Instructor-student assessment ‘is like asking a driving instructor to test clients’


Liz Farrell has said that expecting teachers like her to assess their students for the Leaving Cert would be like driving instructors assessing their own students.

It would change the nature of the important relationship between teachers and students — for the worse, she added.

Ms. Farrell believes it is important to maintain the separation between the person teaching the subject and developing students’ potential and the person evaluating students’ work.

“I am a mentor to my students, I am an advocate to my students. This would change the relationship from an attorney to an arbitrator,” she said.

Ms Farrell added that many elements of the reform plan were progressive and worthy, but she called the teacher evaluation aspect “regrettable and regressive”.

She speaks for many in her profession who strongly oppose the move proposed by the education minister Norma Foley as part of a recently announced senior cycle overhaul.

For Ms Farrell, who teaches English and History at Coláiste Eoin, Hacketstown, Co. Carlow, one reason for her opposition is that Ireland is a small country and she teaches in a small rural school.

“But even in larger schools it changes the relationship from an advocate to a mediator,” said the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) board member.

She said the objectivity, validity and reliability of the existing system must be continued through an external evaluation by the State Examination Commission (SEC).

That was a point raised by TUI President Martin Marjoram in his address to the unions conference yesterday, when he recalled that when the Leaving Cert was replaced with calculated grades the pressure on teachers was “immense in some cases”.

He said “some are still ostracized by parents who have convinced themselves of wrongdoing towards their child.”

Ms Farrell recalled that the Minister, when presenting her proposals, said: “We must not rush, but we must not hesitate”. “But then look at what’s happening with English and Irish,” she added.

This was an indication of the students’ transition to taking the first exam in both subjects at the end of the fifth year.

The department has since clarified that this is an interim measure pending the update of subject specifications.

The change comes into effect for students beginning the Senior Cycle next year, but Ms Farrell said even as an interim measure, she saw “no value in postponing exams”.

Rather than relieving the pressure, having language exams at the end of fifth year when students are not developed in their own voice will increase the stress.

“It will result in the transition year being used for academic preparation, defeating the purpose of making it available to all.” Instructor-student assessment ‘is like asking a driving instructor to test clients’

Fry Electronics Team

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