Thursday, May 31, 2012

No teacher, no problem

I've taught long enough to have a deep seeded hatred for marking. I know how much time and effort it takes to sit down and read through pile after pile of student writing.

I understand the temptation teachers have for eliminating or reducing the workload that is required to read through hundreds of essays, week after week, year after year.

When I first started teaching, my school had a budget for outsourcing their marking to other teachers. I used it once, and after handing back the students' work that was assessed by a stranger, I realized this was a solution that made things worse.

Since then, I've gone to great lengths to transform my teaching philosophy away from the monotony of marking in seclusion to more meaningful assessment via two-way dialogue.

But there are other, darker, and even dehumanizing forces at work. Take for example the robo-grader that Micheal Winerip wrote about in his New York Times article:
For people with a weakness for humans, there is more bad news. Graders working as quickly as they can — the Pearson education company expects readers to spend no more than two to three minutes per essay— might be capable of scoring 30 writing samples in an hour.

The automated reader developed by the Educational Testing Service, e-Rater, can grade 16,000 essays in 20 seconds, according to David Williamson, a research director for E.T.S., which develops and administers 50 million tests a year, including the SAT.

Is this the end? Are Robo-Readers destined to inherit the earth?
We use to dream about how a computer could think like a human but now we dream about how a human might think like a computer.

Ultimately, Robo-Readers are about teacher-less classrooms that will have the same effect on thinking and learning as a noose has on breathing.

For some, education "reform" is nothing more than code for blaming and shaming teachers and busting unions. For these deformers, Robo-reader solves all problems -- no teacher, no problem.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever written an essay that was graded by e-Rater? I have on numerous occasions, and generally I get around a 50%. I make a good portion of my living by writing, but I don't write the formulaic way that receives good grades from auto-graders.

    Good think I write for people.


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