Best Teachers and tests

I read a post by one Wangjangnim at KoreaBridge and raced off a quick comment. Briefly, Wangjangnim appears to be a hagwon owner and his post attacked teachers for two things – claiming to be skilled, to be the Best Teacher and for making and using tests that aren’t appropriate.

How do teachers measure their effectiveness, and here you will slowly realize why I am against how they do it.  Scores.  Teachers effectiveness are measured by the students scores, but there is a problem.  These tests are created by the teacher.  The lesson are prepped by same teacher.  The lessons are given by same teacher.  The test is given by same teacher.  The test is corrected by same teacher.  Anyone with half a brain immediately understands the problem.  Anyone with a smidgen of understanding of HR practices and ethics revolving around test taking knows that this is simply ineffective.

Tests cannot be objective under those circumstances.  OOOO you say, but that is why we have SAT tests and the like.  Generalized tests that are the same for all students and not dependent on the teacher.  Really?  Those tests are made by teachers.  At least, as far as I understand the Education Industry, tests are manufactured by those mostly occupied with the profession of teaching.  Nothing wrong with that.  Everything wrong with that.

My response there (very slightly edited to remove the silly typos):

There is a real problem with judging how effective a teacher is and I don’t think there is any good method to judge all teachers.  Well, there is no easy method.  If you want to judge a teacher, first test his/her students when they arrive, inform the teacher precisely what you want from him(skipping the ‘/her’ for the rest of my comment) and then test the student again after some time has passed.  Also, do this to more than one teacher so you can see if one is doing better than the other.  Then, make sure you understand, and use, statistics to properly decide if improvement has been made

You will soon find that making and administering a good test takes a whole lot of work.  As you appear to want communication skills instead of grammar and vocab, I suggest asking students oral questions or long answer written questions.  Then you will need to read every essay or listen to every single answer.

I don’t know any teacher that wants to teach TOEIC.  My students are required to take a TOEIC test and that affects their grade but we have never seen the test nor know when our students take it.  Administrators seem to like because it is the opposite of what I described above: it is easy to administer and easy to grade.  If you make a better test of English communication that is relatively easy to administer and grade, you will make a lot of teachers very happy.

I haven’t read your posts before, Wangjangnim, and I don’t know you or your place of business.  Your writing shows you have better English than most of the Hagwon owners I have known.  I am not attacking you personally, but your claim that:

“General Tests are scams.  Huge scams with children, an parents, as victims”

is probably true but, only in the same way, “Hagwon owners are scammers.  Huge scammers with children and parents as victims.” is.  Teachers teach to the test because parents and hagwon owners (and some university Deans) require them to.

I just feel you are attacking a group – teachers – that is not a free agent on the issue.  If you can make a better test, I really want to see it.

Now, there are parts to his post that I like and suggest I may have been too hasty in attacking it.  for example, how to do well in a job interview:

If you truly love your profession, a better strategy would be to show me your passion for teaching and to give indication to things you helped master in- and outside of the classroom.

And he includes some kernel of an idea of how to fix the problem:

We will only know who is truly a great teacher, once teachers stop evaluating themselves, and start being evaluated by the results they achieved with their students through proper assessment tools.  Until then, the ESL mess we are in will remain unchanged.

Teachers are indeed somewhat at fault with poorly learning outcomes in their students.  At the same time, many teachers are often given close instruction in how and what they are to teach.  I am mostly grateful for that as I could really get sidetracked into teaching zombie epidemic survival skills and anti-religious rants, neither of which have much value outside of Youtube comment threads.

On the other hand, I have been told to teach TOEIC skills from a TOIEC book and many teachers here are expected to do the same.  I have taught at a hagwon where the owner required me to be the parrot for movie lines.  We spent months watching Avatar, repeating each line “three to five times”.

I don’t know this Wangjangnim but I would sincerely love to hear if he has a test that can accurately test student’s abilities even when teachers do not ‘teach to the test’. One valid test I can think of would be to parachute students who have finished classes into central Canada and see how quickly they get out.   Ah, maybe a more urban area would be appropriate – we are testing English not wilderness survival skills.  I guess we could test for student’s motivations and their strengths to see how much immersion they can handle but then we run into the Hagwon problem – the owner has two clients: the child and the parent and the latter seems to want TOIEC.

 

I want to be fair to Wangjangnim and I really want to hear what a fairly articulate hagwon owner really thinks.  I hope that my attacks on his post are not fueled by the standard hagwon teacher/ hagwon owner tension and will be following his blog for a bit.

Wangjangnim’s original post.

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4 Responses to “Best Teachers and tests”

  1. Le Patron Says:

    Dear,

    I will take a good look at your post. The main idea of my blog is to get feedback, you have done so, and I will try to give you an appropriate answer ASAP.

    Thank you got your interest.

  2. bighominid Says:

    What does “wang-jang-nim” mean? Is that supposed to be “weon-jang-nim,” i.e., a hagweon president?

    “We spent months watching Avatar, repeating each line “three to five times”.”

    Including the Na’vi dialogue??

    The blogger’s argument seems to be a complaint about the circular and self-justifying process of having teachers create tests, and then having their own performance evaluated according to those test scores. But is this process really circular and self-justifying? If teachers don’t design the tests, then who should design them? People with no teaching experience? That makes zero sense.

    Your comment that there are many ways to evaluate teacher performance is both fair-minded and correct. I’d submit that student test performance is one of those criteria. I should also note that test design is a variable process: some teachers have high standards and design strict, detailed tests; others design tests that are much easier for the students to handle. This affects student performance, and may even affect the way a teacher is evaluated.

    Let’s say that Teacher A, who has very high standards, routinely designs extremely difficult tests. The number of D’s and F’s in his class is depressingly high, but when we compare Teacher A’s students’ performances on objective tests (like TOEIC) to those of Teacher B—who is much more laid-back—we see that Teacher A’s kids, despite scoring low on Teacher A’s tests, perform better on objective tests, like TOEIC, than do Teacher B’s students. How should we interpret these data? Are Teacher A’s students losers or winners in the game of life?

    Student evaluations are also used to gauge teacher performance. Let’s say, further, that Teacher A, who is strict, often receives complaints for his mannerisms and rigorous teaching style, whereas Teacher B is a superstar—everyone loves his pleasant personality and the fact that he doesn’t push his students to the brink of insanity. Teacher B’s students love him, but his students are also poorer performers on TOEIC than are Teacher A’s kids. By the standards of TOEIC, it’s obvious that Teacher A is better at getting his kids closer to their (test-defined) goals, but Teacher B is the one who will be remembered with love. Is this just?

    Anyway, all I’m trying to do is hint at the complexity of the intertwined issues of test design and teacher evaluation. Nothing is simple, and blaming one party—teachers, in this case—is more than a little silly.

    My two cents, anyway.

  3. surprisesaplenty Says:

    Big Ho, I checked the blog title several times to be sure it started with “wang”. Perhaps he is the king of Hagwon owners -if it is possible to do that in Korean it is kind of a cool pun.

    The only Navi’i I made the students repeat was in the scene where the tribal chief died and the daughter kept calling his name which sounded a lot like “my cell phone! Myy celll phoooonee!” It did wake the students up for a few minutes.

    The thing about the post that really bothered me was the suggestion that teachers want the TOEIC test. I guess some do. Woo Soo-yeon, the TOIEC teacher making a million a year from her teaching must love the test. I don’t know anyone wants the test.

    Regarding teachers A and B, I think they need to make similar tests – not the details but the spread. It does nobody any good to learn they scored 100% or 0% on a test as that doesn’t show them which areas to concentrate on or offer a chance to measure improvement.

    At my university, part of my evaluation comes from student appreciation. I don’t know if it is just, but it is the way my university works…and also the way hagwons work. Teach the kid enough to show improvement to the parents, keep it fun enough that the kid doesn’t complain to the parent.

  4. The Boss Says:

    Dear Friends,

    “Wang” is indeed meant as a bit of a joke meaning Prince, related to Wonjangnim, meaning school administrator. I like to not take myself too serious, and am aware that my opinion is just that.

    I have clarified my point on my blog, I hope you don’t mind I do not copy paste the entire reply.

    I will however reply to some of your additional points in your blog post.

    First, thank you for the time you spent on actually reading my blog, I always fear to be a bore.

    I don’t do any tests in my school. Testing is basically outlawed within the premises. My students do attend national tests, but I always feel that the time spent on testing would be better used learning.

    What I focus on are Assessments. You must understand that my background is NOT education, it is Business economics. In Business economics, valuating a person qualities is mostly done by the HR department, and is always based on CORE values within the companies.

    I have created a similar approach towards skill acquisition. Therefore, even though we go through vocab and grammar, we focus on the acquisition of being able to use language rather then being too focused on the form that the language can take. There are many benefits too that, but I would prefer not to go into those since they are part of my business and I am not too hot on sharing those concepts.

    I do have experienced “The Lazy Teacher” syndrome over and over again. I am not targeting the individual teacher, but the group of teachers who lack the passion/insight, and prefer to do the same thing every lesson rather than do something extra every lesson.

    If you have any more comments, I am very open to discuss them.

    Sincerely,

    The Boss

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