As teachers, we want students to be motivated and excited about learning and engaging with new concepts. We provide what we hope are stimulating lessons and laboratory experiences that spark curiosity and motivate students to learn more and to dig deeper into the scientific concepts. More often than not, however, students ask questions such as, “Will this be on the test?” and “How many points is this assignment worth?” Even more frustrating is students chasing points to get a better grade, or asking for “extra credit.” Traditional grading systems reward students who are savvy with their time, know how much each assignment is worth, and ask professors and teachers for points back that they feel were unfairly taken away. They are rewarded with high grades that translate to being recognized with placement on honor rolls, access to scholarships, and opportunities to take advanced course work. By the time students are in their first physics class, often taught at the end of their K-12 science education, many “high achievers” have mastered this game of grades. Still, others either choose not to participate in the game or simply have not learned the rules. Grading practices and these unwritten rules of the game are part of the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum involves the aspects of education that are not transparent and are the unwritten lessons and expectations of schooling. These lessons and expectations are oftentimes rooted in cultural practices and, in the case of many education settings in the United States, a homogenized white middle-class culture. The hidden curriculum is an aspect of education that is harder for students outside of the dominant culture, or who are otherwise oppressed, to access. It is critical that we examine our grading practices for the hidden curriculum embedded in it if we are to make assessment more equitable and less punitive, and motivate learning for learning’s sake.
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JUST PHYSICS?| May 01 2022
The game of grades and the hidden curriculum
Phys. Teach. 60, 398–399 (2022)
Stephanie S. Erickson; The game of grades and the hidden curriculum. Phys. Teach. 1 May 2022; 60 (5): 398–399. https://doi.org/10.1119/10.0010403
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