Inconsistency in the quality of teaching

I have came across the above statement or similar statements across schools both here and in the middle east.   At first reading I would suggest that everyone, myself included, will take this to be a negative comment.   On reflection I am not so sure it necessarily is negative or in fact that it tells us anything.

Consider the “average” school and lets consider that the measure of quality of teaching is student outcomes.    Now I know this is a very limited model however it will hopefully serve its purpose in terms of proving a point which could equally be proven by using a different measure for the quality of teaching.

Within this “average” school there will be some above average teachers where outcomes come out as very positive.   There will also be those that come out as below average.    Would this be considered as consistent as clearly having different qualities of teaching would suggest inconsistency?

Lets assume what is meant be inconsistency is an inconsistency when compared with the national profile for the quality of teaching within any given school.    In this case our average school now becomes consistent in terms of quality of teaching.    Consistency is therefore referring to the distribution of individuals within the school with regards the quality of teaching, and how this compares to other schools.

Modifying the scenario a little lets say that some of the so called “weaker” teachers performance only gets worse while the stronger teachers only get better.    Our average still remains the same however is the school any more or less consistent given the wider variance between teachers and given the difference between this profile and the profile of the “average” school?

If some of the teachers formerly within the “average” band improve this would shift the average and change the distribution.   Is this inconsistency and if so could it not be viewed as a positive inconsistency?

Now I was considering using some further examples however have decided not to.  Instead I will point out my belief in the fact that teaching is a social activity involving a class full of students and a teacher all interacting.   Given it is a social activity involving 30 or more human beings and therefore influenced and affected by a multitude of different dynamic variables, consistency is highly unlikely.    Teaching is very much like chaos theory in that it is highly sensitive to its conditions, which are frequently changing.    As such how could any school be expected to demonstrate consistency?   Like chaos theory, we can only possibly perceive a pattern by looking at the much wider picture, as under close inspection we see nothing except the variability and the differences.    How might an inspection team or an internal mock-sted see this big picture?   I doubt they would do so how can a judgment indicating an inconsistency be arrived at?

And maybe something different, unique or not fitting in with the usual run of play may be a positive thing.   So maybe consistency isn’t all it’s meant to be!


Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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