The Fatal Flaws and Failings of Collaborative Commonality in Assessments and Lessons Plans


I love it when I can use alteration in a title of something I am writing.  If that annoys, then I am sorry for the title today of this posting. 

Over my first five years as a teacher their has been a huge movement towards common assessments and/or lesson plans.  This is a method by which the teacher who teach the same subject mean and plan common lessons and tests for their students.  Though if I really understand the concept, its that everyone in the department collaborates on all the subjects.  Taking the combined wisdom of the entire department and making the best objectives, lessons and assessments.

At my last school I came in at the planning phase of common assessments.  At my current school they have been pushing this also for the last few years with somewhat mixed results.  And this year they want us to have common lesson plans and tests for almost everything.  I disagree with this practice, as you can probably tell by my title.

One argument made by one supervisor is that this will be help prevent teacher shopping by students to find the “easier” teacher.  This is to prevent one teacher from being to hard and another from being to easy.  This does not fix the problem though.  Their will always be teachers who are harder and easier.  Some teachers hold their students to different standards than others, both academically and behaviorally.  So unless can control all the other factors that make teacher’s unique you will not be successful.  Also, if a teacher is to “easy” isn’t the job of administration to adequately observe and evaluate said teachers so they can be brought up to the higher level?

Another argument is that we all need to be on the same page in case students have to transfer classes.  I agree with the theory that teachers of the same classes should be teaching the same concept at roughly the same time.  But in practice this rarely happens for multiple reasons.  The students may not have understood the concept so the teacher has to teach the material again to make sure students understand.  School events like assemblies, emergency drills or other school events may have prevented content from being taught that day in a specific class.  Any of these or others can cause a misalignment of content between the teachers teaching the same class. Also that different teacher’s can teach the same material and content using different methods.  Therefore the actual content can be understood differently by students in different classes, sometimes even with the same teacher.  Common assessments can only effectively work if all teachers teach the same content in exactly the same way.

Another reason behind this model is that its best for the students.  In the years that I have been working within this model the discussions I have been involved in show me that it is rarely about what is best for the student.  It is about what is best for the teachers.  What is easiest and makes the least amount of work for them?  Things like: “Lets just use the test from last year,” or “what chapter in the book are we supposed to be teaching” lead the discussion.  This stifles creativity and critical analysis of the content we are teaching and how we are assessing that content.

The same is true for common lessons or objectives.  It usually comes down to a textbook, since that is the one thing that is common between all teachers.  Therefore it becomes the basis for all teaching and learning.  How much can I cover from this chapter?  Did you cover this section?  Its not about what you taught but what chapter in the book you have used.  So you tell me which was more important, the student’s learning or the teacher’s workload?

One flaw in the system of common lesson plans and assessments is that it discourages teacher and student creativity.  With common assessments teachers have to use the same test which they then all teach too and all the students have to take.  There is no allowance made for the student who does not test well.  There is no accommodation for multiple intelligence or differentiated instruction assessments.  Both of which administration say they want us to use within our classroom.  The teacher is not free to step away from the assigned content based on student interests or design tests that may be better for their students.  Common assessments tries to create cookie cutter students, when we are told over and over that we must treat them differently.

Another major flaw in the common assessment model is that it makes it easier for the students to cheat on these assessments.  This can be clearly seen in a teacher’s classroom where they teach the same class all day.  Students in those classes know when the test is and ask their friends to see the test or what was on it from a previous period.  What makes us think that it will not happen between classes of teachers who teach the same classes?

Common assessments and lesson plans are but a small aspect of a bigger problem within education.  The bigger issue in this discussion is the over regulation of a teacher’s practices by school administration, and the different levels of government.  This over regulation has come about because no one is willing to actually critically evaluate teachers.  Instead of critically analyzing the teaching methods and assessment methods of a teacher administration assign them the task of creating common assessments and lessons, assuming that they will create effective lesson plans and assessments.  

If you want more on evaluation of teachers check out the My Perfect School posting from January 22, 2010.  Also if you are reading this from Facebook please hop over to the original site (http://ajbulava.blogspot.com) and sign up as one of my followers.  Every time I post a new article it will email you. 

Any questions, comments, concerns?  Class dismissed.

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