It's PW season for the J1s on campus. The majority of their project deadlines coincide over the next couple of weeks and everyone's working feverishly (we hope) to impress their assessors with what they've been working on for the last 6-7 months.
The grading criteria go by the following premises: projects are either Approaching Expectations (AE), Meeting Expectations (ME), or Exceeding Expectations (EE). Of course, the EE grade is the most coveted, and every self-respecting staff supervisor will design such training as to prepare the students for that esteemed level of achievement.
Herein lies a conundrum I've discovered between balancing out the training with the grading criteria: no matter how much I teach and train, no matter how much I consult the project groups to help them raise their level of performance, my efforts will only help them attain a Meeting Expectations (ME) grade. That's because as long as the groups do what I tell them, as long as they doggedly follow my lead, they can only Meet the Expectations I have of them. I cannot teach them to Exceed Expectations because in order to do that, they have to do more than what I have taught them to do, and to do it better than I would have done myself. Think I'm asking too much? Go look up what 'exceed' means.
PW is one subject in which "teach more, score less" applies. That's because the more is taught, the fewer the opportunities for the students to exceed expectations because we keep raising the expectation bar higher and higher. If we didn't teach so much, everything the kids do right would look like a marvel. Instead, because we have taught them so much, every deviation from the way we think is 'right' becomes a disaster.
Yes, I agree that certain basics and standards have to be laid down as foundation. The kids need a launchpad that is solid and stable enough to support their explorations -- that's our job. But beyond that, the more reluctant we are to give up our remote control, the sooner we think our kids' projects are likely to crash and burn.
PW is designed as a subject to advantage students who can take charge of the given problem, and use their own ingenuity and resources to innovate and develop a reasonable solution. Not many students can do this, hence they stand out as Exceeding Expectations. For the rest of the pack, they have to be satisfied with Meeting Expectations because they can perform as reasonably well as they have been taught. And in the grand scheme of things, that should be quite enough.