Sunday, April 14, 2013

Journal editors had bad science and math teachers

Journal editors share their upset this morning, link, over what they believe is proof that teacher evaluation isn't working.  They arrive at a correct conclusion, but by fallacious reasoning.

They reason; if half of students are failing while 97% of teachers are getting satisfactory evaluations, then teacher evaluations aren't working, because, if 97% of teachers are teaching satisfactorily, then 97% of students, or nearly that number, should be succeeding.

Clearly, the editors have never taught school.  Despite the fact that all any of them has to do to learn whereof they speak is to sign up as a substitute teacher for a day or two, it appears that none of them have.

Had they, they would know it isn't as simple as, good teacher = good student.  They would know that there are factors that affect student's learning that are far beyond the capacity of even the best teacher to remedy; not the least of which is apathy.

Whoever first observed that a horse can be led to water, but not made to drink, hit the nail on the head.  You can lead a student to educational opportunity, but you cannot make them partake. There is no such thing as a disengaged learner.  Education is not something you can do to someone else regardless of their interest.

There is a causal relationship between motivation and learning.  Motivation is the leading indicator student success.  More mature learners can learn something they are not particularly interested in.  They employ self discipline in place of intrinsic motivation.  With immature learners, there is not self discipline enough to pursue learning despite their lack of interest and enthusiasm, and there will be no learning.

It is unreasonable to hold teachers accountable for learner's motivation.   Motivation to learn must be brought to the classroom by students.  It would be nice if we could identify teachers who can interest dis-interested learners.  There is of course, no such thing as a teacher who can interest the dis-interested.

All any teacher can do, all anyone can do, is to point to information.  Whether a student finds that information interesting enough to learn, motivating, is beyond a teacher's influence.  Which is not to say there aren't teachers who are better or worse as enabling students to become motivated themselves; teachers who have more interesting information to share, or who share it more enthusiastically than others.  There are better and worse teachers.

But if we really want to raise the rate of success in schools, the increase will not follow better teacher evaluation, it will come when we stop the practice of taking children who come to school bursting with enthusiasm and interest, and tell them to sit down and shut up.  It will come when we stop telling students to forget about what they're interested in, and instead to sit down in one of five rows of six desks and join 29 other kids to "learn" about something else instead.

Before anyone takes a position on holding teachers or anyone else accountable for the failure of public schools, they really should substitute teach, for at least one day.

Apply here, link, or forever hold your piece.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen to that!
I've been teaching for 15 years, and always being told to "Engage every student".
A good teacher can engage the group certainly, most of the time.
But you are right that there will never be 100% engagement due things such as: death in the family, divorce, learning disabilities, snot-nose bratism, poor parental attitudes, homelessness, bullying, puberty, etc.....
Yes, we should be engaging the majority of the class, the majority of the time... but there's no full-proof system.