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NO.419 07.30.2018

Have You Heard of “Gradeless Report Cards”?

Professor Nathaniel Taeho Yu of the University of Virginia has an unusual keen interest in the ‘future of education.’ The focus of his research is on how education should respond to the current civilizational transition, often referred to as Industry 4.0. In his book titled, Education is the Hope in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, published last year, he offers this thoughts and possible solutions.


In his new book Gradeless Report Cards (Kyung Hee University Communi-cation and Press) Professor Yu adds more detail to the possible solutions he proposed. It summarizes ‘competency assessment,’ focusing on the competency-based education that is being promoted among the 100 top private high schools in the U.S.


Students and instructors can freely change subjects
Q) In the recent publication Gradeless Report Cards, you claim that quantitative evaluation must be halted; instead, schools should adopt ‘competency-based assess ments.’ How should education change?


A) As discussed in my previous book Education is the Hope in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, education in the new era must seek ‘the essential substance of education.’ In other words, education should help learners reach human nature in that we are not assessing the value of manufactured goods but discussing and debating the nature of humankind.


These days, all students learn the same subject and take the same exam. Exams are the end point of any learner’s study. However, ‘competency-based assessment’ is different. Rather than being evaluated for a letter grade, the goal of the assessment is to develop one’s capability in a specific area. Students are encouraged to develop their capacity in an area they desire. If you like math, you are allowed to study more math; if English is your forte, that is what you are encouraged to study further. You delve deeper into an area of your personal interest and desire. The book introduces ‘competency-based assessment’ cases from the U.S., where this evaluation system was introduced earlier.

Q) Does that mean boundaries between subjects will collapse, too?


A) The school subjects, as they are currently defined, were not created with the students in mind; they were defined from the perspective of the instructor. Competency-based education puts the learner at the center. How to teach, and what to teach are both determined according to the learner’s wish. Devoid of predetermined programs and curricula, subjects are constructed by what the students want. Hence, learners and instructors can freely change school subjects as they desire.


School curricula converge with the goal of identifying the learner’s personal ‘color’

Q)The assessment seems to warrant some preparation in order to promote overall change in subjects and classroom instruction.


A) Schools in the U.S. are also concerned about what and how to prepare for this new assessment; and they have a lot of work to do. That is why some interim solutions have been identified to implement them in stages. Classrooms remain the same, yet assessment is different. They plan to offer students a choice between ‘competency assessment’ and ‘grade assessment.’ Ultimately, they will do ‘competency assessment’ based on a convergence subject.


The framework for assessment is there. ‘Competency assessment’ is not a paper-based evaluation; it is being developed as a digital evaluation. We plan to record all student learning processes that occur in the classroom. Currently, we are targeting a rollout in 2020 and expect that all classrooms will change within the next ten years.


Q)‘Competency Education’ maximizes what the learner does well. On the flip side, does the learner become deprived in other areas?


A) The goal of ‘competency-based education’ is not equal growth in all competencies. In the end, we want to develop all different individuals in as many different ways. If all competencies are filled to 100, every individual is developed to be the same person. We are searching for the area in which an individual excels.


In other words, it sets out to find the individual’s unique ‘color.’ Up to now, education has focused on mixing all colors together to generate the achromatic neutral tone. Competency assessment is not a score; it brings out the personal attribute in each individual. We are aware of the issues raised by those who espouse educating the whole person. It is possible to think that future talent will demand all around competency. This is an area that requires continuous discussion.

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