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TO PASS, OR NOT TO PASS

A or FThe semester – when most teachers hold their classes online because of the corona virus – is about to end. From what I have been experiencing, I have all the reasons to say that online teaching is more challenging than face-to-face instruction. Teaching during the pandemic put my creativity, resourcefulness, and patience to a litmus test.

What I consider as the most difficult challenge in online teaching is assessment.  And as the semester is about to end, it’s time to crunch numbers then decide to push either the “pass” or “fail” buttons.

What if the scores of my students are very low?

Below is an essay I have written on the subject of passing or failing the students.

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To pass, or not to pass…

That is the dilemma of teachers when the performance of some students during an entire term is below par and their total grades go south of the passing mark.

What should the teachers do – pass or fail the students?

Is passing students in a subject or course mandatory on the part of the teachers?

It’s a different story if a student fails due to absences. The student failed by default. But what if a student is regularly attending classes?

There are possible repercussions should teachers fail their students. When they fail students they had better be ready to answer possible queries from the students, from their parents, and the school administration. Usually, complaints of students, most specially when they are accompanied by their parents, would also lead to school authorities investigating the teachers concerned. It’s not only a matter of being ready to answer questions but the teachers should also prepare class records and other documents that could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the students did not perform well and deserve to get a failing mark.

There are times that teachers thought that they have exhausted all possible means to help the students perform better but to no avail… that they have tried different strokes for different folks, but none of the strokes they applied worked.

But the painful truth is that there are also teachers who would not walk an extra mile to help students improve on their academic performance.

Now, granting that the teachers have done everything they possibly could to help the students pass but their efforts proved futile, would failing the students be considered justifiable already?

Should teachers be applauded when they  take the moral high  ground and say that schools are committed to excellence and passing failing students would be tantamount to promoting mediocrity?

Failing students is not a simple decision to make. Whether or not to pass students is a path that should be carefully tread. There are a lot of things to be considered before making the final decision. There are questions that the teachers need to answer very clearly. Questions that would lead to more questions.

Do the grades teachers give truly reflect the abilities of the students? Let’s say that the answer is yes. The next question would be, “Were the tests the teachers made valid? Did the teachers make sure that their tests measured what they intended to measure?

There are more questions – Were the tests the teachers designed in congruence with the strategies they used when they presented theirs lessons? What informed the strategies that they have selected? What foundation of learning and teaching did they stand upon when they delivered their lessons? Did they consider the abilities of their students when they designed the activities in the class? Or is it a matter of whatever decision they make as teachers are contingent upon their personal comfort?

Yes, the role of the teacher is that complicated. That’s why the decision to pass or not to pass a students is actually an examination of the teachers’ conscience. It is answering the ultimate question – “Did I really do my job as a teacher?”

Ask teachers if they are really doing the things expected of them and their response would be an unequivocal yes.

Really?

So here is another question – “Why would students fail if teachers are doing their job well?”

The question above leads us to the next question – “When students fail does it mean they did not learn?”

Students failing means  they did not pass majority (if not all) of the tests (short or long, oral or written) the teachers gave during the entire term. All of those tests are meant to evaluate learning that was supposed to have taken place when the teachers discussed their lessons and did all the activities they designed for the class. So, if the students failed the tests it would mean they did not learn.

Why did the students not learn? What happened? Did the teachers bother to know why? Could there be something wrong with their strategies? Like their strategies probably did not work or something could be wrong with their  methods of testing. Yet, they did not bother to adjust and allowed the accumulation of failed tests on the part of the students.

Only the teachers who are pedagogically trained would be able to detect when something is not right with what they are doing. If they are true to their calling as teachers, they would do something about it. They will make the necessary adjustments. If they don’t care then may God bless the students.  It’s much worse when those hired to teach are not really trained as teachers. They don’t have the pedagogical skills to understand what is really happening. For them, it’s just a matter of when the students don’t get the scores required they fail. That’s it.

Let’s bring back one of the questions posed earlier – “When students fail does it mean they did not learn?”

If the answer to this is yes it means that the grades of the students reflect not only their performance but that of their teachers as well.

How true is it that “it’s not teaching if there’s no learning.” Can the teachers claim they did their job as teachers even if their students fail?”

When students fail the tests meant to evaluate learning then the activities designed and strategies selected fail to help achieve the objectives. It is the responsibility of the teachers to make sure  that their objectives are attainable and the corresponding activities and strategies  are effective. It is their responsibility to make sure that their students would succeed. It is as simple as that. A philosophical mind is not needed to grasp that… just common sense would do.

The worst thing that can happen to students is to have teachers whose view of education is myopic – teachers who judge students according to the numbers they crunch during tests and recitations.  The students are much more valuable than those numbers.

Education transcends all statistical data that teachers collect during a school term. Yes there are written rules. There are policies and regulations. But they are not absolute. Education cannot be confined to a box. It is more than black and white. It is as colorful as the rainbow. Teachers should lead their students to the proverbial end of that rainbow where a pot of gold  – a good future – awaits them.

Teachers, Leadership Styles and McGregor’s Theories X and Y Assumptions

teachers

Managing people in both the corporate world and the academia industry is difficult and complicated. It requires not only mental and emotional competence  but also toughness. It is an enterprise not meant for the fainthearted and weak-kneed.

Managers need both smarts and grit. They need to be astute and their patience boundless. Perhaps the trickiest part of the job of those in supervisory positions is as  leaders they   have to determine which leadership style is most applicable given the kind of people they are leading and the nature of the business they have.

Leadership theories abound and before managers, supervisors, or administrators  are catapulted into the position as head of the organization they might already have a style which is inherent in them and framed by their education and  personal experiences.

As leaders, they could be any of what Koontz and Weilhrich in “Behavioral Theories” describe as autocratic, democratic, or free-rein leader (laissez-faire). Those in the position of leadership (according to the said authors) have the following options: maintain strong control over their subordinates and lead using their ability to withhold or give rewards and punishment; consult with the people they are leading on proposed actions and decisions and encourage participation from them; or use their power very little, if at all, giving subordinates a high degree of independence in their operations.

As to which of the aforementioned styles is most effective is hard to determine. Those espousing  the “Contingency Theory”  claim that there is no best way to organize  a corporation, to lead a company, or to make decisions. They add that the optimal course of action is contingent upon the internal and external situation. This is the principle that guided me when I was given the opportunity to lead.

In my experience as school administrator (1994-2012), I figured that  there is no one-size-fits-all kind of leadership.  I realized that the way to supervise people is a decision that designated leaders could arrive at only when they assume office. They may have a blueprint on how to lead when they take the reins of leadership in their organization but such is not set in stone. Whether as leaders they become autocratic, democratic, or free-rein depends largely on the kind of people being led.

Douglas McGregor, in his Theory X and Theory Y,  presented two opposing perceptions about employees. Theory X assumes that employees inherently dislike work, avoid responsibilities and seek formal direction and should therefore be coerced, controlled, or threatened with punishment. Conversely, in theory Y, they (employees) are viewed quite the opposite. They need not be controlled and closely supervised because they love work, exercise self-direction and self-control, accept and even seek responsibility, and make innovative decisions.

When leaders have already determined under which set of those perception the people they are supervising belong, they begin to devise what they think is the best way to lead them.

Experts in human behavior are saying though that people working in organizations are not necessarily either one type or the other. They said that between the two extremes, there could be a combination of behaviors. Thus, leaders need to be careful not to implement policies and operate in response only to either (or both) of those two assumptions about employees. They need to be flexible.

The best leaders are those who could devise a way to have a complete inventory of the different personalities of people in the organization they are running and calibrate their approaches to leadership to the categories of personalities that would emerge from the inventory. That of course is easier said than done especially if they are overseeing a big group, company or association.

What about teachers? Generally speaking, where should teachers be classified – under theory X or theory Y?

It is hard to imagine teachers disliking their work and avoiding responsibilities. To be in-charge of the teaching-learning process is not a walk in the park. It demands  the highest form of professional competence which means doing a lot of work and accepting a lot of responsibilities as well. The list of the things that teachers are expected to perform is long – prepare lessons;  construct exams, mark tests, quizzes and assignments; prepare reports; attend seminars and trainings; and keep abreast with the current innovations including using technology in instruction. The teachers’ primary function, of course, is instruction. If they are in universities, they are also expected to do research and get involved in community extension programs.

That’s a lot of things to do for teachers and with their plates that full  the teachers cannot possibly be theory X type. When they embraced the profession, they know the kind of work they are doing. They know that  they don’t stop working after class hours.  Teachers always  walk an extra mile or two.

The prevailing perception about teachers is that they are consummate professionals – the  embodiment of the theory Y assumptions.

Teachers are responsible and independent.  They don’t need to be micromanaged because they are happy to work on their own initiative and their strong sense of professionalism and self-motivation always lead to the successful completion of their tasks and responsibilities and strict adherence to policies and guidelines. They also need not be told as to what to do because they have strong sense of self-direction and self-control.

Are these assumptions about teachers true?

I have been in the academia for almost 31 years as a teacher. I worked with different kinds of teachers across demographics – age, gender, race, education, religion, and philosophical persuasion – as a colleague and as administrator (for 18 of those 31 years). Based on my experiences (most particularly here in South Korea where I have been teaching since 2013 and was briefly a head professor for 3 semesters), I can say that that prevailing perception about teachers is not true.

Some teachers are theory X type, some theory Y, and some are in-between.

The worst assumption that school owners and administrators could make is “all teachers conduct themselves within the bounds of professionalism.” They ought  to check carefully the background of the teachers they hire. They need to strictly monitor the performance of the teachers and ensure they are following school policies and guidelines.  This should not be construed as lack of trust but rather enforcing excellence and ensuring that the students get what they deserve, what they pay for.

The ones leading schools ought to make sure that their teachers are not engaged in what I call “mercenary teaching” – interested only in the money and disregards professional ethics.

Teachers, Leadership Styles and McGregor’s Theories X and Y Assumptions

teachers

Managing people either in the academia or industry is difficult and complicated. It requires not only mental and emotional competence  but also toughness. It is an enterprise not meant for the fainthearted and weak-kneed.

Managers need both smarts and grit. They need to be astute and their patience boundless. Perhaps the trickiest part of the job of those in supervisory positions is as  leaders they   have to determine which leadership style is most applicable given the kind of people they are leading and the nature of the business they have.

Leadership theories abound and before managers, supervisors, or administrators  are catapulted into the position as head of the organization they might already have a style which is inherent in them and framed by their education and  personal experiences.

As leaders, they could be any of what Koontz and Weilhrich in “Behavioral Theories” describe as autocratic, democratic, or free-rein leader (laissez-faire). Those in the position of leadership (according to the said authors) have the following options: maintain strong control over their subordinates and lead using their ability to withhold or give rewards and punishment; consult with the people they are leading on proposed actions and decisions and encourage participation from them; or use their power very little, if at all, giving subordinates a high degree of independence in their operations.

As to which of the aforementioned styles is most effective is hard to determine. Those espousing  the “Contingency Theory”  claim that there is no best way to organize  a corporation, to lead a company, or to make decisions. They add that the optimal course of action is contingent upon the internal and external situation. This is the principle that guided me when I was given the opportunity to lead.

In my experience as school administrator (1994-2012), I figured that  there is no one-size-fits-all kind of leadership.  I realized that the way to supervise people is a decision that designated leaders could arrive at only when they assume office. They may have a blueprint on how to lead when they take the reins of leadership in their organization but such is not set in stone. Whether as leaders they become autocratic, democratic, or free-rein depends largely on the kind of people being led.

Douglas McGregor, in his Theory X and Theory Y,  presented two opposing perceptions about employees. Theory X assumes that employees inherently dislike work, avoid responsibilities and seek formal direction and should therefore be coerced, controlled, or threatened with punishment. Conversely, in theory Y, they (employees) are viewed quite the opposite. They need not be controlled and closely supervised because they love work, exercise self-direction and self-control, accept and even seek responsibility, and make innovative decisions.

When leaders have already determined under which set of those perception the people they are supervising belong, they begin to devise what they think is the best way to lead them.

Experts in human behavior are saying though that people working in organizations are not necessarily either one type or the other. They said that between the two extremes, there could be a combination of behaviors. Thus, leaders need to be careful not to implement policies and operate in response only to either (or both) of those two assumptions about employees. They need to be flexible.

The best leaders are those who could devise a way to have a complete inventory of the different personalities of people in the organization they are running and calibrate their approaches to leadership to the categories of personalities that would emerge from the inventory. That of course is easier said than done especially if they are overseeing a big group, company or association.

What about teachers? Generally speaking, where should teachers be classified – under theory X or theory Y?

It is hard to imagine teachers disliking their work and avoiding responsibilities. To be in-charge of the teaching-learning process is not a walk in the park. It demands  the highest form of professional competence which means doing a lot of work and accepting a lot of responsibilities as well. The list of the things that teachers are expected to perform is long – prepare lessons;  construct exams, mark tests, quizzes and assignments; prepare reports; attend seminars and trainings; and keep abreast with the current innovations including using technology in instruction. The teachers’ primary function, of course, is instruction. If they are in universities, they are also expected to do research and get involved in community extension programs.

That’s a lot of things to do for teachers and with their plates that full  the teachers cannot possibly be theory X type. When they embraced the profession, they know the kind of work they are doing. They know that  they don’t stop working after class hours.  Teachers always  walk an extra mile or two.

The prevailing perception about teachers is that they are consummate professionals – the  embodiment of the theory Y assumptions.

Teachers are responsible and independent.  They don’t need to be micromanaged because they are happy to work on their own initiative and their strong sense of professionalism and self-motivation always lead to the successful completion of their tasks and responsibilities and strict adherence to policies and guidelines. They also need not be told as to what to do because they have strong sense of self-direction and self-control.

Are these assumptions about teachers true?

I have been in the academia for almost 30 years as a teacher. I worked with different kinds of teachers across demographics – age, gender, race, education, religion, and philosophical persuasion – as a colleague and as administrator (for 18 of those 30 years). Based on my experiences (most particularly here in South Korea where I have been teaching since 2013 and was briefly a head professor for 3 semesters), I can say that that prevailing perception about teachers is not true.

Some teachers are theory X type, some theory Y, and some are in-between.

The worst assumption that school owners and administrators could make is “all teachers conduct themselves within the bounds of professionalism.” They ought  to check carefully the background of the teachers they hire. They need to strictly monitor the performance of the teachers and ensure they are following school policies and guidelines.  This should not be construed as lack of trust but rather enforcing excellence and ensuring that the students get what they deserve, what they pay for.

The ones leading schools ought to make sure that their teachers are not engaged in what I call “mercenary teaching” – interested only in the money and disregards professional ethics.

 

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