Teacher Performance & Assessment

Here’s another article looking at the options open for mechanisms to monitor teachers’ performance, to work on teacher motivation and raise standards of education.

Business Standard – Motivating Teachers

The article highlights just how difficult it can be to create systems for performance management for teachers without, inadvertently, causing undesirable outcomes. The writer correctly identifies that a system that sees more testing of children just to assess the teacher is fraught with difficulties and potential injustices.

As I was reading it, I recognised that this has a link to a wider concern that I have been feeling for some time. The way school education systems today are structured and designed, we have millions of people working towards objectives that are almost certainly the wrong objectives. What I mean by this is the following.

Suppose I am a ‘very good’ teacher, with the result that every year the children in my class perform well above the mean for children of their age in the standardised tests which have been set for them. What does that actually mean? Does it mean that I have done something that fully equates to and reflects the bigger purpose(s) of school education?

In fact, can you really know when a child is 9 years of age and you have interacted with her and her peers for one year that you have done right by her as an educator? What about, for example, if somewhere, the teacher when teaching Maths planted a seed in the minds of a few of the children that a topic they are going to learn later is very difficult and some of them will struggle with it? What if, unconsciously, the teacher conveyed certain messages to both boys and girls in the class about expectations of the kinds of careers that women should pursue, with the result that future decisions and attitudes were negatively impacted. On the positive side, what if a teacher was able to counteract a negative attitude in a child brought about by a home environment marked by negative criticism, with the result that that child was able to break out of a family cycle of failure and disillusionment?

None of those outcomes would have left ‘marks in the sand’ at the time when the teacher was working with those children. The outcomes of what teachers do with children, positive and negative, can sometimes take years to manifest. It is bad enough that our education systems already motivate teachers towards short-term thinking and goals, because the systems themselves discourage them to think beyond the time within which they are to fulfill their duties in relation to that child.

I was once speaking at a conference of English teachers. I asked them to put their hand up (honestly), if they had ever said or thought “Well I taught them it, it’s not my fault if they don’t know it.” Every hand in the room went up with much embarrassed laughter. Somewhere, education systems need to address the fact that the child is ‘in it for the long haul’ and needs certain outcomes which are life based. A system in which the teachers have outcomes based solely and purely on a one year time frame cannot be sure to meet those longer term aims – even accidentally!!

So, is it time for some out of the box thinking? A few countries have experimented with having teachers stay with one class of students for two or more years (at least some longer term perspective coming in to the child’s experience). Or, do we say that it’s the task of school management to make sure that what teachers are doing serves the long term needs of the learners (even whilst rewarding their short term actions)? Do we give parents a bigger say, on the basis that they (of all people) should be most attuned and aligned to the child’s long term needs?

Would be great to have people’s views and thoughts on this.


2 Responses

  1. The long-term impact of what adults say to children can often be so debilitating. I’ve heard many exasperated pronouncements of ‘when will you start using your brains’ or ‘why don’t you use your brains’. Effectively what we’re telling the child is that he’s not using his brains right now and in that one statement, we’ve ensured that it could possibly stay with the child for really long. Respecting a child’s way of looking at things could be one way of addressing this issue.

  2. Motivating teachers to learn and seek a deeper understanding of not only the subject they teach but also have a lot of stress free interactive time with the students to contrrbute to the growth in each child’s emotional development, I feel, is the key to raising the quality of teaching.
    Involving parents sounds absolutely utopian. But then is it possible to keep bias minds at bay ? Whenever teachers have to present something or hold a workshop, often experiences/ pedagogic knowledge is taken into account.Would the parents be screened? …to comment on a teacher’s performance?!!
    Isn’t there a more interactive way that could be organised amongst the teaching fraternity ..to keep eachother motivated, build teams and appreciate eachother’s strengths and have regular feedback sessions with the leaders in school???

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: