Aiming For Excellence

Excellence is not always emphasized in our classrooms – or our lives. We often mark papers with either a letter or number grade. What is acceptable to many people is a an A- or B or less. Believe me, some students would rejoice at achieving these marks and they are certainly good achievements. I am talking more about aiming for excellence and setting our hopes and habits to achieve it. It is only by aiming for the best that we can achieve it.

It’s almost the norm to settle for less. People who get 70%  or are usually happy. They may take up the answers in class on why they did not get perfect but they are not always learning as they do. Students who write assignments may achieve 75-99 on a project but never make the effort to correct the errors or use it as a learning opportunity. Grading the students’ papers alone is not a teaching tool. I mark papers regularly and believe helpful comments will teach a student, but first, they must read the comments; some don’t; secondly, they have to believe they can apply the change; finally, they must try to master the task. The easiest way to ensure learning is to give the students a chance to rewrite an assignment.

Of course this method is not popular with everyone because it is more marking for the teacher. The student who does not achieve perfect may speak with the teacher who explains the necessary correction. This gives an opportunity for teaching and learning to occur. The students realize what they did not do or should have done and physically correct the error. The students print the new document and attach it to their marked copy with the revisions made. They hand in the paper with the opportunity to achieve excellence.

This would seem to be a perfect way of assuring all students get perfect, but please note – not all students choose to do the rewrite. Often students settle for a grade of C or B rather than make the corrections. The reasons are diverse and complicated as some have families and children; most have jobs; some are athletes. The point is not all students make the correction because they do not believe it is necessary or important. The percentage of these students is not high, but my goal is set on trying to make them want to achieve excellence. Some who do rewrites do not achieve perfect because they do not make the corrections at all and hand in the same paper with errors maybe hoping I will not notice.

Documents they write for me are documents they would use in further academic studies or in their jobs. If there are errors that are not corrected, students have no excellent examples of documents to draw from. Should the students have excellent examples, they can apply the formats to their careers. Applying knowledge in an atmosphere that encourages true learning excellence can prompt students to make a bit of an extra effort to learn and make corrections giving them models of excellent documents. Present learning and corrections can lead to further future career related success.

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