Multivariate Model

Just read an interesting post at Phil Ebersole’s Blog titled “Can we grade the teachers?.” Ebersole talks about the recent LA Times coverage of LAUSD teachers and the evaluation of their performance. A substantial string of comments follow the post and most of them are interesting; however, many of them smack of push-back from teachers and professors.

I’ve often felt frustrated with our general hesitation to measure teaching practices and effectiveness. Many of us (especially the faculty trained in social sciences) routinely measure or accept measurements of phenomena as complicated as pedagogy. However, we often collectively balk at measuring the effectiveness of teaching under the common criticism that it is too subjective to measure. This is a thin argument that does not speak well of us as professionals. If we were to seriously accept this argument, we would need to stop measuring and analyzing other subjective human endeavors like law enforcement, marriage, parenting, healthcare, disaster response, discrimination, etc.

We as professional teachers and faculty members should acknowledge that teaching is as measurable as any other social phenomenon and embrace a dialogue around analyzing our practices. With that said, I am often frustrated with the measurements used to assess teaching because they frequently ignore the well established idea that learning is a multivariate activity. Many factors influence the learning process. Teaching is definitely one of the factors, but so are student engagement, academic infrastructure, learning support services, parental (or significant other) support, financial resources, and more. The consistent measurement of teaching’s  impact on learning, conducted without consideration for the other factors that impact learning is bad science and in this sense warranted of push-back from the academic community.

The Cerritos College Student Success Plan (www.cerritos.edu/studentsuccess) attempts to establish a multivariate approach by measuring five general variables that impact learning: teaching practices, student engagement, academic infrastructure, instructional programs and learning support services. As we roll this model out, we will need to work toward bringing all five together into a composite model. 

Q: What do you think of this approach? Do you know of anyone that is already practicing a multivariate model as described above?

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