Why Teachers Hate Algorithms
Does a formula for true love exist?
According to The Marriage Pact, it does. The Marriage Pact is a well-defined algorithm that eliminates ambiguity in relationships. It takes away all choices except one. In this case, we’re talking about marriage partners. If The Marriage Pact results are to be believed, the right algorithm can solve almost any challenge, including finding a spouse.
Algorithms are more than matchmakers. They’re problem-solving geniuses. They are capable of eliminating all solutions in an identified field until they find the one that will work. They perform these calculations far quicker than you or I could do them, and with greater accuracy.
And yet, if algorithms can find perfect spousal matches, why wouldn’t they also be able to solve the many problems facing education? Couldn’t algorithms assist administrators with school choice and scheduling?
What if these complex formulas could recommend lessons, grade multiple-choice tests, and evaluate student compositions? Could algorithms also track behavior and suggest rewards for positive choices?
As it turns out, they do all these things, and more.
Educators have been slow in adopting algorithms for instructional decision-making purposes. They’ve already had experience with algorithms in value-added performance evaluations. Inherent bias made the results unfair.
Teachers are cautiously skeptical of any program that promises to evaluate another person with fairness and objectivity. They know how hard it is to remain unbiased in a classroom. It’s difficult to measure all students the same way because every learner is different.
The value-added model of data analysis uses algorithms. Complex math formulas measure student achievement each school year and predict growth. A student who experiences growth every school year should be able to achieve more each following year. However, the algorithm does not take environmental factors into consideration, such as an illness or parental divorce.
Teachers understand the significant impact of these external influences on their students. They recognize that their students are more than a descriptive data summary.
When teachers take on algorithms
Some teachers insist that algorithms will never be able to evaluate student creativity or originality. To many educators, the idea that a math formula can judge student work is as ridiculous as using an algorithm to pick a life partner.
Too often, teachers toss off algorithmic decision-making because of the math.
Instead, teachers must embrace algorithms. They must learn what the formulas are designed to do and how they support student achievement. By becoming designers and writers of these formulas, only then will teachers have a say in how they and their students are evaluated each year.
What matters most
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it as many times as necessary. People are more important than algorithms. Teachers bring wisdom and empathy to their jobs, and these skills are more critical for student success than ever. However, teachers must bring these same skills to the table when it comes to understanding the algorithms used in their classrooms.
When teachers become part of the planning, writing, and decision-making process, maybe they will hate algorithms far less.
Certainly, their students will fare better.