Educational Malpractice…A values-charged assessment

This morning I commented on Beth Holmes post, which itself was a response to Dan Callahan’s comment on another post she wrote abour educational malpractice in our schools today.

A Malpractice Tree. Click the image for source.

A Malpractice Tree. Click the image for source.

Here’s the post I am referring to:Well, is this Educational Malpractice? in The 21st Century Centurion. So much to think about in this post! Here’s my start…and I’m not done thinking on it, but wanted to get this part of the conversation underway, so here it is:

A) If there is malpractice we need to define who is mal-practicing. I see a lot of talk about how teachers are not doing their duties when it comes to teaching thinking skills. If there is malpractice it is systemic. The teachers are only one element of what happens in the classroom. Though the strongest, they are not usually consulted when it comes to what we should teach children. Teachers deal with day-to-day live classroom activities while administrators, school board personnel, commissioners, and government ministers debate what policies and expectations need to be addressed at the school and class level. If there is malpractice it is systemic.

B) This is a values-charged arguement. In the 70s and still today, proponents of whole language learning believed that students needed to ‘discover’ language in authentic language-based situations, eschewing the explicit instruction of how language works. Many, if not most, students need to learn these skills explicitly. Personally I think it is malpractice to assume otherwise, but that is my value judgment.

C) Sophisticated thinking skills can be taught without the aid of computer technology. My most fruitful lesson so far this year has been sitting on the floor with groups of kids and construction paper creating mind maps of our learning system. Added bonus – construction paper doesn’t lose connection to a server :)

I’m now off to commit some malpractice in my classroom that has 1 working computer running a windows 2000 OS and a display that makes us think we have double vision…


  • sweetleaf says:

    i read this when you first posted it, but being that i am not a teacher i was waiting to see what teachers had to respond, to see if i understood correctly. i’m thinking that teachers, immigration cops, any case worker are probably the busiest of careers. oh, and also these days, financial and investment folks. i’m not implying all belong in the same genre…
    without reading the referenced post, malpractice in the class room does not compute. there may be breakdowns or otherwise a violation that then, would be defined in another way other than malpractice? i would think.
    the teacher is just the most visible and i’ve understood for along time, they are subject to the direction of administration. too often the teacher takes the blame. too often the teacher doesn’t get the credit. i know this is not all inclusive but too often common to an educational system.
    is this a matter of semantics? is it suggesting that teachers are subject to malpractice? is it a new avenue for another form of litigation in court? wtf? i guess i should read the referenced post huh?

    • Ken Allan says:

      Kia ora Sweetleaf!

      In any so-called profession, its members are judged and in some cases governed by their peers. It is simply a self-correcting mechanism, that has evolved over time, with all good intensions on the part of the practice.

      It happens in the practices of plumbers, electricians, real estate agents, accountants, lawyers, dentists, medical doctors, surgeons, nurses, etc, and also of teachers.

      Who decides if malpractice has occurred? The members do.

      How do they decide that it has occurred? Well, if it’s to be done fairly (and I think this is what Tracy’s post is alluding to) there has to be a procedure.

      With procedures come standards, which permit decision making to be done according to the limits of practice and also of judgement. Standards, of course, have to be within the law otherwise the practice becomes outlawed (which has happened in history in various professions).

      When all that is put in place, it then comes down to opinion. In many respects, it operates much the same way as a legal system, except that the opinion forming and the decision making (the judging) is often done by selected members of the profession, not necessarily by a legal body.

      You can tell that the ‘procedure’ that I speak of can be quite a complex one :-)

      In teaching in most countries, there are groups that sometimes work together, sometimes antagonistically, over different issues that arise. For instance, in New Zealand (where I live) the secondary teachers’ union and the teaching council are two separate bodies that may agree or clash on an issue over alleged malpractice.

      As in a court of law, the pros and the cons kind of battle it out. But the final decision making is done by a deciding body of elected people (perhaps teachers in this instance).

      When a teacher is accused of malpractice, it is often difficult to start the procedure. This is because there are usually protective buffers (people) who have to go through procedural reporting involving some sort of feedback loop. These loops are usually put in place by unions to protect members from constant procedural harassment.

      Once started, however, the alleged malpracticing teacher may well be suspended, while the process escalates to a stage when the accusation is dropped or deemed to be invalid etc.

      I guess you can fill in the rest for yourself.

      Ultimately, an accused, if found to be at fault, is cautioned, sanctioned, disciplined or dismissed. Removal of practicing certificate spells death for the professional career of the teacher – at least until reinstatement of the certificate is deemed acceptable. Most other professions have similar sorts of processes for malpractice.

      Of course, if there are legal aspects to the malpractice, then the legal system will also operate on the alleged malpracticing teacher.

      Ka kite ano
      from Middle-earth

      Ken Allans last blog post at [site]..Blogging, Learning and Desire to Learn

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