Friday, May 11, 2012

A New Paradigm for Note-Passing

Imagine the following scenario: You work in a company where you get evaluated on your performance. You either work hard as you  can, have your personal struggles, and there are weaknesses in your performance. Then about 3 to 4 times a year, your manager sends your performance appraisal to another manager and they meet without you to discuss your performance. Afterwards both managers tell you how your performance has been, impose goals on you, and how you better improve your performance or else. Sounds crazy, right?

I was recently at a conference where someone who works in the People Analytics department at Google was talking about how they introduced an instantaneous feedback system. As an introduction, he talked about how in grade school you would get a report card in the mail, your parents would read it, and you would cover in fear after PTA. Then he described how note passing between classmates is a form of more instantaneous feedback and how they developed an internal platform to give employees instant feedback from their coworkers to help improve their performance.

From a performance management division it was kind of cool and it got me thinking about how we do performance reviews - in the classroom.

Well that's not even close to the way  teachers try to enhance performance of students in the classroom. They work hard (or not), get a report card, then the teacher and parents sit down and discuss the way that the child's performance is going to improve, what interventions or punishments to use, etc - all of this without the child's buy-in for the improvement or his/her input! There has been an effort by some to institute a character based report card as well, however there is opposition to it (from what I've heard, especially from Preparatory schools). I have also heard that some schools are starting to invite children to come to PTA meetings. I think that these are important steps to improving education.

In performance management, there are best practices to achieve higher levels of performance: The person being evaluated should rate themselves on a series of behaviors, skills, and knowledge. (Not just one performance dimension, but rather let's say 10 dimensions of their skills e.g.- motivation, knowledge, teamwork) Then the manager should rate them and they should sit down to discuss where the employee is doing well, where they are meeting expectations, and where they need improvement. The employee has the ability to explain their performance and then together they set goals and an action plan to achieve those goals. I am not an educator nor a child/school psychologist; I do however have knowledge of how performance management works. It works well to improve performance especially when the goal of the review is to develop the employee rather than decide whether they are getting a raise or promotion. I am not saying to do away completely with grades for subjects. I am saying that performance for subjects should be broken down by dimension; composition, vocabulary, grammar, etc. This will not only help students understand their weaknesses but their strengths as well.

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