Jill posts a note about the switch to a lettered grading system in Norway, and links to a description of each grade (English translation at the bottom). I found the wording interesting. For an A, the expectation is “An excellent performance, clearly outstanding. Shows a high degree of independence.” While the first part is familiar, the second is interesting. The higher grade is linked to a greater degree of independence.
One of the reasons this is interesting is I’m not sure just what it means. Does it mean that they have integrated the knowledge into their own world in a unique way? Does it mean, basically, that they are capable of transforming or utilizing the knowledge.
And is independence a primary goal, or indeed a goal at all, of education? In some ways, does this not devalue work that is done as a team. Take, for instance, one of Jill’s examples: do we want nurses who are pushed toward independence?
That said, the phrase does strike me in a very positive way. It may just be that “independence” is one of those positive-sounding words. This morning I was in a meeting where we decided what to call an upcoming conference on scholarly communication, and I was drawn to “Innovations in Scholarly Communication” for no reason (I suspect) other than the fact that I like the word “innovation.” (I am proud to say that the group picked one of my suggestions: “Publishing the future: Scholarly communication in an information age.”)
In any case, I like the idea of student being independent, and that description probably meshes well with who gets As in my classes. I’ve usually translated it somewhat differently, especially at the graduate level: “Teach me something I don’t know.” I’ve told students that if they can do that, they are almost guaranteed an A. The truth is, that isn’t that difficult–my regions of ignorance are boundless. Yet students are so conformist (and I think the university helps to ensure this), that it is often difficult for them to, as Apple says, “Think Different.”