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Leadership’s Future: Teachers

by Miki Saxon

If you truly want to know how good a positional leader is in the business world you ask the people she manages. Productivity and even retention don’t tell the whole story, because there can be informal leaders in the group who offset her ineptness and errors.

Essentially, teachers are in the same type of positional leadership roles, but you don’t see anyone asking their students to evaluate their skill.

No, that would be way too simple—until now.

Surveying students is part of a $45 million Gates Foundation funded study of teacher effectiveness.

Teachers whose students described them as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their charges learn from their mistakes are often the same teachers whose students learn the most in the course of a year, as measured by gains on standardized test scores, according to a progress report on the research.

Even the descriptions and actions cited are similar to what people seek in their manager.

According to Harvard researcher Dr. Ronald Ferguson, “Kids know effective teaching when they experience it,” just as employees know when they have good managers.

Micro management, that killer of initiative, productivity and morale, has it’s counterpart in teaching, too, in the form of rote drilling.

One notable early finding, Ms. [Vicki] Phillips said, is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics.
“Teaching to the test makes your students do worse on the tests,” Ms. Phillips said. “It turns out all that ‘drill and kill’ isn’t helpful.”

The big question I have is when will schools and business recognize that motivational efforts are the same, relatively speaking, across ages and environments, just as are the actions that demotivate?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/204073798/

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