Uyboco: The Freedom Academy (Part 6)

Freethinking Me

IF THERE are no tests, homework or grades, how do we know if the kids are learning anything?

Let me answer this with a story.

Back when I was teaching at a Chinese high school, I had a student who had very high grades in her Chinese class. There was a poster on the bulletin board in the hallway and it was written in Chinese. So I called over this student and asked her to tell me what it was saying. She just smiled and said, “I don’t know, sir. I can’t read that.”

I said, “Why not? You have the highest marks in Chinese class.”

She replied, “Oh we just memorize that stuff. We don’t really understand it.”

This simply illustrates that even with test and grades, we still have no clue if our kids are really learning anything, or if they are able to apply what they have learned in useful and practical ways.

Forcing kids to do homework and take tests and get high grades is not a reflection of learning but a reflection of our need to validate their learning according to our standards. I am not saying though, that this is without merit. Certainly this type of instruction is useful in higher education or professional education when a person has decided to pursue a certain field.

I wouldn’t, for example, willingly place myself under the care of a medical professional who did not pass certain standards of medical practice, who would call themselves “doctors” merely on their own say-so, and without really earning that degree.

However, to place certain standards of children who did not willingly agree to be judged under those criteria, and then to grade and classify them as having passed or failed those standards, is a wrong way to measure learning.

Learning is the learner’s business, not the teacher’s. True learning happens when children choose to engage in areas and activities that interest them, and when they are given as much time as they want to perform and master them.

And you don’t really need grades to know if they have learned anything. In real life, we don’t go around asking to see people’s grades to see if they know anything. We talk to them, we observe their attitudes, and we look at their work output.

That will be pretty much how it works at the Freedom Academy.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.


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