Assessment: Material vs. Value

After reading Yancey’s article, I decided to “assess” my homework progress for today. I think I’m doing fairly well considering I woke up at 1 in the afternoon. I had a quick breakfast, recapped the weekend with my roomies, packed my backpack, put on my new flats, and headed to my favorite study spot–Starbucks.

I decided to read the Yancey article before even turning on my computer. You’d be surprised how long it would have normally taken me to read a 5 page essay like this had I been tempted by Facebook and all the Halloweekend pics. And now here I am writing this post, essentially assessing Yancey’s writing.

I like how she opened her article by mentioning the “Mom Overboard” articles in the New Yorker. It frames her argument about self-assessment and the unfamiliarity of the process. “We are, she suggests, assessed in a material way.” I agree completely with this. We try hard in school so we can get good grades on our report cards, we strive for all A’s so we can be valedictorians, we want top-notch GPAs so we can get into prestigious universities. And once we are accepted into these prestigious universities, we pull all-nighters and study obsessively so we can get good jobs, make a lot of money, and have successful lives.

We are constantly assessing ourselves–through numbers and grades–everything quantitative. I see it as simply “checking off” the boxes in life, but where is the value in this? We are conditioned to think in terms of grades and, because of this, we fail to notice the meaning of our work.  As Yancey mentions, we need a way of determining if things are going well. Our own self-assessments and introspection may serve a larger role in the measure of our success than the letters scribbled on top of our papers.

One thing I hate about the current standard of grading (the material-based assessment) is the clear-cut letter/number grades but lack of reasoning behind the assessment. This type of grading is very subjective and varies depending on who’s grading your work. I recently got 99/100 on a take-home assignment. I should be happy with this high grade, but instead I am left wanting answers–why did I get one point deducted? Where did I go wrong? What’s the big difference between a 99/100 and a 100/100? Couldn’t the GSI just have given me the perfect grade? I’ll never know…

But if value-based assessment would have taken place in the situation above, I would probably have my questions answered. The self-reflective comments would give my GSI a look into my thought process and help facilitate a conversation between me and the GSI. This would help me see where I went wrong and how to improve my writing in the future. I agree with Yancey that this dialogue is essential to the writing process.