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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Why are Teachers made to use their valuable time so inefficiently?

Why are Teachers made to use their valuable time so inefficiently?

First of all what do I mean when I talk of efficiency?  Efficiency is (output/input x100) % so when I speak of efficiency in relation to teachers’ time I refer to the time they spend on a task compared to how much it enhances the learning of their pupils. Based on this definition of efficiency, two very inefficient tasks are marking and data analysis, both of which are banes of teachers’ lives.
Marking
The absurd amount of marking that teachers ‘have to do’ occurs for two reasons:
1)      Parents, governors and inspectors falsely believe it enhances the performance of the students: it does not.
2)      It is quantifiable and so is useful as a task that can be ‘box-ticked’ on a sheet.
It takes hours to mark a class set of books together with the comments for correction and how to improve or progress to the next level.  The books are often returned to the pupils days later at the start of a lesson on a different topic.  The reality is that the pupils look at the mark, glance at the comments if they can read them (the teachers’ comments may be illegible to the pupils) and that is it.  The teacher does not have time to discuss each comment with each pupil and they have to ‘press on’ with the syllabus in order to complete the necessary work ready for the next test.  Also, so much has happened in the pupils’ lives since they did the work that the impact of the comments is often lost. 
The time spent marking could be used far more efficiently in researching resources or keeping abreast of all the excellent educational tools and ideas out there such as the ‘flipped classroom‘ and ‘twiducate’ to mention just two. The reason teachers are not given the autonomy to use ‘marking time’ as suggested above, is because by using it in this productive way they cannot be ‘checked up on’ and boxes cannot be ticked.
Data Analysis
As with marking, data analysis takes up much of the teachers’ valuable time.  The ‘worth’ of a school or of a teacher is now measured by the number of A*-C grades that have been obtained in certain subjects.  The ‘worth’ of a pupil is measured by how many A*-C grades that pupil has obtained in these certain subjects.  The above has resulted in schools and teachers focussing their efforts on trying to obtain these grades and ignoring what education should be, ie. to create independent learners.  As a chemist, I now think schools have become ‘A*-C grade’ factories and pupils not achieving those grades in the ‘certain subjects’ as by-products of the factory. 
It is wrong that a teacher’s worth, pay and prospects should depend on this data.  It is always ‘how can we get this ‘D’ up to a ‘C’?’  It is never ‘well done for getting this student up from an ‘E’ to a ‘D’.  Is there any wonder 50% of maths and science teachers leave the profession in their first three years.  Also it is the committed and conscientious teachers who are leaving.
When I was doing my Diploma in Education at The University of Sheffield back in 1969/70, I’ll never forget the words of my professor ‘You are entering teaching at a very interesting time’ – if he only knew how right he was.  Had I been told, back in 69/70, the ‘state of affairs today’ I should not have believed what I was being told.  What I do believe is that the majority of changes have not been for the better.  In those days teachers were given the autonomy to use their time for the benefit of their students, not, as today, being told how to use their time for the benefit of appeasing Ofsted.
I feel saddened when I go into school and see and listen to committed teachers so frustrated by being shackled by ‘the system’. 
As in many walks of life, policy decisions in Education are often made for financial gain or by those who have not spent time at the chalk face.  If they had to spend a year or two ‘actually living their decisions’ in the classroom and at home they would never make those decisions in the first place or be in that 50% leaving teaching within three years.

I rest my case.

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