Divesting in Learning
At AJA, 10% of every student’s grade in every single class falls under the category of “Investment in Learning.” This mandatory measurement of students’ methods of learning is divided into six categories, known as “Investment in Learning Indicators”: Initiative, Respect, Self-Reflection, Engagement, Preparation, and Punctuality.
The intent of Investment in Learning is to reward students for working hard, behaving respectfully, and arriving on time. In reality, however, Investment in Learning unnecessarily and unfairly rewards certain learning styles. Not only this, but this system also punishes students who do not meet the standards a teacher has deemed representative of model learning.
The very idea of including “investment in learning” as an individual component on a students’ grade seems ludicrous. If a student engages in the material, prepares for class, arrives on time, and shows initiative, shouldn’t this already be reflected in the student’s grade? It is only fair to assume that a student who does all of these things will have a better grasp of the material, and this should be reflected in their performance. Therefore, if “investing in learning” helps a student learn, students who do so are already being rewarded. Why reward it twice by making Investment in Learning part of students’ grades? On the other hand, if “investing in learning” doesn’t correlate with further mastery of the material and higher grades, why are we rewarding it in the first place? A grade should be a measurement of a student’s mastery of material, not of their method of attaining that mastery.
Investment in learning is more than unnecessary. It can be actively harmful. The problem arises when a teacher is asked to appraise a student’s effort in learning, regardless of their actual performance. Teachers inevitably reward behavior that is commonly believed to contribute to better learning, regardless of the habits’ effectiveness. This system fails when examined even cursorily. Every student learns in their own unique way; no one system of learning works for every learner. Therefore, if engaging in class discussions does not help a student succeed in a class, there is no reason to reward them for their participation — or to punish them for their lack thereof. It is not the teacher’s place to tell their students which methods of learning they should use. Students should be encouraged to do whatever they need to succeed, not what Investment in Learning mandates for them. Investment in Learning fails to work with the diversity of learning styles. It attempts to reward behaviors, rather than results. Behaviors, however, should only be rewarded if they lead to results. Grades should be a measure of skill, hard work, and practice, not the method in which any of those are accomplished. Grades should have nothing to do with a teacher’s interpretation of subjective terms like “Initiative,” “Respect,” and “Self-Reflection.” How on earth is a teacher even supposed to know if a student is self-reflecting? That’s a paradox! Investment in Learning has to go.