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Associate Professor John Turner - Assistant Professor of Music at High Point University, North Carolina, United States

In the pursuit of academic rigor, there frequently arises a call to "Raise the Standards!"; but, in creating ever more competitive grading scales, instructors implicitly teach students to value product over process. In such an environment, students who feel pressured to excel become risk-averse, consistently avoiding creativity and critical thinking - both aspects of process.  Instead, they do whatever it takes to generate a product, even if it involves cheating or plagiarism.

Academic rigor and high standards are worthy goals, and necessary for any honors program, but the wide road of punitive grading  actually leads to the destruction of the very values we hope to instill. In fact, psychological studies of creativity and motivation suggest that the narrow gate of ungrading may be the more effective course.

In his workshop, Mr. Turner will discuss unintended effects of grading systems on intrinsic motivation and creativity, share his perspective on ungrading, and discuss a case study from the Honors Scholars Program at High Point University. Attendees will have the opportunity to design or revise a summative assessment with ungrading components.

John W Turner was trained as a musician and holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is currently Associate Professor of Music at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, where he serves as coordinator of general education instruction and assessment in the music department.


He began working in honors education in 2013, serving on the HPU Honors Committee and teaching honors students in contracted courses. In 2019 he was inducted into the inaugural cohort of Honors Faculty Fellows, where he has developed and taught four new courses in the program, and mentored students in creating their summative ePortfolios. 


Mr. Turner’s teaching and research is formed by the liberal arts tradition with a focus on the connections between music, identity, community, and wellness. His courses typically include a studio component involving songwriting or soundscape compositions, and his current research includes studies of music and social identity in post-war Japan and twentieth-century Cambodia.

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