Tuesday, 13 May 2008

What's The Measure of Good Teaching?

When the dark side of Management philosophy meets the dark side of Educational psychology you can bet that something rather unpleasant will occur. Devising a 'technique' to train children in 8 minute bursts into performing so that their teachers and their employers can look good is a creation like Frankenstein's monster. Probably well intentioned, yet not very intelligent, ugly and uncontrollable.

Obsessive managerialism pervades much of the approach to education management, and so it should come as no suprise that bureaucratic fixation with administrative process rather than personal outcome takes over. Norton and Kaplan's well known phrase 'what you measure is what you get' is more profound than most people give it credit for, and in developments of that line of thinking from 'what get's measured gets done' on to 'what gets rewarded gets done first' it is easy to see the consequences of an un-thinking technical approach.

For an educational psychologist to devote time and energy (and money?) devising a mechanistic method for adding tenths of a percentage point to pupil performance as if he were training an Olympian is a betrayal of the educative process and an abuse of the pupils under his charge. Where is the benefit for the pupil in this? If you can't see one then it is clear that this is manipulation of the young, innocent and powerless for the gratification of others.

To change the action the driving philosophy needs to be modified. Public Service management is lagging years behind contemporary commercial practice. In a commendable attempt to provide transparent and helpful indicators of performance the baby has got thrown out with the bath water. Where are the measures of pupil or staff experience?

Teacher's need to be able to engage critically with this dominant management philosophy and take it on. For many it is part of their natural vocational attitude to be concerned with true learning outcomes, but as soon as they are introduced to the form of management training provided by their employers they are exposed to a dated and uniquely skewed Harvard MBA-esque version of what management is supposed to be about. i.e. management is a 'science' it deals dispassionately and un-emotionally with objective things that can be analysed and measured. This is NOT the only version of how to manage organisations and performance.

It seems there is a void in Thought Leadership. In concentrating on 'subjects', the opportunity for connected learning is missed, in merely processing pupils through the system scant attention is paid to developing their thinking capability, in seeing a school as a 'machine' no effort is put into the 'brain'. Is it any wonder that the gap in basic philosphical attitudes to life that this leaves is filled with the crap that gets pumped into young minds through the Idiots Lantern, the wall to wall violence and destruction on 24/7 news coverage and the vaccuous philosophising from half-baked Celebrities and then we wonder how it can be that young people are so keen take each others lives?


  1. I want to comment on this post rr, I really do, but I get so angry when I start to think about the idiocy that has brought us to where we are today in education that I daren't start the rant, for fear of exploding with frustration before I get to the end.

  2. I'm sure your feelings are shared by alot of people Daisy. I suspect too that advantage is taken of 'straight from college' teachers too. I know its an old chsetnut but perhaps people shouldn't be allowed to teach until their 30s not for the pupils sake but their own!!