Grades have become so closely associated with education these days that is is quite easy to forget that they are – historically speaking – a relatively recent phenomenon. They were unheard of in the days of Socrates, and would have seemed alien to Comenius.
Unbelievable as it may sound, we didn’t always bother with grades while going about the task of educating and becoming educated.
This being so, it is natural to ask the question “what are grades for?”
If you search the internet using this question as a search term you find at least 37,000 hits, and the hits generated are interesting reading for those of us working in education.
I suspect, however, that these answers are not really important for the simple reason that they are answering the wrong question.
We shouldn’t be asking what grades are for; we should instead be asking who grades are for?
I spend almost all of my professional life doing one of two things: observing the work of trainee teachers on Celta initial teacher training courses, or observing the work of Celta tutors in my role as an appointed Assessor for the Celta award.
Both of these jobs present various challenges and raise many questions, but in the end it boils down to this:
“Is what I am looking at any good?”*
Answering the question of whether or not a lesson being taught by a trainee teacher is any good, or whether or not a training course being run by a team of teacher trainers is any good, is obviously not as straightforward a question to answer, as it is to pose.
Dogme ELT has been around (in the sense of having a name and a movement of people who recognize it as a legitimate and defined approach to teaching languages) for the best part of 15 years at this point of writing; what this means is there are a significant number of teachers working now who never experienced a world of ELT without Dogme – for the simple reason that they entered the profession, were trained, and developed their careers after the emergence of what has been termed the Dogme collective.
However banal this observation may appear, its significance is worth exploring.
Movement is the destruction of balance.
I don’t know who I originally heard this from, but it was in the context of running theory.
The idea is that in order for a physical body to move in any direction, it cannot be in a position of balance. That is to say, it cannot be maintaining a given position against the pressure of gravity.
For movement to occur, this balance needs to be destroyed, if only momentarily and if only slightly. In order to run, all we need is a very slight forward lean from the ankles, and gravity takes care of the rest. We realign ourselves with gravity by bringing our feet up fast enough to catch ourselves from toppling, and repeat the process.
This got me thinking about learning. It made me realise the following: learning is the destruction of knowing. Continue reading