Thursday, August 20, 2009


Now and again a survey report is published in the newspaper that makes my head spin, particularly when I read it late at night and I'm trying to read fast. There was an excellent one a couple of days ago. It would probably make perfect sense if I read it slowly, but on my first, fast reading, it was gobbledegook. By the third paragraph my head was revolving slowly:

"While 61 percent of the elementary school teachers said they believed students understood more than 80 percent of the content covered in textbooks, only 18.6 percent of students said they picked up that much. The percentage of teachers who believed their students understood around 60 to 70 percent of what they were taught was close to that of students, at 36.3 percent and 34.6 percent respectively. Meanwhile, only 2.7 percent of teachers were under the impression that students had an understanding of approximately 40 to 50 percent of their textbooks, but 41.4 percent of students responded that that was how much they'd comprehended."

And the revolutions became a lot faster as I read the paragraph after that:

"Such gaps in the understanding of student comprehension were evident at the junior and senior high school level as well. While 64.8 percent of junior high school teachers trusted that students grasped about 60 to 70 percent of textbook content, only 34.5 percent of students said they'd understood that much, and while 16.1 percent of teachers said they believed students had around 40 to 50 percent comprehension of their textbooks, 36.5 percent of students said they did."

By the time I got to the end I was feeling quite dizzy.

Incidentally, on that same page there is a link to another story, which I'm sure is a tragedy, but it's a great headline. I probably shouldn't have laughed:

"Student drowns while testing concrete canoe."

That must have been one of the students who only understood 40 percent of his textbooks.


Dr Curley said...

There's a general understanding amongst the tertiary teachers I work with that secondary teachers just don't get it. (This probably sounds bitter. I'm afraid it's meant to.) My head's not spinning, unfortunately. Not waving, but drowning...

Dávid said...

When I read that headline I laughed and felt a bit guilty, too. Then I made a quick search and found that it's actually not the dummies but the clever ones who make their canoes from concrete:

"Austin Moore and Jesse Doyle loaded life jackets, paddles and a 330-pound concrete canoe named "Dawgliverance" for an outdoor trip this week in Washington state.

They and 10 other Mississippi State students will navigate waters unknown to any other Mississippi engineering major. The university dozen are the first from the Magnolia State ever to advance to the national finals in the 20-year history of the American Society of Civil Engineers' National Concrete Canoe Competition."

Fortunately, they seem to have had a safe rowing:)

Lia said...

Someone beat me to the Concrete Canoe Competition. But yeah, it's not so idiotic to build a concrete canoe. Although the ones who drowned probably did do something wrong, if only picking the wrong testing date or site.

Diana H. said...

In Argentina teachers are more realistic, I can say. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the number of students who grasp over the 50 per cent is as low or even lower, at least in most schools.
The number of optimistic teachers in your country is amazing.
Believe me I had never heard about concrete canoes before!
I always enjoy your sense of humor.
Is it ok if I link your blog to my list of favourites?

Shammi said...

That made me nod off, actually - thanks for the canoe headline which brought me back from the brink because it made me laugh... although guiltily. :)