Tell Me the Facts

One of the causes behind why I am taking a break in A level science tutoring is this “tell me the facts” orientation. The mark schemes are very prescriptive and look for near verbatim sound bite answers. These can be acquired by rote learning. There is little room for manoeuvre or off piste answers. I know that some of the expected answers fall short of latest thinking. The situation is better in physics than in chemistry, a numerical answer is a numerical answer after all. I am conflicted. Underpinning the problem is standardisation and data collection, thence lovely league tables. This “fact” based, right and wrong, approach does not encourage. “Tell me what I have to be able to reproduce in order to pass the exams” mentality is one we are indoctrinating into our youth. How it effects in later life, who can say?

I don’t personally like it.

This sound bite thinking pervades and leads only to very surface learning. We are perhaps so busy that there is no time to think. “Just give me the bare bones”, and off we rush. If it can’t be said in a Tweet and encapsulated therein, it can’t be much good.

Without a binary black and white, yes or no, there is uncertainty which can unsettle. The truth is that right isn’t always complete in any case. Thinking becomes polarised and it lacks an inclusiveness. Some are more obsessed with this, especially if “success” depends upon being standard. It is to their taste. In the long term, it does not bode well. From a pedagogic point of view, it does not stimulate originality or flexibility. “Here is the hymn sheet, sing from it!”

Mind, in some cases, seeks to grip “the facts” and thereby fails to understand or learn. Maybe it might help us to win in a quiz show. If you try to teach without being a supplier of facts or sound bites, you are off hymn sheet and it does not sit well. Young people are aware about how they are being assessed and can be very goal oriented in that direction.

I think we are throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Stop waffling now and tell me the facts, give me the numbers!! I can almost hear you say…

Can you see what I am getting at?