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EducationTeachingTeachers’ Conflicts of Interest Ration Learning: NESI Conversation 11

Teachers’ Conflicts of Interest Ration Learning: NESI Conversation 11

This 11th conversation with Dr. W.E. Doynit describes how teacher choices can result in conflicts of interest and other “schoolhouse corruption” that reduce student learning. It details use of the learning code as part of academic performance management with and without Tablet and other mobile PCs.

Key Words: ALBA, applied learning behavior analysis, aLEAP, conflicts of interest, learning analysis, learning code, learning efficiency indices, learning losses, limited learning, NESI, rationed learning, schoolhouse corruption, teacher / educator choices.

Tablet PC Education: Thank you for returning to this blog for a total of 11 times, once with others to discuss the report “Rationed Learning: … ‘Yes, but …'” . Let’s get to it.

In our ninth conversation, you suggested that teachers and administrators have conflicts of interest with accelerating student learning. You inferred that these conflicts ration student learning.

Please be candid. Are you charging educators with giving priority to something over their students’ learning?

Before we go further, are we talking about 2009 or another year.

Doynit: 2009.

Yes, I think at least some public school teachers and administrators have inherent conflicts of interest with accelerating student learning promptly and dramatically.

Conflicts occur whenever an educator’s performance review does not describe measurements of her or his impact on student learning rates.

And, yes, these conflicts appear to ration learning in public schools.

As John Deasy, former superintendent of George’s County, MD public school system, might say, calling out such conflicts permits increasing student learning by getting rid of them. Complacency about these conflicts results in continued rationed learning, an immoral and unethical position for any educator to take.

Many educators and staff found themselves fired immediately when they did not give priority to student learning increases.

Tablet PC Education: What do you mean by conflicts of interest and rationed learning?

Doynit: Educators know these conflicts. In general, they refer to anything that does not put student learning first. Anything that’s business as usual when students do not exceed state minimum academic standards.

They range from use of school time for personal text messages and phone calls to sloppy lesson plans and misusing of student time and school resources with imprecise and inaccurate instruction. They include inadequate academic performance management by administrators.

At their core, conflicts of interest occur whenever educators make choices that do not promptly increase student learning measurably.

Operationalizing and making public such choices permits formal testing to identify which ones accelerate and which ones decelerate student learning.

These tests would help to clarify ways to merge two trends in public schooling. Now, these trends exist side by side.

One trend, the historic dominant one, gives priority to teacher experience as providing the best ideas about student learning. This trend opens discussions for defining teaching, learning, who’s a teacher, best ideas, etc.

A second trend, the one used by NESI among others, gives priority to using advanced technologies to describe and assess learning. In this trend, learning leads teaching. That is, without learning, no teaching has occurred regardless of what happens in a classroom. This trend requires different records and classroom observations as well as procedures from some of those used in the historic trend and in traditional schooling.

Public policy makers, educators, scientists, advanced technology developers and users, et al. are among the many people working through the messy business of bringing these two trends together in real time to increase learning dramatically and promptly.

Tablet PC Education: Given that background, do you have a trechnical definition of conflicts of interest and rationed learning?

Doynit: Conflicts of interest exist to the extent that teaching and other schooling practices do not implement scientific descriptions of how people learn. Rationed learning occurs whenever students learn less than what is possible, such as by instructing with ways that students learn.

People follow observable patterns to learn. At NESI, we call these patterns a learning code.

We use this code to monitor how learners adjust behavior patterns to meet environmental demands, such as meeting a lesson’s learning objective. Behavioral scientists have accumulated descriptions of these behavior patterns and how to use them to increase learning during the past 100 years.

Tablet PC Education: Why do you label learning behavior patterns as a code?

Doynit: At NESI, we use the term learning code as a quick descriptor. It refers to an organization of empirical experimental behavioral science findings we use to observe learners. With that organization, we do with advanced communication technology what teachers routinely do mentally: calculate various risks learners face in a given lesson, such as probabilities of success, failure, costs, flow, and intensity.

We call this organization aLEAP. That stands for A Learning Efficiency Analysis Paradigm. It’s an outgrowth of ALBA, our previous Applied Learning Behavior Analysis descriptions.

aLEAP allows teachers and others to monitor each other and each student’s progress toward meeting learning objectives for each lesson. It is another step toward automatic learning analyses with Tablet, Touchscreen, and other mobile PCs.

Tablet PC Education: So, you say conflicts of interest exist between educators and students when schooling does not fit this learning code. Yes?

Doynit: Yes, because misfits yield lower learning efficiency. By tradition and policy, schooling exists to increase student learning efficiency.

Anything that does not measurably increase learning (rates) conflicts with that primary purpose.

To ask the obvious rhetorical question: Why else should public schools exist than to increase student learning rates?

Tablet PC Education: What about for school breakfasts, after school activities, parent conferences, teacher professional development? Do you think they conflict and ration learning?

Doynit: Yes, until someone identifies measurable, experimental impacts on each student’s learning.

With due respect to public school policy makers and educators, let me illustrate choices educators make that conflict with student learning. I offer these to cast light on choices of educators that limit learning.

I do so with no dark intentions. Yet, these illustrations may cause reactions as do fingernails scratching down old classroom chalkboards.

Tablet PC Education: Your example?

Doynit: Here’s a simple, idealized example of a routine classroom conflict of interest. I have, as have other experienced teachers, observed such situations in and out of schools many times.

It illustrates how teachers’ instructional choices can lower student learning rates. It uses clock time in part to calculate an index of learning efficiency.

Two teachers each have 30 students assigned randomly from the school roster to their First Grade classrooms. Both teachers hold the same credentials and teacher evaluations, have the same seniority, work next door to each other with the same set of resources, and have the same learning objectives for their classes with lessons offered at the same time of day. Teachers switched classrooms on the second day, used their same procedures with new content and obtained the same relative learning efficiency results.

Teacher A uses for 30 minutes a teaching method that allows 15 students in her class to meet the purpose of her lesson. Her method relies on an undefined, but analyzable hybrid of theories about human development, social services (including schooling), learning, and instruction. Her instruction occasionally matches the learning code sufficiently for some students to meet learning criterion for this lesson.

Teacher B uses a method consistent with the learning code. It takes five minutes to accomplish the same outcome as Teacher A, but with all 30 of her students meeting the same learning criterion. She then offers the next five lessons in the remaining 25 minutes with all 30 students meeting learning criterion for each lesson.

Tablet PC Education: What do such differences mean in real life?

Doynit: Teacher choices of instruction make several differences in the real school life of their students.

Teacher B’s instruction uses clock time measured in seconds to offer instruction. She accepts that each second of each lesson must contribute to students meeting a learning criterion immediately. She edits her timing of words and actions to yield observable student progress toward a lesson criterion.

Teacher B students are now measurably ahead academically of students in Teacher A’s classroom, because of these teachers’ instructional choices.

Everything else equal, this means that Teacher A will take 12 times as long for her class to meet the same academic performance as students of Teacher B.

For Teacher A to accomplish that, quick learning students will be restrained from learning more while waiting for other students. Also, all of her students will learn less, because they have not had as much instruction as classroom B students during the same clock time.

Tablet PC Education: Why do you measure these differences this way?

Doynit: Measures help teachers and other learning analysts to identify where to make changes in order to increase learning further. Let me continue identifying measures. Some are for instructional and some for administrative purposes.

Teacher B chose instruction that offered six times more efficient learning by students in her class. They meet six more learning objectives than Teacher A’s one objective for some students in one 30 minute instructional block.

Also, twice as many students of Teacher B (30 Teacher B students / 15 Teacher A students) met these learning objectives than students of Teacher A.

All together, in 30 minutes 15 Teacher A students met one learning criterion for a total of 15 criteria compared with 30 Teacher B students meeting 6 criteria for a total of 180 criteria.

That gives Teacher A a clock time based learning efficiency index of 0.0083 (15 learning criteria / 30 minutes x 60 seconds per minute) and 0.1 (180 learning criteria / 30 minutes x 60 seconds per minute) for Teacher B.

Teacher A students have a comparative total classroom learning efficiency ratio of 0.083 (15 / 180) learning criteria compared with the academic accomplishments by students of Teacher B.

Also, 15 students of Teacher A learned 17 percent (1 / 6 = 0.167) of students of Teacher B and 15 students learned 0.00, because they did not meet Teacher A’s learning criterion for that lesson.

Teachers may use these indices to adjust instructional choices.

Administrators can use such indices to evaluate teacher performance as well as to calculate distributions of costs of academic learning.

Tablet PC Education: So, teacher choices of instructional methods rationed learning for one class as compared with the other class?

Doynit: Yes. This example illustrates several things.

1. Teacher choices can limit learning. At NESI, we call these limits rationing.

2. Ways exist to measure that learning and to calculate learning rates and learning loss rates.

3. From these measures, learning analysts can calculate rationing, risks of failure, etc. students face during lessons.

4. Administrators can use such indices to evaluate teacher performance as well as to calculate costs of academic learning.

Tablet PC Education: I see your point about a conflict, but I still have questions about your indices. Maybe another time we can discuss learning efficiency indices. For now, I’ll accept them at face value.

Is that the only conflict you see?

Doynit: I see others also. They include but go beyond regular conflicts such as teachers using school time to make personal phone calls and text messages, using school supplies for personal tasks, etc.

Let me first describe anecdotes of conflicts for teachers and then for school administrators. Limited objective data exist to support or deny how far to generalize these examples.

These are real, not imagined situations. Teachers and administrators know about such behavior in public schooling, but do not discuss the topic with outsiders.

Tablet PC Education: When responding, say what anecdotes have to do with increasing student learning.

Doynit: Anecdotes help to anticipating limited changes in student learning rates until stronger objective data exist to guide this part of managing learning.

To the point: First, teachers do what they think best for their students. Their judgment can conflict with increasing learning rates when chosen practices do not fit how students learn.

Yet, teachers continue with these judgments. They have made extensive personal and financial investments to earn certificates and then to find employment in schools.

Unfortunately for public school students, these investments have resulted in relatively little exposure beyond introductions to empirical, experimental behavioral data about how people learn.

As an aside, it’s unclear from objective empirical research which comes first, limited exposure to these data or teachers-in-preparation who choose venues and courses of study that do not offer these data. For the present, these results appear the same: students learn more of what is possible when teachers implement objective experimental behavioral study results of how people learn.

Educators who have attended Tier I and highly select research based schools of education will likely not recover their financial investment from teacher salaries and perks. Alumni of other tier-ranked schools will face similar, but not as steep a challenge to recover their investments.

Also, teachers with administrative and national board teaching certificates have made additional investments that increase their risk of failure to recover or profit financially from these commitments.

Second, Tier I alumni can have had the advantage of instruction from those who wrote the textbooks and conducted the research about how people learn. Students in other tier-ranked schools use these textbooks. This means that some teachers have more objective and up to date information about how people learn than other teachers may ever know exists.

In a related way, it’s unclear from objective research, the impacts on learning of public school educators talking about teaching as a calling, a sacrifice, etc., because they know they can’t recover financially or because of personal sentiments that carried them into teaching.

Tablet PC Education: Are you saying that the amount and kinds of teacher investments in preparing to teach limit student learning?

Doynit: Yes, all teachers are not prepared equally. That means they do not have the same skills and information about how people learn at the end of that preparation, even when they complete courses with the same titles and similar exams.

Also, by a definition of the Tier system, all teacher preparation programs do not have teacher preparation staff and faculty with comparable levels of skills, information, and commitment to behavioral research about how people learn.

Some people see these differences as strengthening student learning. Others disagree.

These variations leave an uneven base for increasing learning promptly and consistently across teachers, schools, and learners.

Tablet PC Education: Why do these variations limit learning?

Doynit: Because (and this is fundamental) educator preparation gives priority to theories and issues about rather than descriptions of how people learn and ways to accelerate student learning rates promptly with whatever resources exist at hand.

Teachers then select which of what they know to use. Then, they appear to try to recover their investment in preparation by assembling hybrids from what they remember of theories about learning and schooling.

Second, in that vein, many vocal and blogging teachers defend their commitment to teaching by talking more about personal experience than objective data about how students in their classes learn.

For example, many teachers correct papers, text to family members, etc. during pre and incumbent service required professional development sessions. Hundreds of online teacher blogs argue that such sessions are irrelevant to them and to their students, because they do not match with personal experiences of teachers.

Their claims and behavior offer an interesting hypothesis to test empirically as are other uncounted and unanalyzed teacher statements about effects of teachers’ personal priorities on student learning rates.

Tablet PC Education: So, it appears, but unconfirmed by objective data, that teachers have conflicts of interest with increasing student learning rates. Go on. Discuss why you wonder if public school administrators have conflicts.

Doynit: Let me describe another aspect of teacher behavior patterns first.

A vocal cohort of teachers claim that they know best what students should learn in their classes. They argue that legislators, school administrators, parents and other people have unreasonable expectations for student learning.

They try to make the point that no one but a current classroom teacher can understand the problems they face just to get through each school day, let alone meet other people’s expectations.

In their own ways, they say they intend to continue teach as they have in the past, except when they can figure out how to improve their patterns to ends they consider relevant, irrespective of what others say.

At the same time, a relatively few incumbent teachers, including some in the mainstream of public schooling, say that a NESI school can happen and they try to make whatever they can of it happen in their classrooms today.

Tablet PC Education: Why, though, can’t a school board hold teachers personally responsible for every student in every class increasing learning, at least as measured by the mandated state standards tests?

Doynit: Here are a couple of quick, real, not fictitious, examples.

Objective, empirical data have not clarified what is speculation and what is fact about such examples. Again, I’m talking about real schools.

Public school boards have accepted two comma plus foundation and corporate donation dollars for programs they promised would accelerate learning. However, these boards used the money as general funds and spent the money mostly to increase the number of administrative staff, salaries, and facilities. Their students did not increase their academic performance.

A teacher explained to me, based on conversations with school district administrators in more than one state, that school board members know they can receive more money from their state and foundations while making fewer waves in their districts, if they’re students do poorly on state mandated tests.

Extra Federal funds pass through states to districts and then to schools for three years “to improve” schooling of low scoring students. Over 50 percent of these extra funds in some districts have gone into administrative overhead, not into classroom or instructional improvements.

At the end of the extra funding, districts closed these low performing schools, rename these school buildings, moved in other trusted principles to oversee the same teachers using the same instruction with the same students to start the three year process again. Administrators say these changes are relatively easy to make in districts with large numbers of students moving in and out of schools each academic year.

Teachers appear to accept such administrative behavior, even though they may complain about it on blogs. By accepting, teachers don’t have to change dramatically what they do, and they can point elsewhere to reasons why accelerated learning does not occur in their classrooms.

Tablet PC Education: You’re serious, yes? This is fact, not a NESI fiction to make a point, right? If accurate, aren’t these people conspiring and committing frauds? Surely, you’ve described exceptions to the way school boards and educators operate.

Doynit: Not fiction. As I mentioned the last time we talked, I’ve heard variations of these stories in more than one state before and after the No Child Left Behind program started, including in a recent open assembly with parents, alumni, and students talking about such management of public school academics.

Tablet PC Education: I still hope you’re wrong. In another setting, it would be called “corruption.”

Doynit: I’m describing reasons teachers can fulfill contracted obligations without increasing student academic performance.

In addition to the acceptance of Federal and corporate funds, a school district had teachers of advanced classes accept student cheating, because it raised the school’s and the district’s average GPA and yearly academic progress scores. I watched a student show a parent how students in classes take and send iPhone pictures of tests and assignments to other students.

Another example: The high school valedictorian did not show up in class for tests all four years. Instead, she called students who took the test to find out what questions were asked, prepared, and then aced make-up tests. In turn, she and others who followed similar patterns were accepted into Tier I universities.

In addition, in this same school, only three students showed up for a final advanced physics class exam. That night, calls came for updates from students who did not attend. When students started taking the make-up test, they protested to the teacher that it was too hard. The teacher accepted their complaint, gave them an easier test, rank ordered results of both tests, graded on a curve, and gave anyone a B grade with less than 97 out of 100 points. Those who took the test when scheduled received the 97 points.

In each of these situations, complaints to teachers and senior school administrators were continually dismissed without any corrective action that changed teacher or student behavior during the four years. One teacher, also a parent of an effected student, was told to keep quiet about the situation in order to continue a teaching contract the next school year.

Tablet PC Education: So, you’re arguing that teachers don’t have to accelerate student learning in order to continue teaching, so many of them don’t.

Doynit: Yes, I wonder if that’s a fair hypothesis. I hope someone tests it objectively and soon in ways that show that the anecdotes I cited are aberrations, not the mode.

At NESI, we avoid dealing with such matters by selecting teachers who have demonstrated that they can and who agree that they will accelerate student learning rates promptly and dramatically as documented by third party observations and analyses.

Tablet PC Education: It sounds to me as though these situations occur because of inadequate oversight. Yes?

Doynit: Yes, inadequate oversight and variations in performance expectations for educators. These inadequacies allow conflicts of interest and schoolhouse corruption to exist.

School board members can insist routinely and respectfully for objective empirical evidence of how instructional practices increase student learning. It’s fair to require that all students meet minimum state standards, because ways exist for this to happen.

Not to record these uncomfortable discussions is to pretend that all is well in schools. Pretending dumbs-down community understanding of schooling and maybe student learning.

NESI and aLEAP provide examples of models that give priority to prompt, measurable increases in student learning rates with existing resources. All they require are commitments of educators to use them or some other learning code based patterns.

Tablet PC Education: Thank you, Dr. Doynit. We look forward to learning more about aLEAP and how NESI accelerates student learning. You answered some questions raised when you joined Dr. Doowrite and Ms. Donna Pahl earlier to discuss the report “Rationed Learning: A Conspiracy of Yes, but …”


Deasy, J. E. Deasy on Students’ Gains from Fixing School Strains. Posted by The Tablet PC In Education Blog August 23, 2009, at 4:08 PM

Heiny, R. Learning with Tablet PCs Research Agenda: From Facts to Pragmatics. Posted by The Tablet PC In Education Blog. October 28, 2008 at 4:04 PM.

Heiny, R. Rationed Learning Interview. Posted by The Tablet PC In Education Blog, April 5, 2009, at 9:28 AM.

Heiny, R. New Era School Initiative (NESI) Conversation 7: Tablet PC Learning Research. Posted by The Tablet PC In Education Blog, May 24, 2009, at 6:47 AM

Heiny, R. New Era School Initiative (NESI) Conversation 9: Teachers. Posted by The Tablet PC In Education Blog June 10, 2009, at 9:27 AM

Heiny, R. “Rationed Learning: …’Yes, but … ‘” Report Revisited. Posted by The Tablet PC In Education Blog, June 15, 2009, at 8:47 AM

Heiny, R. aLEAP/A Learning Efficiency Analysis Paradigm Abstract. Posted by The Tablet PC In Education Blog, August 7, 2009, at 3:54 AM.

Click on Key Words New Era School Initiative (NESI) in the left hand column of this blog for a full list of posts about ways to increase learning promptly and dramatically with AY 2009-2010 tools and conditions.

Robert Heiny
Robert Heinyhttp://www.robertheiny.com
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in The Encyclopedia of Education (1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for TuxReports.com.

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Robert H Reed
14 years ago

Bob, I laughed out loud after reading the following passage from the post above:Tablet PC Education: What about for school breakfasts, after school activities, parent conferences, teacher professional development? Do you think they conflict and ration learning?Doynit: Yes, until someone identifies measurable, experimental impacts on each student’s learning. My three chilren (grades 2, 5, and 7) started at a new local school about two weeks ago, and while not regular readers of your blog, all three of them have expressed dismay at the current ratio of "overhead" time vs learning time in their new learning environment.Students just KNOW when the system honestly focuses on their learning, vs focusing on processes that merely serve to perpetuate the system itself. This I believe is at the heart of all issues related to deep engagement of students.-Rob

The Tablet PC In Education Blog
14 years ago

Good to hear from you again. Glad you caught the irony. I hope teachers do also. Everyone deserves a good laugh each day. 🙂 I like your use of the word "overhead." It fits the situation, so I may use it, unless you are reserving it for other uses. I agree, people do distinguish between their learning and "overhead," from infants to people during their last moments of life. Educators make these distinctions when they discuss informally and off the record what they want a professional development speaker or a faculty member to do for them. You;v probably received similar comments on meeting evaluation forms. They want responses to the same two questions as their students: (1) What do I have to do? and (2) How do you want me to do it? Some educators add, "What's in it for me?" a topic I plan to address later in another series of blogs I call "Who benefits and how do we measure it?" I'll show how I use aLEAP with Personal Benefits Analysis (PBA). Best wishes to your children in their new school. Good thing they have a dad who lets them use his Tablet and other mobile PCs to learn at home also. 🙂