Teacher Productivity Vs. Teacher Effectiveness

Teacher Productivity

Many teachers on their first day of work feel naked–shoved into a room with a few behavior theories, some lesson plans, a few dos and don’ts, and not much else.

Like architects and television producers, one must be both an artist and field marshal.

One of the biggest challenges I see in the design and administration of our education system is confusion between what is “teacher productivity” as distinct and separate from the art of teaching or what I’m defining as “teacher effectiveness.”

“Productivity” is a set of tools. However in teaching, “effectiveness” is an art.

For the most part, preparation of new teachers seem to be more on the trappings of teaching, not on the act itself. Professional development about the art of teaching is done in a non-explicit way. Metacognative it ain’t. Learning the art of teaching takes either a natural God-given unconscious talent, real ingenuity, or a work environment that allows for constant co-teaching, coaching and mentoring.

“Productivity” is a term from the industrial age–to increase the rate of output. However, as in that old adage I like to tell efficiency experts, “If it takes a woman 9 months to have a baby, then two women should be able to do it in half the time,” this definition of “productivity” doesn’t fit all situations.

Effective teaching is mixed up with “teacher productivity,” but should be distinctly defined. “Teacher effectiveness,” as I define it, is the ability to cause someone else to learn. It has everything to do with the ability to reach students at that very human level–to pass information from one to another and have it absorbed in a useful way. As with any art form, it also has a set of skills.

In the education system of today, many problems are caused by one of these skill sets being applied where the other should be employed. For example when adult professional development is run like a 3rd grade classroom. Not really the most productive situation. Or when efficiency is strictly applied to children’s learning timeline. You know this isn’t very realistic if you’ve ever been a good teacher.

Effective teaching is clearly important and why we are all here. But what of productivity? If you can teach one student a lesson in 20 minutes, then it should take 40 to teach two? Productivity steps in and one can insert tools into the process allowing 23 students to be taught the lesson in the same 20 minutes.

But for the act of teaching there’s a limit to teacher productivity. There is a point at which teacher productivity (when being applied directly to the act of teaching rather than everything surrounding the act of teaching) reaches diminishing returns. One could imagine a day in which public school teachers might be given bonus pay based on how large a class they could “teach.” I’m sure class sizes and bonuses would grow, and perhaps they could successfully teach to a test, but learning would be negatively impacted.

More and more the “content” of what we need to teach is becoming less measurable in a bubble sheet. The ability to perform on standardized tests, regurgitating information, does not equal success in creating a workforce to sustain the economy.

We are no longer teaching a “working class” as our culture thinks of it in a hold-over definition from a pre-information age. Today’s education system was forged out of the industries of the 19th century–creating little factory workers who could show up on time, do basic calculations, behave and communicate sufficiently to hold a job. In today and tomorrow’s workplace there are few jobs like that. Today, everyone is a web-producing/computer science/technician. From the Safeway checkout clerk holding a laser scanner to a truck driver with a satellite computer on the dashboard, jobs require an interconnected set of skills. Specialization is for insects. Today’s workers (even at the bottom most rungs of the economy) need all the skills of a 20th century manager, plus some: collaboration, critical thinking and a basic knowledge of technology being just a few.

Still, everything in the field of “productivity” does have a place in education. There is no point at which that old definition of productivity gets maxed out when it is applied to everything in education which is not the act of teaching.

So going forward I’m going to focus on these two concepts: “teacher productivity” and “teacher effectiveness.” I’m going to list the tools, means and ways the productivity experts have come up with over the years and how they can be applied to the administrative, troublesome and ancillary aspects of our jobs as teachers. I’m going to list and think about all the ways teachers can become more effective at their craft–the art of teaching. And I’m going to try not to mix up the two.

How we navigate the next few years in education will define the economic growth over the next century. A lot hangs on how we define “teacher productivity” and “teacher effectiveness” because those definitions will drive the redesign.

By the way, I’m importing the content from my previous Clairvoy blog and rewriting it so that it is aligned to this new goal. The Archives will fill back out over the next few weeks.


To Have and Have Not

Now I’m reading Hemingway, and Ravitch …

Hemingway wrote:   “They’ve got to get rid of us.  You can see that, can’t you?” “Why?” “Because we are the desperate ones.  The ones with nothing to lose.  We are the completely brutalized ones…we have been beaten so far that the only solace…and the only pride is in being able to take it.”  And later, the lead character take a final breath and utters life’s lesson, “No matter how, a man alone ain’t got no bloody … chance.”

Cyber-Bullying is Just Bullying

There’s a saying that the music is not in the piano and, in the same way, the learning is not in the device.

One could add, “Bullying is not in the software, app or device”.

Social Media in and of itself is not “Harmful”.  Bullying is harmful, the medium is not.  The medium does make it easier to be a bully.

Social Media is not under the control of schools or parents and there are at least a dozen social apps doing the same thing for any one app currently the rage, or a school is considering banning.

Blocking the media is an impossible task.

A progrom of abstinence against any one app, software or device will only make it more sought after.  Over the years, abstinence has not worked well with alcohol or teen sex.

Blaming the media will not help.  It’s like calling pencils “harmful” because anonymous notes can be written with them.

“In fact, pencils don’t natively identify the user when students use them to communicate (many times without the teacher’s knowledge).  The user has to decide to write their name on a note for the user to be identified.”

Sounds ridiculous, but it’s a sentence from a school system’s memo about why a certain social media should be banned, with the word pencil inserted.

Back in the day, nobody blamed the pencil, or the bathroom wall for that matter.

Jargon like “Cyber-Bullying” and “Digital Learning” is made up by marketing people selling something. Like many people selling added security, scare tactics work best.

Imagine what type of pencil school systems would have to buy if pencils were held to the same standards as collaborative technology.  A pencil that identifies the user, keeps a draft of every draft the student writes and keeps a draft and identifies the student and what they wrote on any other student’s paper he or she might write on.  What, about $45K per writing utensil?

Just a thought, so the way we speak about this subject going forward makes sense.

It’s a matter of not bullying in any medium.

A Different Type of Student Newspaper

I’ve got a new gig as Journalism and Media Adviser at a public high school here in the same system in which I’ve been working.

We created an online newspaper. It’s interesting. The high school is what is called “Alternative” which means we have students who are just a little too grown up to put up with cheer leaders and jocks.

We have 250-some students working a 4-block schedule and no football team or other sports.

We do have 46 some parents among our student body and a host of other uber-talented folks who have a lot to say.

The new newspaper, The Mountain View Mirror, can be found at mtviewmirror.com.

Here’s the 101st post, which I wrote about reaching 100. http://mtviewmirror.com/the-mountain-view-mirror-newspaper-reaches-100-posts/

Tips for Writing Well

1) Remove unneeded words

2) Use simple words, and short sentences.

3) Don’t use cliches.

4) Read it out loud. Make it sound right – like someone talking.

5) Punctuate so somebody else can read it out loud and it would sound the same.

Sales and Marketing:

1) Know your audience

2) Write in a way appealing to them.

Managing & Leading

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”  Less often quoted, King followed that line by uttering, “Where there is no consensus, there is no leadership.”

The ITRT’s job has grown at the exponential rate of technology.  As Moore’s law has it, doubling every two years.  The job description is intentionally left vague.  Each school is different, “custom”, so our individual jobs should be molded to the needs of the school.  So we are left to act as independent consultants without independence.

A snippet from Seth Godin on April 17:

“Part of the challenge of selling custom work is that it sometimes seems that everything is up for grabs. You should stay up all night for a week. You should rearrange the orchids in order of smell, because even though it’s not in the spec, hey, that would be good service…Promising perfect is actually not nearly as useful as promising what the rules are.  Boundaries eliminate the temptation to bully. State them early and often and don’t alter them and believe it or not, the client will be happier as well. They didn’t sign up to ruin your life. They signed up to get the most they could from you and your team, and the limits are the limits.”

Seth is talking about folks offering custom work and getting bullied by their customers.

Three ways ITRTs have dodged the bullet and are hiding:

1) 5% of us have just gone into the lab serving TTT-time so the service we are providing is clear to all.  Giving up so much opportunity in instructional technology for job clarity is something even I can understand–some bad days.

2) Some of us have hidden behind excel, using the ritual flags of “data,” “datasorter” and “datawall” as voodoo incantations, cast to obfuscate and confuse.

3) Heck, half the time we are toting around laptops for the standardized weighing of the children.

Needless to say, none of these are solutions for the tsunami of new (as yet unseen) responsibilities pushing our way over the next 24 months.  TTT-time doesn’t integrate the technology into the classroom (where it belongs), sorting data is not helping integrate technology into instruction (where it belongs) and standardized online testing is not integrating technology into instruction (where it belongs).  All of these things are our job, we’re not arguing that.  All are important to the functioning of the school, we’re not arguing that either.  And all three amount to about 8% (in today’s list of duties) of the overall duties of an ITRT in a small elementary school.

So with our job duties about to double in the next two years, how do we manage the limits without the independence to quantify them?  How do we market what we do to our client base to assure we surf the dawning tsunami of new responsibilities and not succumb to the deepness of the waters?