Haley Scholar Reading Groups
By Cindy Lyles
The query “Are smart people overrated?” threads through Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Talent Myth.” By chronicling the strategies that McKinsey & Company management-consulting firm offered corporations like Enron, Gladwell explains that failed businesses quite possibly fell short on account of the very thing that seemed to make them outstanding—the talent mindset, or “the deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors” (Gladwell 358).
One specific practice McKinsey promoted to businesses trying to place “better talent at all levels” within respective companies was that of differentiation and affirmation. This technique is a process of assorting employees into tiers based on performance. Those in group one would be employees who are “challenged and disproportionately rewarded,” and the next group would include workers who “need to be encouraged and affirmed” (Gladwell 360). The bottom group consists of those who are in danger of losing their jobs due to lackluster performance. Quite evident, each rank is distinguished and calls for divergent levels of affirmation.
Although the article demonstrates how differentiation and affirmation work in the business world, the concept is quite portable and apposite in other institutions, like colleges and universities. In what ways do differentiation and affirmation manifest in collegiate education systems? Who benefits from the strategy, and for whom does it prove problematic?
One of the ways that differentiation and affirmation manifests in collegiate education systems is by separating students based on performance on ACT, SAT, or APP test scores. A group of students all coming out of high school entering college at the same time, with the same major can be separated into different coarse levels based on their test performances. The group of students with the lower test scores (below average) will be placed in academic development courses that don’t count as credit towards their majors, while the group of students that scored higher (average or above average) will be placed in higher level courses that will count towards their majors. The students with the higher test scores will benefit because they can immediately begin taking classes that will count towards their degree, along with being challenged. This can be both problematic and beneficial for the students that tested lower. These students may take longer to get their degree due to taking class that will not count towards their major, but they may acquire the skills needed in the academic development courses to succeed in the higher level courses.
I think its obvious that sometimes racial status determine differentiation and affirmation in colleges and universities. With minorities being the bottom group that is in danger of dropping out of college or "need to be encouraged and affirmed." It is a stereotype that will be very hard for us to ever overcome. no matter how many students that do try really hard to excel in college.
There are several ways in which the process referred to as differentiation and affirmation plays out in higher education. I have chosen to reflect on how monies are dispersed to help students cover the cost of their education.
First the grant process, many public and private grants require a minimum grade point average. If this gpa is not maintained the student runs the risk of not having the grant renewed.
Second, there are scholarships awarded based on a student’s grade point average. As with the grant system, if a student fails to maintain a certain gpa over a certain period of time then they run the risk of losing their scholarship.
Finally, I will mention student employment. Many universities set a side on campus employment to help student offset some of their educational cost. Again, most of these types of jobs require the student to maintain a certain gpa.
There is a direct correlation, I feel, between a student grade standings and the amount of monies a student may find to help pay for said education. The opposite is also true. If a student consistently receives poor grades, financial resources tend to dry up.
One way students are differentiated from the rest of the group is through the honors system. High school students with high grades are encouraged to join the honors program and to explore different leadership opportunities and coursework. These students are set aside from the rest of the crowd in housing as well as specialized courses. Aside from having a specialized curriculum, the honors students must also meet gpa requirements to stay in the program.
One of the main ways that universities differentiate college students, as Phillip said, is through the administration of financial aid. Students that had shown great potential in high school and previous college experiences are more likely to receive money to help them pay for tuition. Also, in order to keep the scholarships and grants, the students must support their end of the bargain for receiving such money offers by maintaining a certain grade point average. I believe that this is more than fair. By receiving money from the university to attend, you are representing the university.
This is very helpful to those students who may be smart enough to go to college, but may not have the funds. However, this is problematic to those who may have slacked off in high school and want to go to college but cannot afford it. For them, it is unlikely they will get any support from the school as they may see the student as an unsound investment.
I believe That one way differentiation and affirmation manifests in collegiate education is by what Kamery McNutt says having all these different standardized test scoring a students performance and using that score to base off if you should allow them into the college or what classes they need to take, some students may be really good in a subject but due to nervousness from a standardized test may score low and then have to take a lower level class than they need to.Another way differentiation occurs is through different collegiate programs like Phi Eta Sigma Honors Fraternity. You have to have a certain GPA to be apart of this program and that is seperating people with Low or Medium GPAs from people with Higher GPAs.
One of the ways colleges differentiate and affirm their systems is placing students in courses based on high school grades/GPA and ACT/SAT scores. A student may be ready to take a course of a certain level, but they are not advised or allowed to because of previous grades. So, the student has to take an extra course in order to fulfill their requirements. This benefits the college because they are getting the money for each extra class that the student must take, but then the students are spending the extra money for an unnecessary class.
I think the people who benefit from these kind of strategies are the people who are hard workers, and who make the grades. These people are then rewarded by better recogniton. On their transcript it might say honors course or advanced placement. Realistically we hope that the people who are a head of the game motivate those who are slacking and aren't on their jobs.
I could see differentiation and affirmation being applied in the foreign language department. Before I took spanish classes, it was strongly suggested to me to take the language proficiency test to see if I could test out of some spanish classes. I can see the positive and negative aspects of this. There could be a student who performs poorly on the tests however, the student fully understands the material and has to take classes that is soley review for them. Also, there could be a student who performed well on the test but is not close to understanding the material. Then, that student will fall behind and have a difficult time in spanish classes. The postive aspect of the differentiation and affirmation is it can help place students into the right places that they need to be in. There are students who do take the proficiency test and are assigned to the correct classes they need to be in. They then can work on from there and perform well.
At the collegiate level, differentiation and affirmation find its way into it in various ways. An obvious way is through scholarship money. Colleges offer students scholarship money and the students continue to receive this money as long as they maintain a certain grade point average. This benefits the people that receive these benefits and gives these people the incentive to continue working hard so that they will continue earning the needed grades to keep the scholarships.
I also see differentiation and affirmation in colleges when colleges only allow a select people into their programs. This obviously benefits the people that are able to get into these programs because they are in the program and able to continue getting the desired education that they want. This can become a problem for people that do not get into the program because it means there is no guarantee that they will get into the program and will have to work harder to get in. Having programs only accept a select number of students can help programs choose the best of the best and give these students the desire to work hard so that they will be able to get into these programs and earn their degrees.
Students are differentiated in various ways. One way is the amount of financial aid one student may receive; someone whose parents do not have an “average” amount of income might get more aid then someone else, which is understandable. Another way is the stereotype that Asians are the smartest ones and African Americans are the “slowest” or the “laziest”, but sometimes students do exhibit this stereotype. On the other hand, there are plenty of African Americans who are underrepresented in some cities and they go unnoticed for their efforts and grades.
I also agree with what many people have said about the forms of differentiation: performance (whether on standardized tests or tests in class, as well as race and SES) but for incentive, I relate to those for whom self-affirmation is the incentive. I know people who work hard and put everything they have into being here because it means so much to them just to be here. While requirements for financial aid, like this scholarship, may help people who otherwise couldn't come to college, I think the primary motivation should be the satisfaction in knowing that the time we spend here is meaningful and will change the rest of our lives. It's cool that we have honor societies and all that, but when you look right to the core of it, students have to be willing to invest themselves in their education because they truly believe something good and enjoyable and worthwhile will come out of it. Those who don't benefit are those for whom the value of education has no meaning yet.
In collegieat education, people are usually seperated by their GPA or more likely by their major. Some majors require a much more higher education than other majors. Students with a high GPA usually tend to go with the higher eductation major. Also people with higher GPA's tend to get scholarships which will help pay for their education while people with lower GPA's have to get student loan which they'll have to pay back.
I think that one way in which differentiation and affirmation is used at the college level is in determining what level of classes students can take, based on their prior academic performance in the subject area or their test scores for that subject. For example, when taking math classes students are sorted based on their ACT scores and on their previous math performance; if they have done exceptionally well in math before, they are allowed to take higher-level math classes without having to take any prerequisites. This is beneficial to those students who do well at math because they don't have to take a lot of entry-level math classes in order to finally take the math classes they need. However, differentiation may prove problematic for those students who have scored poorly at math on the ACT but who need to take a specific math class to fulfill some requirement of their degree. Rather than just being allowed to take the math class they need, because of their lower ACT score they have to take a series of entry level classes first, which gives them less available scheduling time for the other classes required for their degree.
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