I have heard the phrase “Teacher Performance” used in many Tweets recently and it made me think… just what is “Teacher Performance”?
I looked up the word “performance” online and found the following:
per·for·mance http://img.tfd.com/m/sound.swf (pr-fôrmns)
1. The act of performing or the state of being performed.
2. The act or style of performing a work or role before an audience.
3. The way in which someone or something functions: The pilot rated the airplane’s performance in high winds.
4. A presentation, especially a theatrical one, before an audience.
5. Something performed; an accomplishment.
6. Linguistics One’s actual use of language in actual situations.
These definitions seem to put an emphasis on performance as an act.. especially before an audience or a functional thing…. how well is a task actually done.
Now, as a teacher I have two major problems with these ideas.
(1) Teaching is not about the “sage on the stage”. I used to “perform” for my pupils in the sense that I felt it was my role to entertain as well as impart information. My classes were no doubt fun places to be in but did the children actually learn anything and most importantly (as I now know) did I give them the right conditions and support to learn?
(2) How does one assess the functional ability of a teacher? Yes the pilot rated the plane’s performance in high winds because it is an object, it has a task and it can be assessed on the delivery of an end result. How does this happen with teachers?
Well the idea is that they have an end result which is test scores..so the higher the test scores the greater the functional ability (performance) of the teacher. But hold on we are talking human beings here and there are so many possible inputs that can affect the final result (the tests). In my plane example I can factor for weather conditions but can I factor for a hijack or someone trying to fly the plane into a building? You see we now have the complexity of human behaviour having to be factored into the equation.
On a test day a child may be ill, the weather may be awful, they may have missed sleep, lost their pet dog or just scored their highest ever score in that game they never seem to stop playing on the iPhone.
The teacher’s input to the process can have been crucial or very small. So, when we assess performance what do we go on?
The teacher can act out well in front of his class (tick the box)
The teacher has a brilliant relationship with his pupils and understands their needs (tick the box)
The teacher has a facilitated a really good learning environment (tick the box)
The children in this class are under-achieving in standardised tests (cross the box, performance is bad…… report, humiliate…. fire!!!)
What is teacher performance? I don’t really know for sure but one thing I do know is that it cannot be about their children’s test results alone. In the end the things that really count for many of the students in a teacher’s class are the things that cannot be counted.