A press release issued this morning by the NASUWT teachers union reveals how 21% of teachers surveyed reported having had adverse comments posted about them on social media websites.
When I look at that, I think of the operant conditioning that Bjork (1994) says teachers become the subject of. Bjork (1994) explains that teachers become conditioned by reinforcers such as the happiness of trainees or performance indicators. Psychologically speaking, neither of these are valid measures of quality teaching, so such would be a flawed system.
I looked on ratemyteacher.com to see what was being said about the teachers in my old high school and I was mortified.
First of all, let’s take a look at what a good teacher gets:
Now let us look at a badly rated teacher:
Again, I would say this is a narrow minded comment coming from an immature student. I remember being taught by the teacher in question, and I remember being told off a few times. But I also remember the reason why: because I was disrupting the class. This was a good teacher, from whom I learned a lot. I enjoyed attending her lessons.
Last of all, I have some words to say about the sub scales by which teachers have been rated. Easiness is just a joke. If we reward our teachers for making it easy, we really are on a race to the bottom. And helpfulness and clarity are definitely not evidence based scales if we are looking to cognitive psychology for a robust measure of teacher quality. Going back to Bjork (1994), we learn that making it harder is a much more effective way of fostering durable learning. Techniques such as reducing feedback or varying the conditions in which students practise what they learn (Bjork & Bjork 2011) are much more effective teaching strategies.
Now I do not dispute for one minute that there are some rubbish teachers out there. But I also have a lot of sympathy for what I believe to be a majority of teachers who are trying their best to teach in ever toughening conditions. There is a scholarship of teaching and learning, against which teachers ought to be judged and encouraged. It is wrong to measure teachers against shallow performance indicators and the angry mob of rebellious students and misinformed outspoken parents. The whole logic of sites like ‘Rate my Teacher’ or any abuse through social media is more likely an example of ‘stupidity of the mob’ (Wheeler, 2012). Abuse of any type is wrong anyway.