So much attention is focused today on identifying the best teachers. But the effort has been placed almost exclusively on test scores. I don’t doubt they are important, but they don’t tell the whole story, as I wrote in an op-ed in the New York Daily News (“Judge teachers using so-called intangibles: They matter as much or more than test scores,” Dec. 5).
Long after subject matter is forgotten, students remember the interest and kindness that their teachers showed in them. There are teachers who do a remarkable job teaching their subject well, but who teach their students to hate the subject in the process. That’s a pyrrhic victory, especially if the goal is to create lifelong learners.
How teachers go about bonding with their students is largely a matter of personality. In medicine, it’s called a bedside manner. Some teachers are naturals in this regard, while others can be taught – but only up to a point. Non-cognitive outcomes can be measured by Likert inventories. These consist of a series of questions, to which student anonymously reply, say, on a five-part scale. For example, “Doing math no longer causes me to feel anxious.” Or “I like to read a novel more now than I did before.”
It’s time to pay more attention to affective outcomes than before if students are to receive a quality education.
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