Building a Boring Teacher
The New York Times published an article in their magazine this past weekend titled “Building a Better Teacher“. The article outlines the task of placing better teachers in classrooms. The trouble comes in when defining “better teachers”. What makes a good teacher? In the US, the yardstick for “good” teaching seems to be standardized testing, which is whole barrel of worms I’ll get to another time.
The article revolves around a series of instructional techniques called Lemov’s Taxonomy, a list of characteristics supposedly found in effective teachers collected by educator Doug Lemov. I say “supposedly” because the measure of a good teacher appears to be based on a combination of standardized test scores and some unknown subjective measure. I think the ranking of teachers needs to be based on a sound system of measurement with reproducible results; otherwise, what’s the point? Garbage in = garbage out. It’s like using astrology as the basis for scientific measurements (no offense to any budding astrologers out there).
Reproducible results are hard to come by in education, especially with the huge disparity in each child’s background (e.g. socioeconomic, genetic, educational). It’s a complicated area though, and I commend Lemov for giving it a go, as haphazard as the attempt may be.
However, when the article veers onto the subject of content-based knowledge, I could not agree more. Frankly, I’m shocked it took so long for the article to make this point. Content-based knowledge is the foundation of effective teaching.
Of course, a knowledgeable teacher does not necessarily make a good teacher, but I think it’s a minimum requirement. After that? Well, to accurately assess teachers, we need an appropriate measuring stick for teachers, and for this we need to look at what exactly we want students to get out of their education. Do we want them to become better at standardized tests? Do we want them to enter prestigious universities? Do we want them above a certain salary in 5 years?
Maybe the whole practice of assessing teachers has no basis in reality and poor teachers are a consequence of the dysfunctional education system they are part of. Perhaps that’s where we need to focus our attention.
Filed under: education, Teachers | 2 Comments