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Perspective on Grading: Interview With Dr. Gary Kaskowitz

March 27, 2012

A short time ago, I wrote a blog post reviewing John Bader’s book called “Dean’s List” and I mentioned that I would interview one of my professors about one of the concepts contained therein. So, for a brief introduction, I interviewed my marketing professor, Dr. Gary Kaskowitz. He has authored one of my textbooks for this year called “Brand It Like Barack” and he has four degrees in various areas of study.

John Bader explains in “Dean’s List” that grades are mainly superficial; shallow; nearly meaningless in many cases. His justification is that numerical grades are mostly a particular teacher’s indication and personal bias of what they believe you have learned; not what you actually learned or can apply to your life. So, in that sense, as soon as one graduates or leaves an institution, the grades you received near meaninglessness because the teacher’s opinions of you do not matter to your job. Bader cites certain circumstances that make his presumption untrue, such as moving on to graduate school. For the most part, he feels that grades are a shallow construct and measurement of what students are learning and should not be taken too seriously.

This presumption upset me a little bit because my mind immediately jumped to professors who teach in anything BUT traditional lecture style settings. Actually, my first thought was Dr. Kaskowitz. I have had him for two classes in my college career and have thoroughly enjoyed both classes. I think this is because it isn’t traditional lecture classes. He is interactive, asks challenging questions, and plays games in class (inserting the occasional joke that flies right over most  of our oblivious heads) to help uslearn the concepts of marketing, consumer behavior, and branding. The part that aggravated me was that I felt like John Bader’s statement was intended not as a generalization, but an accepted fact:  grades don’t measure learning.

MBA, PhD, Moravian College, ProfessorSo, I interviewed Dr. Kaskowitz and shared my perspective about his class and how his grading system works. I asked about his perspectives on his own system and his class structure. His thoughts are included here.

There are levels of learning and two of the most basic levels are factual learning and conceptual learning. Factual learning is when you memorize and accept information as factual and true and you are capable of explaining things based on this factual information. Conceptual learning is based on using the facts to reach applications and from applications to more in-depth applications or alternative applications in varying situations. The two can be viewed as a “forest versus tree” perspective. Are you looking at the details and facts (trees) or are you looking at the concepts and applications (whole forest)? Dr. Kaskowitz explained the importance of being capable of doing both and having the ability to apply both in different ways to optimize your thinking and learning from each class, including his own.

An application for how to use the forest/tree analogy is inductive and deductive reasoning. By the process of Inductive Reasoning, one can view the tree and assume that it is possible there may be a forest surrounding them which includes the tree (hence the realm of possibilities or opportunities). By the process of Deductive Reasoning, one can view the forest and deduce that there must be trees (facts) in the forest to make it up.

Regardless of the reasoning approach we use, Dr. Kaskowitz encourages utilization of both and honing of the weaker one so we can develop the ability to use both skills effectively and appropriately. He said that we should make an effort to optimize our learning and challenge our traditional beliefs of learning by using methodologies we are not accustomed to using and always try to look at it from a perspective not your own. He believes, as I do, that his classes teach that to some extent; that he challenges us to think outside our own box and in multiple ways at once, which creates a directionality that is multi-focal.

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