Some important skills can’t be quantified with a letter grade

This article was originally posted Dec. 5, 2011 by the Huntsman School Blog.

I recently read a blog which was sparked by a Twitter conversation about the importance of GPA’s in the “real” world.

The blog basically said that while taking classes seriously, working hard and learning are important, you can only be graded on certain aspects of your education.

Once I started studying things that would need to last me for the rest of my life in a vocation (I’m sorry, but the role of the plow in the settlement of Nebraska just doesn’t figure into my plans for the future), I started working harder than when I was just doing school work.

Sometimes it is still hard for me to keep that focus in mind, but at least I don’t have any more worksheets.

Through my college career, I have learned more than just facts and formulas. I’ve learned other things that are more abstract, and therefore harder to give a grade to.

For example, personal skills or social skills.

Whenever I need to do a new task, it really helps to see someone else do it. I play music, and whenever I want to learn something new, the easiest way for me to do that is to see someone else do it; I can see how their hands move.

Teachers give students assignments so the student can not only learn the material, but also so they can learn how they learn best. Good teachers will teach using different methods and give assignments requiring different skill sets. The grades given will help students learn what works and what doesn’t, but no kind of teacher can really grade on whether somebody knows their learning style.

Being married, working two jobs, going to school full time and finding time for myself has taught me prioritization and time management. That’s something else I doubt I could be graded on. Sometimes you have to sharpen that proverbial saw to push through and get work done. Sometimes you have to do a rush job on a project and you have to know what other things you can or can’t procrastinate.

And you have to know how to be a big boy and take accountability for your decisions. Gratefully, I’m pretty sure I have received better grades based on my being honest with my professors.

One of the biggest shortcomings I run into is everyone being so worried about hurting other people’s feelings. If I have done a botched job on something, I want to know about it so I can make it better. I don’t need you to tell me two good things I did first. I do appreciate “positive” feedback, but only when it’s honest. (Being able to tell if it’s honest is another un-gradable thing I’ve learned in college.) And really, if it makes me and my work better, isn’t it all positive?

I don’t want to say that GPA’s aren’t important (graduate school, anyone?), but there are other things that are important that can’t be given a concrete grade quite as easily.



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