Right now I am reading Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind – Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future”. It is a fascinating read. It also addresses some of the questions that have been perplexing me for some time. A couple of my recent posts have addressed the issue of letter grades. I have also been involved in a number of discussions around the topic. For the most part people are on the same page when it comes to letter grades, but with one unresolved question.
What about Universities?
Without letter grades how will can Universities differentiate between students?
The only answer I have to that question is…”It’s their problem, not the problem of Public Education. They should change to meet the needs of a new generation of students.” I’m ok with that answer, but I know that it is not very plausible. Long term perhaps, but that kind of systemic change will not happen overnight. To be honest, it has left me wanting for more.
“A Whole New Mind” offers some interesting alternatives to the letter grade and percentage system. According to Pink the correlation between IQ and career success is somewhere between 4-10%. I know that IQ and letter grades do not necessarily correlate, but it does get me thinking. Using the IQ data as a springboard Yale Professor Robert Sternberg created an alternative to the SAT called the Rainbow Project.
In Sternberg’s test are given 5 blank New Yorker cartoons – and must craft humorous captions for each one. The also must write a narrative, using as their guide only a title supplied by the test givers (sample: The Octopus’s Sneakers). Although still in the experimental stages, the Rainbow Project is TWICE (emphasis mine) as successful as the SAT in predicting how well students do in college. What’s more, the gap in performance between white student and racial minorities evident on the SAT narrows considerably on this test.
I’m not about to suggest that all universities should institute the Rainbow exam, but it does open the discussion for different forms of entrance exams to universities. It does suggest that the traditional ways of measuring student success and learning have not changed at the rate that society has. The current system of letter grades has been around for decades.
How many effective institutions have remained unchanged in that time?