Thursday, 20 September 2012

Alternative Grading Scales

I've been asked to be part of the Observation of Learning and Teaching team at my workplace, alongside acting as mentor for some new teachers. I love watching other teachers strut (or fail to strut) their stuff in class - it's always fascinating to see different group dynamics, and an opportunity to pick up ideas for teaching that I may nebver have considered, or indeed be reminded of things that I've forgotten or not used in a while. Last year's observations for my DELTA were great, although I (probably fortunately) didn't see any car crash jobs. A shame in a way, as a lesson Where All Your Shit Goes Tits Up makes for excruciatingly fun viewing, as well as giving a salutary example inasmuch as a) things can go belly up for anyone and b) things going wrong are often a better teacher of technique than things going right. My favourite buggered-up lesson involved a teacher losing the plot, getting sidetracked, then eventually pretending to be a seagull before perching on a table, squawking.

Anyway, being an observer inevitably involves paperwork, and feedback. Oh, lovely feedback: that moment when someone smiles at you as you both sit down in a room lit by fluorescent strip lighting, smiles even more brightly and says, 'So, how did YOU think your lesson went?', the you say what you thought, and hope that you aren't going to get a Shit Sandwich* back.

A lot of these feedback sessions involve someone saying, 'on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate that?', or something similar. B.O.R.I.N.G.
I was thinking about this the other day, and started wondering whether you could scale things in a different way. After all, getting teachers to be imaginative can only be a good thing, right?
So why not ask them something like this?

'On a scale of monday morning to saturday night, how good was that lesson?'

When you start to think about it, this makes a lot of sense, in a leftfield kind of way. An observed lesson should, in theory at least, be a typical lesson - how the teacher delivers the class on average, rather than the manically prepared, coiffed, perfumed, shaven, dolled-up confection of  a lesson that is the norm when you know that someone's coming in to take notes. I'd say, on this scale, anywhere between thursday at 11.30 a.m. and friday at 7 pm (with another bump on saturday between 1 and 6.30 pm) means it's a good lesson. Anything before thursday would be dull or below par; anything after friday 9.30 pm would be loud and overblown;  and saturday at 3 a.m. would be a lesson that's hoiking kebabs into the gutter.
Anyway, I'm going to give this a try, and devise some for marking student essays.
Probably something along the lines of

'On a scale of Beaker from the Muppets to Animal, how incomprehensible is this essay?'.

*Shit Sandwich: the act of an appraiser giving you feedback where they start and finish with positive comments, filling the bit in between with a steaming pile of criticism, invective and bile, as in:
'Well, I liked your class file. Unfortunately, your lesson went down worse than a drunken whore, and you are, quite frankly, a stain upon the entire teaching profession. However, I was glad to see that you have a nice tie on.'

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