Assessment and Grading Flourish in the Classroom and in Sports | Nick Dressler | 7 Min Read

A confession: I’ll admit to being rather fond of the sports analogy. Analogies in general are trenchant teaching and learning devices. They leverage shared prior knowledge and forge intelligible connections for efficient communication absent the condescension and sermonizing that can plague a standard presentation or article. They presume the speaker and listeners are equal, in other words, and inhabit the same world. In particular, the sports analogy relies on common shared experiences that, when juxtaposed with academic paradigms, provide a useful if imperfect comparison to the teacher’s role in the classroom. Most people have played sports, after all, and, even if they haven’t, the idea of learning something new — not memorizing, mind you, but actual demonstration — learning something new not for the sake of a test and a subsequent grade, but for the self-actual purpose of performing the skills in a real-world environment. People understand this, even if they don’t necessarily locate it as learning proper. In sports, you have practice and then the game. You don’t practice for the sake of doing well in practice, you practice to perform well in, and eventually win, the game.

So here it goes:

Given its popularity, I’ll assume it’s safe to reference The Last Dance, the documentary chronicling the rise and fall of the Michael Jordan Bulls’ six-championship dynasty. I’ll admit to never having seen the series, although, because I was a young Midwestern basketball player and fan in the 90s, this Bulls team effectively defined my childhood, so I more or less lived the content of the series. Late in game Six of the 1997 NBA finals, with the Bulls leading 3-2, arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time, the sport-changing Michael Jordan, the game on the line, the team’s fifth championship in his sights, passes the ball to a wide-open Steve Kerr, a borderline all-around NBA player, but an ace shooter, who promptly drains the shot and wins the title for the team. If Michael Jordan were a student in a traditional school and the subject was basketball, he would score a 99%, A+, top of the class. Steve Kerr, on the other hand, wouldn’t top 60-65% — barely passable. But what everyone knew, what the Bulls knew, what Michael Jordan knew, was that while MJ was significantly better than Kerr in almost every single category, Kerr was the better long-range shooter. If single numbers on a…

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Nick Dressler

Nick Dressler is an English Teacher at De Smet Jesuit School (MO) and an OESIS Network Leader.