Coarser is better
“Is this going to be on the test?”
Even if you're done with school, you ask this question.
- Do I have to go to that meeting?
- How important is this?
All of these are variations of “Is this going to be on the test?”
It’s a damned important question. Because if this is going to be
- on the test, I better pay attention.
- if not, no biggie.
Let’s take a different tack,
what if the test is only pass/fail?
It changes the question doesn’t it. You already know it (whatever it is) will be on the test, but the test itself is pass/fail. So, you only need to know enough to pass. No A+ or C-, just pass/fail.
Turns out the coarser the grade, the more information it provides. It's counter-intuitive. How can a 77% give me less information than a P or a F? Turns out the 77% implies specificity – it sounds like I know all I need to know - when I don't.
What about the P/F?
- Pass? I get curious. How close was I to failing?
- Fail? obviously I want to know how to pass.
Many moons ago I was in a math-teacher workshop (I know Nerd-ville). Our homework one evening was to take a single student’s exam and grade it. 10 problems, you (the teacher) decide how to allot the points, 100 points total.
Guess what the scores were? Same test.
- Highest score given was a 92,
- lowest was a 63.
- Same test, same answers from him.
- 30 point difference – and we were all math teachers.
Grading's a myth. Accept it and interesting possibilities open up. When people ask you how they’re doing do you give them the 77% answer or something coarser?
It’s coarser if they ask for more – what did you mean? What do you see? Etc.
Hacking the ministry involves people and excellence.
- Just excellent and nobody following, game over.
- Have a group but the work isn’t excellent or improving, game over (eventually).
Are you communicating with people in a coarse enough way? Do your grading conversations lead to further refinement, curiosity, depth? Or are they in the 77% variety?