Monday, November 26, 2012

The unintended consequences of grading teaching

"Attempting to manipulate behaviour by incentivising the achievement of certain targets is not new, and the UK education system is blighted with the consequences. We know that such targets distort behaviour, from their first trials in the US Army during the Vietnam War. Influenced by the RAND Corporation's ‘rational choice theory’ and ideology that pure self-interest drives all human behaviour, the US Army introduced incentives for body counts, with the unintended consequence of a substantial increase in civilian casualties. Introducing performance management schemes into academic life requires quantitative measures of performance in academic work for performance indicators. This is the quantification of essentially qualitative developmental data. There is no good or useful purpose that such dubious quantifications can be put to, and I believe there are likely to be unintended consequences which are serious and detrimental for both teachers and teaching."

The unintended consequences of grading teaching (2012) Teaching in Higher Education 17(6), doi 10.1080/13562517.2012.744437
This article examines the possibility of a ‘Teaching Assessment Exercise’ and attempts to quantify teaching quality as part of performance management schemes for academics. The primary sources of data are identified as student evaluation of teaching (SET) and peer observation of teaching (POT). The conceptual and empirical issues in developing valid and reliable teaching quality indices from SET and POT are critically reviewed. The difficulties of using such data for academic performance management are discussed, focusing on the tensions between using such data both formatively for professional development and summatively for decisions about employment.

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