Tuesday, 4 October 2016
Back to School
Earlier this year I decided to take up the opportunity to go back to "school" and learn to use Excel. It was a free course and it ran over nine Saturdays. I haven't been in formal education for over twenty years and I was interested to see how it felt.
There must have been close to 100 students there on that first day, we were all aged, I would guess, between 30 and 50, with a huge number of newish migrants.
As the weeks passed, many stopped coming to class and the four classes we started with were reduced to three and then two.
It took a long time for people to warm up, I think I attended five weeks before anyone spoke to me, despite my regular smiles and hellos. Everyone is keen to get in there, learn what they can and then get back to their other responsibilities.
When I was going to college in the early nineties we were a very small class of young students attending three times a week for four years so we knew each other well (even when we would prefer not to) but apart from that, my 2016 college experience was not so far different to what it was way back when.
The one thing that had changed was assessment. In the old days we would be given a grade or percentage mark and if we wanted to improve, we mostly had to look at our exam papers and figure out what we did wrong.
In this course, we were assessed only as competent or not yet competent and if not yet competent, we were given detailed feedback on what we could change. The first time I received a detailed report I was a little disheartened at the number of things I needed to improve, it felt like a lot of negative feedback. I quickly realised, though, that most of the issues I needed to address were small and easily fixed. The very specific guidance made it easier to identify problems and fix them.
Just a week ago I met an old friend who had also recently gone back to class after an extended break and she remarked to me that although she was graded competent, the seemingly large amount of negative feedback she received destroyed her confidence to attempt further study. I protested that the new way is more helpful, if you can just get over the initial ego jolt but she was quite determined that she is "not academic enough"
Funny how two people can interpret two things so differently, isn't it?