28 September 2010

On Scholarship

Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in his Study, 1514
Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in his Study, 1514

A Graduate Record Examination (GRE) "Issue task" matching game. The test takers were to present their perspectives on the following issue:

It is unfortunate that today's educators place so much emphasis on finding out what students want to include in the curriculum and then giving it to them. It is the educator's duty to determine the curriculum and the students' duty to study what is presented to them.

Below, sample phrases come from essays that received scores of 5 and 6 (6 is the highest possible score). Five of the comments relate to those two essays, and one comment relates to a third essay, which received a score of 1 (the lowest).

Phrase from sample essay
Grader's comment
1. As an elementary educator, I believe this stance is extremist. Educators and the public must come to a middle road.
A. The discussion is generally confusing and barely addresses the central issue presented in the topic.
2. Hard work must be lauded, while freeloaders are punished.
B. This is an insightful, well-articulated discussion of curricular responsibility and the larger issue of academic responsibility.
3. Content and performance standards (i.e. curricula) need to be developed by the district's educators as a map for teachers. When educators provide students with choices WITHIN the map of curriculum, students relish in the freedom and take ownership for their learning.
C. Language use is generally precise and effective, and sentence structure is well controlled.
4. Of course, any school in which the students decide "what goes" is bound to have problems controlling students. Once the educators, be they administrators or teachers, are under the control of students, even a democratic situation would be like holding royalty acountable to the mob.
D. The examples are varied and used effectively to further support the writer's position.
5. Presently, students hear for hours that they should not forget to use a condom in the heat of the moment, and educators think the message gets through, while half the kids can't even remember to bring a pencil to class.
E. The careful choice of words and carefully structured paragraphs help unify the structure of the argument.
6. I do NOT think it is unfortunate that today's educators emphasize students' interests. It IS our duty, however, to provide the parameters for their education.
F. This response presents a well-developed analysis of the issue and displays strong control of the elements of writing.

Essay 1 (scored 6): 2, 4, 5, & B, C, D
Essay 2 (scored 5): 1, 3, 6, & E, F
Essay 3 (scored 1): A

The young scholar was praised by friends and acquaintances as one of the clearest, most powerful, and most incisive writers living. It was inexplicable, therefore, that he continued to receive low scores on the writing sections of the Examination, and all the more so given that his scores on the verbal and quantitative multiple choice sections were among the highest achievable. Tragically, there was no way to circumvent the Examination, and the young scholar was barred from living the life he had imagined for himself. Settling for a life of intellectual isolation, he took up a manual craft, which provided a meager existence and afforded some time for private study. The scholar died, when, soon afterward, his lungs began to turn to glass. When he drew his last breath, the glass shattered, leaving no part of him intact for scrutiny.

Johannes Hevelius, Foot-powered Lathe, from Selenographia, sive Lunae descriptio, 1647

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