Reading reactions…

I’m posting a few different points on the blog that focus on events and readings of the past several days.  I”ll begin with a visual representation of some of the work I’ve been doing and then I’ll close with a few comments on some readings.  I posted this type of message the other day, but I think it’s worth revisiting in order to give viewers a sense of the scale at which AP grading operates – remember, there’s about 1.25 million essays to be read.  Again, here’s a very general sample of some results:

l
lllllllll
lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
llllllllllllllllllllllllllll
llllll
llllll
l

Each ‘l’ represents an essay scored on a scale that shall remain somewhat anonymous at this point.  The process and pace quickens with each day, largely because you become ‘hyper-aware’ of what to look for in an essay response.  When I’m organized on my regular grading, I’ve felt a similar level of ‘oneness’ with assessing the material, but there’s something fascinating about working in a large space where everybody is in sync with one another.

a lot ranked – a lot more to go…

Reading a few books while I’m here as well, especially when I can’t sleep.  Some of them are intended for use in the classroom next spring, while others will be used this fall.  One is more of an ‘idea’ book to help me think about teaching and motivation in a different way.

I’ll start with the latter – Daniel Pink’s Drive – the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us because it’s the kind of book (and author) to which I’ve found myself drawn despite wondering the utility of the text.  Just as I found with A Whole New Mind, Drive is giving me some food for thought in the classroom and the general field of education.  Pink would characterize teaching as a largely heuristic profession – that is, the type of job in which employees must break from the ‘standard’ path to discover novel strategy (Pink, 43).  While some aspects of teaching might be more linear, most is going to require some creativity.  It’s in these heuristic situations that Pink would argue against reward as a motivator.  Indeed, Pink’s research points to experiments that indicate rewards narrow focus, impacting performance in a negative way and preventing creative solutions to problems.  Similarly, when goals are established for things such as sales targets or standardized tests, a dangerous side effect can result (Pink, 44, 50).  It’s the intrinsic nature of reward that should drive us – particularly in education – not the goal of ‘achieving’ on a standardized test or hitting the mark on a sales goal.  If you’re focused on these types of goals, Pink points out that unethical behavior may result.

Like my exposure to A Whole New Mind, Pink’s not necessarily breaking new ground here – rather, he’s pulling together the story in a cogent manner that can be useful to the reader.  I’m picking apart components of the text that are useful for me personally and in my teaching and it’s been a rewarding and straightforward process thus far.

The same can be said for my colleague Tona Hangen’s text Redeeming the Dial: Radio, Religion, and Popular Culture in America.  A quick review of the work can be found here.  I’ll say more on the text in another series of remarks, but an important point that should be raised is the clarity with which Hangen writes.  I’m considering using the book in a course on American popular culture and the introduction alone made me feel comfortable with the idea of assigning the text for undergraduates enrolled in electives courses.

It’s been a busy but rewarding few days – the grading occupies the bulk of daytime hours, while the other readings are accomplished in the evenings before dropping off to visit the land of Morpheus.

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