Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shooting for aces in GP

As I understand my place on the General Paper (GP) team, my little division has been entrusted with helping the kids with higher potential to achieve their aces. That's not a bad thing. Since we have kids with the ability to reach higher, it's both my duty and my pleasure to get them on their way.

Working with higher ability kids, though, requires a different strategy from the average group. I'm not being elitist, but that's the way it is. For the average kid, GP is a test of knowledge. The strategy here is the common approach: pump them full of content; predigest for them template approaches so that they can hopefully identify and plug in the right argument structure and pass with a sigh of relief.

Although knowledge is a prerequisite to a pass, knowledge alone will not ace the GP H1. The presumption about the higher ability kids is that they're better read than their average peers; they have a stronger command of the English language; and they are perhaps more willing to take "riskier" options or approaches to engaging their questions. This bunch knows they have the ability to do better than what their test results are returning, and they are probably frustrated.

So what do we do to help them do better? My take is that we change the rules and objectives of the game for them. At higher levels, GP is no longer about how much knowledge the kid has, so providing them with more material to swallow and regurgitate will not help them increase their grade perceptibly. Instead, we view the GP H1 as a test of mental agility and train this lot of kids to handle questions as if they were completely unexpected situations. So rather than approach the questions from a position of knowledge, they approach the questions from a position of ignorance.

To the average person, to feel ignorant is to be disadvantaged. Embarrassment and panic set in; confidence collapses; and abject surrender becomes a very tempting proposition. However, the problem of a knowledgeable kid approaching a familiar question is the tendency to show off his smarts while disregarding the question. His pride is his fall.

A smart kid who approaches his question humbly is more likely to pay attention to the requirements of the question. With this focus, he can cut out all the noise in his head clamouring to be vocalized on paper and prioritize what knowledge he can bring to bear that is pertinent to what he is being asked -- regardless of 'topic'.

If the kids want their aces, they're going to move up from being mindless footsoldiers wielding blunt cudgels while making loud noises to intimidate the enemy and become quiet, disciplined snipers who can adapt to any environment and boast a hit ratio of one shot, one kill.

Sotto voce: Oh, man! What am I getting myself into?

Today's post was inspired by "Mental agility: how to react quickly to any situation".

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