Teaching the Nature of Accomplishment

Reflection for my Curriculum & Instruction (C&I) reading of:  Ch. 11 Teaching the Nature of Accomplishment, from Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching, Magdalene Lampert, 2001.


I share Lampert’s dual concerns about developing content knowledge and self-image.  In helping my student’s learn math, I want to make sure that I do not negatively impact their self-image, and if inadvertently so, let them know one-on-one that I never intend that to happen and for them to let me know if they ever feel that way again.

Lampert’s method of using public reasoning as a teaching tool seems quite effective at addressing misconceptions within the class without calling attention to any one student in particular.  While many teachers have reviewed test problems that students commonly got wrong, engaging students in the process in lieu of the teacher seems doubly beneficial since peers provide the inputs and commentary without any of the biases that could be associated with the teacher.

I am not so sure about her grading system.  I feel that her associating “all credits” with an A, simply changes the coding and scale for grades where an A is as already defined; a B could be some mixture of credits and partial credits; a C could be all partial credits; a D could be a mixture of partial credits and no credit and an F is all no credits; where any grade aside from A could also be some to be determined combination of credit, partial credit and no credit, and extra credit could be sprinkled throughout, as appropriate.

Since one of her stated goals was to prevent students from easily ranking themselves against one another, it does complicate that effort, however I do not see it as stopping it entirely since students could develop some method to correlate “rank” with the number of credit, partial credit, no credit and extra credit marks they received.  Also, at some point, she may have to defend her grading system to administrators and parents since many will want to make sure judgment is not factoring too heavily into the grading system which opens up grading to biases, manipulation, and inequity; also, in many places, it is state law, via ed codes, that grading policies are explicitly communicated to students and parents so the obfuscation purposely designed into Lampert’s system is exposed in the light of the law.

At the same time, I do agree with the wish to prevent student’s from grouping themselves and others into groups of “smart,” “so-so” and “dumb;” however, students are very intelligent and will decode any attempt to prevent them from making these groupings: it is human nature, like it or not, and whether you try to prevent it or not.


About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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