Friday, April 26, 2013

Zero Factor Property in Assessment of Teachers

 A little bit of a venting session here...

(good teacher) (good lesson planning) (x) (y) (z) (aa) (ab) ....... (student effort = zero) = 0

In other words, a student can have the best teacher in the world...the best teacher that has ever lived...the Babe Ruth of teachers...the Beatles of teachers...but if they don't do their part, they won't learn anything.  Learning requires effort on the part of the learner.

As we all move into formal assessment of teacher effectiveness, I can't help but wonder about a lot of things.

Politicians and bureaucrats have put together assessment requirements which consider factors that contribute to teacher effectiveness.  But to my math teacher mind, we must have all of the factors to get the "right" answer.  That of course depends on which question you're trying to answer.

How should a teacher be evaluated if one of those factors out of his/her control is zero?  or very small? Isn't the student a factor in their own performance?

I have not seen much reference to student factors in teacher effectiveness, (Does the student want to learn?) and (Does the student do the things required)?

A further factorization of student factors gives us...

(does he attend class) (does she pay attention/take notes) (does he study) (x) (y).... (z)

.........But these are not used to evaluate our teachers or our educational system.  Almost all of the weight is placed on the teacher.  The teacher factor is important, but if student effort is zero, the result will be zero, right?

I am all for evaluation of teachers, but I am not for unfair assessment.  Teacher quality is surely one of the most important factors in learning, but becomes irrelevant if factored with zero or a fraction.

Why don't any of the assessments I've seen consider what the student is doing to learn?

I see video examples of great teaching all the time.  These videos typically show a scene in a charter school with students wearing uniforms, 100% engaged and aggressively TRYING to learn.

In my teaching I work very hard at making it easier for students to want to be engaged.  In a sense, I am a performer on stage, I make lessons interesting, fun, relevant, organized, and all of the other things.  I believe that I am a good teacher who continues to try to improve.  I'm not perfect, but I am working towards it.

But the fact is, many students just don't care and let's face it....some students work hard to NOT learn

I would like to see this student factor in the equation. 

(good teacher) (good lesson planning) (x) (y) (z) (aa) (ab) ....... (student factor = zero) = 0

Don't even get me started on students who add a negative factor to the equation!