As we approach the end of the school year, the talk among students, parents, and faculty is about exams and grades. We tell them, “Study (cram) for your exams.” “You need to get a good grade.”
I think we all believe that learning for learning sake is a noble and valuable pursuit. Filling our minds with knowledge about a variety of topics only serves to aid the scholar in her/his deliberations and decision making. Why do I need to learn algebra, why do I need to learn to write better, I’ll never use it, are refrains we hear often. Well, there are good reasons to learn all of these things, even if you will not directly use it in what you think may be your career. Algebra builds your logic and reasoning skills, writing makes one a better communicator in general, etc.
My point is that I think our words, study for the exam, and our beliefs, pursue the knowledge, sometimes (often times?) don’t match. In a thoughtful Chronicle of Higher Education article, University of North Florida professor David Jaffee says that teachers’ frequent exhortation to their students to study for exams “actually encourages student behaviors and dispositions that work against the larger purpose of human intellectual development and learning. Rather than telling students to study for exams, we should be telling them to study for learning and understanding.”
So please think about your word choice with our students and help to take some of the stress off of them. Let’s strive to help the students focus on the learning, even though it is an uphill battle.