Thursday, October 30, 2008

Measuring Teacher Performance

I stumbled upon this article from 1999 stating clearly issues raised by teachers regarding student performance in primary and secondary schools. It is just as relevant today as it was then. This shows a number of areas of difficulty measuring teacher performance. I have highlighted some of the areas of student performance impacted by teachers. Many carry through to high school from primary.

I grouped the results into behavioural (primarily learned behaviours brought to the classroom), genetics, environmental (factors with limited control by the teacher), structural (constraints imposed on a classroom) and societal factors to isolate factors solely controlled by teachers within the classroom. Pedagogy(teaching methods), content knowledge are the two major factors teachers contributing to teaching students.

  • students who are not doing well tend to give up, refuse to try, and this makes the problem worse - this behaviour gets worse as they get older and they start to compare their work with those of other students (behavioural)
  • high achieving students can taunt low achievers and this makes the problems worse
    students with psychological problems (eg, trauma experienced in the home) have trouble learning (behavioural)
  • sometimes teachers can’t work out why students can’t learn - it can be the problem of the teacher who hasn’t worked out how to engage students (getting inside the walnut) (pedagogy)
  • parents refuse to have their children placed in classes for students who have intellectual disabilities (structural)
  • students lack academic ability (genetics/environmental)
  • teachers don’t explain concepts clearly (pedagogy/content knowledge)
  • parents indulge their children so they won’t pay attention in class (societal)
  • parents don’t take an interest in children’s school work (societal)
  • students are transient and so miss a lot of school (societal)
  • it’s more difficult these days to get students placed in classes for students with intellectual disabilities there are children with attention deficit disorder who have difficulty concentrating in class (structural)


  • students haven’t been well taught in earlier years at school (historical)
  • students don’t value school work (behavioural/societal)
  • parents don’t value their children’s school work (societal)
  • students lack ability (genetics/environmental)
  • the system allows students to progress through grades without passing subjects (structural)
  • maturational level - students mature at different rates - they may not be able to grasp concepts now but they could in a couple of years’ time (genetic/environmental)
  • poor teaching (pedagogy/content knowledge)
  • teachers blame the students for poor performance when it’s the teachers’ fault (pedagogy)
  • students have psychological problems because of unhappy home lives (environmental)
  • teachers don’t have a good mathematics background (pedagogy/content knowledge/structural)
  • students’ poor behaviour in class means they don’t pay attention to the work - discipline problems in schools are on the rise - it’s part of wider societal problems (behavioural/structural/societal)
  • students lack self discipline - they’re not prepared to work (behavioural)

It is clear to see that student performance is a poor measure of teaching ability as many other factors exist to influence this criteria. To blame teachers for poor performance of students based purely on teacher pedagogy (teaching methods) or lack of knowledge of content ignores a host of other possible reasons.

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