Enter uniformity, Exit creativity

By David Shapiro, Ph.D.
July 30, 2015

Enter uniformity, exit creativityIn the past several years, the American Psychological Association has become concerned about the quality of graduate education. There is a great emphasis on making sure that all graduate students in psychology get the same training, are graded on the same criteria and therefore can be evaluated according to a uniform scale.

This focus apparently comes from the Department of Education pressuring APA and similar professional organizations to make sure the institutions they accredit produce high quality (read uniform) scholars and practitioners. Instructors are now told that they must have similar if not identical syllabi (if there are multiple sections of a course being taught, that the content of the course must be identical, that the grading criteria now captured in what are called “rubrics” are consistent across courses, and that all students coming out of the programs are somehow trained equally and equally well).

From the point of view of many professors, including me, who have been teaching in excess of 20 to 30 years, we find these restrictions somewhat stultifying, and oppressive. Somehow, all the creative teaching we have done in the past is devalued because we cannot guarantee that all students are being taught the same things and graded on the same criteria. It appears that creativity has gone out the window and conformity is the new standard for education.

With this in mind, I recalled the song Pete Seeger recorded in the early 1960’s called “Little Boxes on the Hillside.” With apologies to Seeger, I have rewritten his lyrics as follows:

Little Rubrics, in the syllabi
Little rubrics made of ticky tacky
Little rubrics, little rubrics, little rubrics all the same:
There’s a stats one, and an ethics one, and a cognitive behavioral one
And they’re all made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.
And the teachers who write the rubrics All work at the university
And they all have brilliant students
And the students go to class.
And the students get their doctorates
And return to the university
Where they all write little rubrics, little rubrics all the same
There’s a stats one, and an ethics one, and a cognitive behavioral one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same!

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