Proficiency Based Learning V - A Reflection
There is so much talk and chatter and protest about Proficiency Based Learning, that I thought it important to write a more light hearted and reflective post this week.
Having been an English teacher for 40 years, it might be expected that I would teach composition. And I did. And like any other teacher, the first part of every year was taken up with reviewing and setting expectations.
The conversation often went like this.
“You may fail the class, but you will never fail a composition or writing exercise.”
“Why is that, Mr. Fuller?”
“Because there is no “F” on compositions.”
“How can that be?”
“Because there are only four grades.”
“And… what are those?”
“Only four grades - “A,” and “B” and “C” and “R.”
“R? What’s “R?”
“R” is easy. R- is “Re-do.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means that if you don’t do an acceptable job on the piece of writing the first time, you just do it again. And again, and again, and again - until it’s done.”
“Wow! Mr. Fuller, that’s cool.”
“Not so fast. You don’t know that. If you can’t do it right the first time, you just re-do, and re-do, and re-do - for a very long time. A long time. And the new essays just keep being developed. You could be writing essays all year - but you will be anyway.”
And so it was. And so it worked.
Students learned that doing an unacceptable job only got them an additional assignment to do the job correctly the first time. Yes, there were students who thought that this was a gift - but they soon learned that this was a responsibility.
And yes, students did fail the class - but it was not because they were denied the chance to meet the proficiency on writing. It was lots of work, but worth every single minute.