good questions"..yes...and the problem of providing an even close approximation of a good answer seems to get exponentially harder when you have to cope with a whole classroom full of different initial premises.

Clare said...

C - really sorry you've all been so ill lately! Are you not coercing your family to eat enough fruit and veg??? :-P Desperately hoping you make a sudden recovery tomorrow and decide you're able to make it on Sunday!