Back in the day (not too long ago), I was sitting in High School Chemistry and my teacher, Mr. Weenig, was talking about the test we had just taken and the grades we had received. There was some crying/whining as to some of the test scores from some of my classmates and that’s what prompted Mr. Weenig to tell us all how he’d do things if he owned his own school.
He basically said, “If I were running things, all grades would be done away with; we’d use a pass/fail system.” I think I was a Sophomore at the time and it was the first time I’d ever heard a teacher actually say something that wasn’t in support of the traditional letter grade system.
That comment left an impression, obviously.
Since then, I’ve thought about this off and on and also had some classes in College that were basically run with a pass/fail system. I’ll say right now, I’m in favor of pass/fail classes in general. Do I think that all classes could be run this way?
Would a teacher/school have to get creative in some cases?
(There are many other “Would … ?” kind of questions to ask and think about, but actually getting to the point of having to ask the questions is what I’m focusing on.)
Here are a few examples from my past schooling:
A class that I took in College comes to mind: Outing Activities. This was probably the funnest classes I ever took. We met once a week and then went and did stuff outside. We surfed, hiked, kayaked, camped, and myriad other things each week. If we showed up and participated, we passed. If not, we failed. There was a comprehensive test at the end that focused on the rules, techniques and other things we’d learned or done during the class. If you’d been there and done that, it wasn’t difficult to pass the test. (The test was pass/fail, too. You could only get 3-4 question wrong and it counted for 20% of your grade…I think.)
Another example from College: Business Leadership. Our teacher had an MBA and a Doctorate. He didn’t think tests were a good measuring stick of learning. He liked giving us projects that would be based on real-world tasks that a person would get at a working at a *real* job. The projects had to meet certain criteria and were weighted on participation, completeness, presentation and a few other things. If you did well, you passed. If not, sorry, game over. (Or, you’re fired.) I think we, as a class, learned more practical things in that one class than any other our whole Senior year. (Many of my classmates would agree.)
I also liked the test I had for Spanish class. At the end of the Semester, I had a speaking exam with the teacher one-on-one. If you can put the words together we learned over the Semester and understand the questions, pass. If not, fail.
There’s a lot more that could be said, but basically, I believe that if you can prove you comprehend the subject with a little margin of error, you should be able to pass the class and move on. If not, you stay back and take it over. (Just because someone can cram really well for a test doesn’t mean that they learned anything; though cramming will always be a part of the school experience.)
Now that Mr. Weenig is a Physician, I wonder, with his extra cash, if he’ll ever open up his own school?