What Does Satisfactory Mean?… What Does it Tell You

In my last posting I noted that I am reading David Perkin’s, Making Learning Whole. In Chapter 5, Working on the Hard Parts, he examines the role of feedback in learning. He describes the problem with what he calls the hearts-and–minds theory: “Take it to heart, keep it in mind, and do better next time.”

Perkins (pages 80-81) identifies that a hearts-and-minds approach assumes that:

  • learners care enough to improve, even though the class is moving on to the next topic
  • learners will remember the input and use it in the future
  • learners understand sparse feedback and can use it effectively
  • learners will have the opportunity to try again soon.

This suggests to me that much teacher feedback on students’ tests and papers may be wasted teacher time.

Similarly, much administrator time spent in formal teacher evaluations may be wasted time. Consider the following taken from Stephen Sawchucks’ writing for Education Week (6/1 online- 6/10 in print), Grade Inflation Seen in Evaluation of Teachers, Regardless of System.

The districts that employed a binary rating system granted 99 percent of tenured teachers a “satisfactory” rating. In systems with more than two categories of ratings, 94 percent of teachers received one of the two highest ratings.

The evaluations also appear to have failed as a method for offering professional development tailored to individual teachers’ needs. Seventy-three percent of the teachers surveyed said their evaluations did not identify an area for development. Only 43 percent said the evaluations helped them improve.

Nor did the systems serve to remove ineffective teachers. For instance, only 10 percent of Denver schools missing standardized-testing goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act issued an unsatisfactory rating to a teacher over the past three years. Yet 81 percent of administrators and 58 percent of teachers in the districts surveyed said a tenured teacher in their school was performing poorly, and 43 percent of teachers said a colleague should be dismissed for poor performance.

Many of the administrators may be practicing a heart-and–mind theory of feedback.
“Take it to heart, keep it in mind, and do better next time.”

Perkins shares (page 84) that one of the dilemmas of ongoing assessment for teachers is the lack of time. Teachers do not have the time to provide all the feedback that students need for quality learning. He suggests that students evaluating one another’s work and evaluating their own work with rubrics can provide valuable feedback. He believes that students can learn as much from assessing as being assessed.

I’m personally convinced that when students take some responsibility for each other’s learning, student achievement increases. The teacher’s role is to orchestrate that interpersonal relationship.

Principals face the same time dilemma in getting sufficient feedback to teachers. So developing the interpersonal relationships of teachers in professional learning communities and peer coaching becomes a critical administrator responsibility.

Last summer, I shared that teachers at the Enka School in Istanbul, Turkey had completed training in coaching and begun initial practice. Here is one teacher’s recent report that illustrates receiving additional feedback and perhaps more importantly increased reflection from coaching.

I benefited from both coaching and being coached. My coach made me see some missing points in my teaching. With the help of my coach I could change some strategies, try them and see the best regarding my class’ needs.

For the coaching part, I could see different strategies and methods. I had the chance to compare different classes and teachers. It also improved my teaching and made me see things from a different point of view.

So, I think the students will gain from our coaching/being coached experiences.

Cross department coaching may be useful. Depending on the subject of coaching, we can learn alternative approaches from other departments.

But above all, we need more free time to spend enough on coaching.

I am quite sure that administrator time and effort invested in promoting peer coaching will produce greater return on investment than most formal evaluation activities. Similarly, teachers designing student to student and student self assessment activities will create more learning than grading papers.

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One Response to “ What Does Satisfactory Mean?… What Does it Tell You ”

  1. gymkoof7 Says:

    Steve, Coaching is a hot issue right now. We really need our students and staff to learn how to do this well. Does PLS plan to put a Coaching course online? Many teachers would find that easier to access than an onsite class. Ginny

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