This evening I decide to write an essay for my students in Year 9. It is an essay for any student or thinker of any age, but it continues a conversation started in class. Touching upon dreams, perception and the nature of “evalution” (our key term to prove progress), it hopes to provide some thoughts to chew and some insight to question.
Evaluation is something I ask all my students to aim for. It is a type of analysis that occurs, traditionally, after the PEE analysis. It is, in simple terms, the analysis of the analysis. It is the thought that occurs after the isolation of different variables or gobbets from a text.
Many students see evaluation as having a opinion about something. This is a useful way of thinking, initially. It suggest that a person brings their cultural capital to the table when discussing a point. It implies that they can analyse a point in a text (such as Link’s resigned acceptable when he is first mugged) in relation to how various demographics might perceive such an action. This can, at least in the context of exams, get most students where they need (or deserve) to be.
However, it should be said that a fairly common expression refers to the notion that everyone has an opinion. An opinion is not necessary evaluation, in that effective evaluation is specific. Specific evaluation avoids the cheat phrases that arise in everyday life: ‘it draws me in’; ‘it emphasises the point’; ‘it creates an effect’. These phrases will carry many people through life (and their exams). It will not, I hope, carry my best students onto where they want to be in their thinking.
I don’t think I’ve stressed enough my point that evaluation might be different for an exam as it might be for thinking in life. Evaluation is specifically part of examination criteria. The woolly statements on the marking criteria (such as ‘insight’ and ‘sophistication’) point towards the need to evaluate more than the generic PEE. For a positive marker (of whom there are meant to be many), evaluation is to be prized above all.
I mentioned the prize of this exam technique in the context of perception. Perception is one thing that every thinking person has. Every thinking person has an awareness that what they think and feel – the things that drive us – are not always things that we control. These experiences are, however, things that define us beyond a car or a house. Our perception ensures that people can experience the full gamut of emotions even without some of the lived experiences that a full cultural capital can bring. Of course, our perception is not affected by exams: at least not in a positive way!
Well, the effect of your perception on evaluating texts can be positive in that it instigates a heightened awareness of things. This made me think of the often-attributed quote that we only use 10% of our brains. I have often wondered how we can know how much of what we don’t know, but it is a useful quote nevertheless. It suggests that our minds are more capable and potent than we realise.
Of course, I applied the above thoughts to the notion of being a teacher. I often think about why I am teaching because taking such a job for granted makes it into a people-job. A people job necessarily risks taking people as commodities. It risks seeing teaching as a product-based profession where students exist to create results. This is, I think, for every thinking teacher (and how many aren’t?) anathema. Therefore, there needs to be something for a teacher more than just the act of getting students to achieve in exams (although that is the acceptably measurable variable by which a teacher should be judged).
As a teacher, I appreciate how my life changes depending on what my students do. I revisit my past -experiences both imagined and lived – when I vicariously experience the perceptions of my students. I don’t just write flippant outcomes: I imagine what students might do if they believe in their ability to perceive the world around them in positive, thinking terms. And by believe, I mean value (perhaps amongst almost everything else).
I spoke about giving a practical example of how evaluation of a structure could inherently interact with each point. I suggested that this expands evaluation beyond a simple PEE attempt. For example:
Evaluating the character of Link
Focus is on how he desperately wants to be close to others, even though he left his home.
– He leaves because of Vince, and fails because of him. The reader feels… sympathy?
– He is ripped off through naivety. The reader feels…. anger?
– He has little sympathy for his GF: why? The reader feels… he has perhaps somewhat brought situation onto himself?
What do I hope my students gain from this? That there is a fallacy that comes with thinking that you can analyse or adjust one factor, and understanding of the whole will arrive. Or, more likely, that it is valid to analyse one line in isolation. This is implied in teaching: that you can talk about one idea in isolation and that it can be changed for effect. For example, you can change the paper you print on, or the emphasis on coursework, and it will change the range people think.
These things will, though, affect how someone is perceived in a job. And that is a measurable thing.