A Question of Quality

(cross-posted by Eric Démoré at The Learner Sherpa)

My dad likes to say:

I’m a classy guy. It’s all low class — but I’ve got lots of it.

He’s just being a goof, of course, but his joke carries some philosophical weight. It begs a question that every self-respecting pedagogue must ask at some point:

What should we aim for: QUALITY or QUANTITY?

Q-words are worth a lot.

‘Quality!’ I hear you scream. Why aim for anything less? And you’d be making a valid point. We expect quality in schools, just as we expect quality from the things that we buy and from the relationships that we forge. Quality is valuable. Quality is rare and beautiful.

But quality might not be everything. In fact, sometimes quality is not possible, nor should it be desired.

I love chocolate. So when I get a craving, I know exactly where to go: Soma in Toronto, where chocolatiers make everything in-store from cocoa pods they purchase directly from their South American farmers. Soma’s chocolate bars are exquisite. Heaven in your mouth. But also $8 from your wallet.

Much as I love making kids happy on Halloween, there’s no way I’m giving out a hundred bars of premium-grade Peruvian organic chocolate. Because for $8 I can buy a mega-box of assorted Nestle garbage chocolate which, in addition to saving me a lot of money (OK, I’m cheap), ensures I have enough to go around. Kids get treats, I save money. Win-win.

Cheap? Low-quality? Absolutely. But sometimes the moment calls for lots of something — not just a really good something.

Writing coach Deanna Mascle recently tweeted:

Writing teachers expect quality writing from young writers. But we’ve come to understand that quality writing is impossible without having practiced writing, a lot. The same goes for reading. Unless you’ve put in the flight hours, you will not be a quality reader. A quality commercial pilot has tens of thousands of hours under her belt. That’s quantity.

You might even say that, when it comes to learning, quality is only possible through quantity. Want to make something good? Make a lot of it.

In the coming week on #SlowChatED, I’d like to hear what you think. Let’s do this!

Q1: In your own learning, which Q-word do you value more?


Q2: What’s the best-quality result you’ve ever worked toward?

Q3: Outside of school hours, into what have you sunk the greatest amount of hours?

Q4: Is it possible to teach someone Quality?

Q5: What place does Quantity have in learning?

Q6: Share an example, be it in or out of school, of when less was more, and/or when more was more.