Giving an incomplete

In the world of college or K-12 school grading, getting an "incomplete" is a bad thing. It signifies that the learner did not submit enough work to get full credit on the assignment. It operates inside a factory metaphor where the students are producing outputs and the instructor is a "Production Foreman".

I've recently come across three diverse sources that recommend giving an incomplete.

  1. Jay Cross and Clark Quinn launch their approach to "meta-learning" with a story of an experiment involving two groups of students. The group that is told the assigned paper "might not be true" -- scores better on the test of reading comprehension. As they say: "Uncertainty engages the mind".

  2. Kathy Sierra added a wonderful post to her Creating Passionate Users blog titled: "Don't make the demo look done". She explains for the feedback from users becomes much more insightful and valuable when the graphics are sketchy and the design approach appears undecided.

  3. Last night I watched the DVD of "In America" with the film's Director commentary playing. Jim Sheridan explained that he does not tell actors how to play a scene. He asks them for help in "fixing the script" and asks the actors to invent something better than what the script says to do.
All three examples get outside of the factory metaphor and the role of "Production Foreman". Each way of "giving an incomplete" undermines the superior stance of the "sage on stage", SME with slides, overbearing authority or unassailable expert. All three set up "learning from learners" and "transparent teaching".

1 comment:

  1. David Harper1/26/2007 1:30 PM

    nice synthesis! Let me add one more example: O'Reilly publishes "Rough Cuts" of books while the authors are still writing them (e.g., I'm a few chapters into a book that will be published in April 2007). They aren't done. Plus the author gets feedback (in effect, the audience becomes editors). The "expert" is not production foreman, he does not need to be perfect and i don't need to wait for his perfect arrival.