THE PASSIONATE SKEPTIC
Productivity in an Educational Institution Thor May
Note 1: The Director of John Batman TAFE* in 1995 had hectored staff at length on the need for improved productivity. He was dealing with "productivity" in the economic rationalist mode. It seemed useful to give a reasoned response.
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Productivity in an Educational Institution
Thor May 23 July 1995 1.
Productivity is a measure of the resources required to produce a given product.
<> For a bolt manufacturer the product is an output of bolts.
<> For a salesman, the product is sales which are closed.
<> For a typist the product is letters typed.
<> For an office manager the product is an administrative load dispatched.
<> For a teacher the product is the increase in knowledge and skills of a student.
<> For a student the product is his/her own increase in knowledge and skills.
* Student product is always value added by applying appropriate resources
to the aptitudes, skills and goals which a student brings to a course.
2. The following do NOT represent any direct or automatic increase in teacher
productivity. Their worth has to be established in each instance.
* increased classroom contact time.
* increased student/teacher ratio.
* increased administrative documentation.
* increased non-teaching duties.
* increased required attendance time.
* increased number or length of meetings.
* reduction in teaching resources
* reduction or fragmentation of teacher preparation time.
* reduction in professional development time or funding.
* frequent timetable changes to fit administrative convenience.
* checklist ticking exercises masquerading as measures of student
* short term contract or sessional work and general insecurity.
* undermining teachers' professional autonomy.
3. The following do NOT represent any direct or automatic increase in student
productivity. Their impact has to be established in each instance.
* increased or decreased classroom time.
* experiencing frequent changes of teachers.
* filling out modular "self-paced" learning books with a minimum
expenditure of effort;
* memorizing pat answers for a couple of days
* cribbing answers off friends
* plagiarizing information
* being assigned module passes on the basis of attendance only.
4. The following DO represents a direct net loss in student productivity:
* articulation to a course unsuitable for the student's aptitudes or abilities
* dropping out of courses that require a bit of real work.
* dropping out because of dissatisfaction with teaching quality or resources
* dropping out because of problems with language
* dropping out because of problems with child care, finance, cultural
disorientation or general psychological distress
5. A TAFE is a complex institution with many layers of personnel fulfilling a
multiplicity of roles. All of these personnel will have different criteria for
productivity. There are spheres of operation where a productivity increase for
one player will mean a productivity decrease for another. A hierarchy of
productivities must therefore be established.
6. A TAFE differs from most industrial enterprises in that its final product is not
inanimate, but is graduates whose own productivity is the measure of the TAFE's
7. The productivity of a TAFE is therefore NOT determined in any final sense by
its operating "profit". This profit is merely an operational surplus from its
subsidized and earned income. It is essential for administrative continuity, but is
not the rationale for the TAFE's continued existence.
8. In the hierarchy of TAFE productivities, student productivity must be the
overriding measure, determinant and control on all other productivities.
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