The Resources Seminar – The Set Task
The resources seminar explored the idea of meritocracy through a group task where each group was given the same activity but with different materials and treatment. The task was to design a starter pack for new university students using the contents of an envelope provided to each group. Whilst some people were supplied with all sorts of stationery such as blu-tack, elastic bands, different coloured paper and plenty of pens, other groups were limited to one or two items. This left them with very little to work with and therefore made the task a lot more challenging.
The groups with more materials were constantly praised for their efforts, given extra attention and they were even offered biscuits. The others received very little input or were completely ignored which left them feeling even more exasperated by the task set ahead of them. When it came to presenting, despite the high quality of all the groups, the so-called “best” ideas were still those that came from the groups with more materials. This puzzled me at the time as it seemed that there was a lot of effort put into every presentation and I personally believed that one of the best groups was one who presented all their thoughts with the limited resource of a plain piece of paper.
This task challenged me as it took me a while to notice that everyone was not being given equal opportunities. The reason for this is because I was part of one of the better treated groups and I think that it is a lot easier to feel confident, comfortable and do well in that situation and not to notice the others who are treated unfairly. Those discriminated against, on the other hand, were extremely vocal at the end of the seminar as they had seen the inequality throughout.
The point of this exercise was to explore the whole idea of meritocracy and how that can be seen in society, particularly in the context of education. Meritocracy refers to people being rewarded through their merit; usually with power and status. In education, this is when children progress on the basis of their attainment and that makes it difficult for those who do not achieve highly to improve at all. Often children from schools in affluent areas do better so they have an unfair advantage over children in inner city state schools and low income homes for example. As with the exercise, the people with resources were rewarded and at an unfair advantage. This raised the question of whether this is a risk in our education system.