Marking a Physics paper (aka: Pay your teachers more... aaka: the system is borked!)

2개월 전

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Too often, teachers are seen as glorified babysitters... People and governments dump their kids into schools, massively underfund the whole system and then wonder why it doesn't work. They will point to the contact hours being less than 9-5 on weekdays and the fact that there are school holidays and summer holidays to tell teachers that they are vastly overpaid for the time that they "really" are working... There is no support from the system (and mostly year after year, it is reduced...) and parents will readily blame the teacher in preference to recognising any fault in themselves or their precious children.

Well, as a tutor and private teacher... let me tell you all of this is a load of crap! It is akin to going to a shop and telling the workers that they should only be paid for the face-to-face time that they actually spend with a customer... and that all the rest of the "work" is just expected overtime. Or to tell a politician that only the hours that they spend "in chamber" should be paid for... and any other research/policy formation/meetings should be just conducted in their own time and not be paid for.

So, this Physics paper is a case in point. I was asked to help a student prepare for their coming exam... and they weren't able to make a lesson due to a pending Coronavirus test. So, I asked them to just forward me a scan of the paper and I would mark it and return it. Just a single paper (19 pages) for a single student.

Now, the easiest thing would be to just grab a mark scheme and just tick and tally the points that were hit... or just take the answer and give all or nothing. It would be done and dusted within 15 minutes. However, that is a crap way to teach... as the student learns nothing, and comes away with the idea that Science and Math is all about being right or wrong (which it isn't... but that seems to be the common conception...).

Seeing as I'm the sort of teacher who actually wants to guide their students to discovery and knowledge (I'm sure that most teachers start that way... but many get jaded due to lack of support from the system and continual blame from the parents...), I'm actually reading through each question and answer... figuring out what they did, and commenting all the way through on what could be improved, or where things were misunderstood and a suggestion on a different path to try.

This takes time... especially with newer students who haven't grasped the fact that answers isn't the whole game. In fact, it is arguably the least important part of the game... how you get the answer, how you present the answer in a logical manner and how you can defend your reasoning... all of these things are more important than a spew of numbers on the page that happens to hit the right combination of symbols at the end.

So, after about 2 hours... I had all the comments and suggestions for improvement in. I know this family, and they are really grateful for the extra work. However, I would suggest that not all parents realise the difference.

Now, I don't blame teachers and markers in general for the lack of extra effort... I blame the system and the continual cost-cutting and the ongoing de-valuation of skill and time. It is a problem that is endemic to all sectors of the economy, and one that politicians and the general population haven't really come to terms with yet.

Not everything can be made into a metric that is easily measurable, and if it is... then perhaps it isn't a totally representative metric. Thus, you are prioritising many things that are trivial but easily quantifiable. Makes for good reading on a annual manager's report! But is crap for the system...

Not everything is easily priced... In a day and age where the balance sheet between profit and loss is paramount, things that can't or aren't priced are devalued. The student learns better if the teacher puts in more time and effort... but if the metric is papers marked (and the efficiency is tied to funding...), then there is the perverse incentive to devalue extra effort and time in favour of MORE MARKED PAPERS! Aka... do a shit job, because we don't pay for quality... we pay for quantity... if you want quality, do it in your own bloody time!

Sadly, both these problems can be expanded out to society and capitalism in general. We value the things that can be priced... but the really important things can't or aren't priced, therefore, we focus on things that aren't important and then wonder why everything doesn't work!

Blah... crank out finished!


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