I was teaching a sewing class last week and our task for the day was to stitch our own key chains. We had 50 minutes to complete the task and 22 of my 24 students were able to finish their project. One of the students who was unable to complete the task was a special needs student that struggled with fine motor skills. By working one-on-one with the student, we made excellent progress and I am sure we will finish the project this week. The other student however had excellent fine motor skills, the student had enthusiasm to finish the task and aside from the extra time it took this student to find a material and thread color; the student worked quite diligently during the required project time but was still unable to finish the key chain.
I do not like to judge the work of my sewing students. I believe sewing is an expressive art form and there are different ways to display creativity using textiles and thread. I must say however, I was extremely impressed by the work of this one particular student in my class! Yes, the student did not finish the project in the required time frame, but the work was exceptional! The stitches had the perfect length and with between each stitch, the buttons were perfectly aligned to form an abstract design and the student further decorated her design by using pinking shears to outline the edges of the key chain unlike any of the other students in class.
When we give students time limits to complete tasks, are we trading quality for quantity? Is quantity more important that quality? If this student were writing a standardized test and they needed extra time to perfect their work; should we judge them as more or less inferior than their other classmates who can perform the same tasks (possibly at a lower quality) but in the required time frame?
Our class will be moving on to a new project this week and my student has asked for a few extra minutes to finish the project from last week. “Absolutely!” I said. “Take all the time you need!”