Tinkering is still at the top of my mind these days, even though I haven’t had much time to blog about it much (besides this). But often when things are on your mind, everything you see seems to relate. If you think about buying a yellow car, all of a sudden the world seems full of yellow cars.
So reading this Alfie Kohn News and Comments article about grades made me think about tinkering again. Because often when we talk about doing something different in schools, we hear, “but how will that fit into the current classroom?” And that means everything from 42 minute periods to test prep to grades.
But tinkering is one of those things that doesn’t fit in neatly. It takes time, doesn’t result in neat projects that work with canned rubrics, and might not have any impact on test scores. But should that matter? Can’t we help kids at least a little by making things more like tinkering and less contrived and pre-planned?
Then this hit me.
As for the research studies: Collectively, they make it clear that students who are graded tend to differ from those who aren’t in three basic ways. They’re more likely to lose interest in the learning itself. They’re more likely to prefer the easiest possible task. And they’re more likely to think in a superficial fashion as well as to forget what they were taught. Alfie Kohn
These are exactly what kids need to be able to do to tinker. And grades squash that.
Maybe we are asking the wrong questions. Maybe implementing “some tinkering” where kids are eventually graded, no matter how authentically, is a contradiction. Maybe even counterproductive if it confuses kids. Is it even worth doing?