Inter Departmental Teaching ConsistencyOctober, 2023
Whether it be something silly they did in class, or a test they gave with one day’s notice, our teachers are a constant topic of discussion at PHS. This is partially because there are so many teachers to talk about. Granted, this leads to smaller class sizes and better student teacher relationships, but grappling with varied teaching styles from year to year, subject to subject, or teacher to teacher can be jarring. Having more consistency between teachers of the same course would ensure better communication between students, make teacher collaboration easier, and increase grading equity through a general expectation of student and teacher behavior regardless of who teaches the course.
AP United States History, a common first AP course at PHS, is a key example of how the divide between teaching styles can impact both teachers and students. APUSH not only teaches students the rigor of an AP course, but also teaches them how to take proper notes, how to manage a massive workload in tangent with other responsibilities, and how to prepare for an AP exam. Depending on the teacher students get for this course, they could be set up for the rest of high school vastly differently. It is understandable that each teacher will have a different style or different approaches on assignments, but shouldn’t the basic aspects of what students learn and the ways through which they learn them be consistent?
Creating consistency between teaching of the same teachers promotes collaboration between students and teachers. Former PHS Chemistry teacher, Dr. Robert Corell, constantly encouraged his students to help one another on problem sets. He believed that teaching other students would not only help those other students to understand the content but would solidify the content within the minds of those who were teaching others. If teachers have a uniform timeline of assignments, and expectations as to how students are to complete assignments, students have an easier time collaborating with one another and teaching each other the content irrespective of who their teacher may be. Class uniformity would not only benefit students, but also teachers because there would be greater collaboration among teachers of the same class. If teachers of the same course were constantly conversing about where they were in the course, the assignments that they were giving out, and the writings that they were assigning students, there would be a greater consistency for all classes not only year to year but also from teacher to teacher, which would likely make it easier to collaborate when creating assignments or tests. For example, the math department for the most part collaborates on the creation of tests, so we know that Brent Ferguson’s AP Calculus BC class will be receiving the exact same test as Phil Reyes’ class. This makes it easier for those teachers to collaborate on the creation of the test. It also helps them to set the same deadline on which students should be familiar with the content. This also means that because teachers would be using the same tests, the grading systems would be consistent as well throughout those classes and departments meaning that inconsistencies from teacher to teacher would be more infrequent.
A lack of consistency among teachers of the same course can put certain students at a disadvantage especially in terms of what they learn and how it can apply to their future PHS classes. In my sophomore year English class, Dr. Douglas Levandowski taught the inductive writing process, which helped prepare me for English IV, in which the writing style is completely inductive. However, because this was not a strategy taught by all teachers for sophomore English, the inductive writing style is completely new to a lot of people as they enter English IV. If learning something early on in the PHS experience can seriously impact how students understand it later on in other PHS classes, shouldn’t that topic be taught by all teachers of that course? This comes from more than which books the students read. We would assume that uniformity in the books that classes with different teachers read would lead to an equal experience in their English classes.
Obviously, because the school year has already started, it could be difficult to ensure that each teacher is maintaining uniformity among their peers who teach the same course. Starting with required monthly conversations among teachers of the same course could help to ensure that each teacher is following the same path. Similarly, this could allow teachers to share their methods of teaching the course so that students going into Timothy Campbell’s APUSH class could expect a similar experience to the students going into Elizabeth Taylor’s APUSH class, for example. It could also be beneficial if teachers teaching the same course had access to one another’s course materials through a shared Google Drive so that assignments could be more uniform or lectures could remain the same for students across the course. This may seem difficult to start, but in the long run, the coordination of teaching styles within the same course would greatly benefit the collaboration, comprehension, and organization of students and teachers alike in the long run. It is high time that teachers of the same course have more coordinated lesson plans, in order to fix the inconsistencies in teachers’ grading systems, tests, and routines.