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New World of Work

Graduates or Innovators…??

By 13 November 2019No Comments

Psychology Today: Inverse Relationship between Grades and Innovation.

From a very early age in our education, we are always taught that the measure of success is in our grades. If you want to get into a good college or university, have the most of the opportunities, or get the best job… you absolutely need to have good grades first. There is no getting around it, and students are taught that not only a lot is riding on their test scores, but that there is only so much opportunity to succeed out there (only if you get good grades).
Hence, students are more stressed about their grades now than ever before, buying them into the sense of competition that begins with ranked grade lists in middle school and continues to the honour roll in high school and university. This competition for the top rank encourages students to work hard and help us to measure the potential of our best and the brightest.

But are grades the right measure of success?

Grades are a good measure of how well you can reach the same conclusion as the teacher. However, according to Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk, our current school system was designed for the First Industrial Revolution, where convergent thinking and following directions were paramount to workplace success. However, now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have realised that the skills and attributes play a major role.

We are now in the 21st Century, and workplaces are looking for people who are innovative, empathetic and good at learning new things. Moreover, we are looking for people who are divergent thinkers and are ready to look for new ways of doing things. Since grades don’t measure those skills, Google, one of the big companies, has declared that GPAs are worthless in case of hiring professionals.

Though we continue to push students towards high grades in order to prove their potential, an NYU study says that a higher GPA is not only not an indicator of success, buy is actually inversely correlated with one of the most important 21st Century Skills: Innovation.

Does that mean good grades students turn into a bad innovation orientation?

Innovation itself is hard to measure. A study surveyed over 10,000 university students from the United States, Canada, Germany and Qatar across a wide range of fields of study. Through this study they were trying to understand student’s innovation intentions and future careers. It stated that the factors responsible for an increase in innovation among students can be encouraged by faculty members by forming relationships with their students, encouraging and appreciating their problem-solving and argument developing skills. But your GPA? The lower the GPA, the more likely you are to want to innovate, to create something new. The higher your GPA, the lower the innovation intention.

Why aren’t good students’ good innovators?

The study indicates that innovators are more likely to be naturally motivated; they don’t need to be rewarded by others to go after something that they believe is meaningful or interesting. Grades, on the other hand, are an external motivator. Students who are competing for that top spot or highest score might not be as good as putting in work on something that they don’t know will lead to a reward. Not having a clear picture of what success looks like or how to game the system to get the highest score can make innovation and entrepreneurship less appealing for people who are motivated by grades and high GPAs.

This NYU study emphasizes that schools and educators can change the way they teach to encourage more innovation, because at the end of the day, that’s what we are going to need. By encouraging debate and discussion, offering open-ended assignments, and increasing opportunities for self-directed learning and peer collaboration, our classrooms could help to foster more innovative thinkers.

Let us know your thoughts about the same.

Purnima Kabra