Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Boost Panorama Survey Results, or Teach Children?

That's a choice we're facing, and I'll tell you why.

Yesterday I parodied the Panorama Survey, as I've been doing every time they put out a new one. I understand that it's important we treat students with respect, but I'm not at all sure that's what this survey measures. There are a whole lot of questions about whether the teacher is doing an adequate job, and there are a whole lot of reasons why the responses may not be accurate.

Here's one. I taught summers and evenings at the English Language Institute at Queens College for about 20 years. I came to college teaching from high school teaching, and thus my methods were a little different than those of colleagues with different experiences. I'd often hear laments from them about poor behavior in classes.

I never had any such complaints. Once, we had a very young student who was immature and problematic. I called his parents and had no more issues. My colleagues were shocked. The general behavior of my college students was such that I could accomplish much more. I could go over material in half the time I was used to. If there were behavioral problems, I stopped them instantly. I was used to far worse.

We were rated by the students, and that was quite a big deal for the program. After all, they wanted to increase business, being a non-credit, optional program. One semester I got a bad rating. This was a big issue. I determined to never have that happen again, and the secret sauce for that was not at all difficult to uncover. I stopped bugging students to do the homework. I stopped bothering people over poor test scores. Sure, I got less homework, and lower test scores, and sure some students didn't learn as much. But my rating went through the roof. From that semester on, no one criticized me for anything beyond my awful incomprehensible handwriting.

I know exactly how to beef up my Panorama Survey, but I won't do it. I'm in charge of teenagers whose judgment is not yet what it needs to be. I will continue to insist they show up, they show up on time, and they not only do homework, but also participate in class and prepare for exams or projects. I know some of them will not like that. I know that this will result in their trashing my ratings. I'm prepared to live with that.

It's interesting that there are no questions whatsoever on the survey that relate to student responsibility. Judging from the survey, they haven't got any and the onus is entirely on the teacher. Where's the question about whether or not you attend class, or how often? Where's the question about whether or not you're cooperative? Where's the one about whether you're passing all or any of your classes?

Any administrator who shows you that survey and asks that you adjust your practice to address its criticisms is opening herself up to the awful truth. You can easily game this survey if you wish. Just stop bothering the students who need bothering. Stop trying to teach them that responsibility entails actually showing up and doing what you're there to do. Stop intervening. Let them play games on their phone instead of doing the classwork.

That will have the added benefit of allowing the students who wish to focus more opportunity to do so. If the disruptive students are kept busy playing video games, there will be no time for them to disrupt class. Let them put on their earphones and listen to music, or watch Netflix. The students who want good grades will thus have more of your attention and do better. Your survey results with Race to the Top, and it's a WIN-WIN!

Except, of course, for the students who might have benefited from your intervention. They'll fail, and get Left Behind. But hey, if that's what administrators want, then I'll be happy to sit down with them and explain how we can boost the survey results. Just don't come in here with that Danielson crap that says you want them to participate, or learn.

You can't have it both ways.
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