Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Educational Triage

I was discussing a student with a colleague a few weeks ago and she made a comment that got me thinking. She said “Oh, I’m not a bit worried about him. He’s not going to be here next year anyway”. That reminded me of triage.

On the battlefield, or where there are mass casualties, medical treatment is rationed so that it does the most good. Incoming casualties are sorted into different categories. Systems vary, but generally there are those casualties who are likely to be fine without immediate treatment, those who would benefit from treatment, and those who are so badly injured that they are likely to die irrespective of the treatment they receive. They are usually assigned green tags, red tags, and black tags respectively.

I wonder do lecturers (myself included) engage in educational triage. Does there come a time in our dealings with students we categorize them into those who will be fine anyway, those who need our intervention, and those who are so far gone that there is no point wasting our time on them. Are students walking around with invisible triage tags attached, that only lecturers can see? Is this fair? Or is it just pragmatic? Like battlefield medical attention, lecturers’ attention is finite. And as class sizes and workloads increase, it is becoming scarcer.

Should every student get the same amount of attention? Should those who need the most get the most, or should it be allocated where it can make the biggest difference.

What if we make mistakes? On the battlefield being classified as beyond help is fatal. If a student is written off in error and not given much assistance, he is likely to fail.

It’s interesting to think what signals or vibes we might be using to categorize students, consciously or subconsciously.  For me the question “what am I supposed to be doing?” is like bullet wound to the head. YouTube and Facebook during lab time are like serious infections.

And of course educational triage requires an additional category not seen on the battlefield. Those seriously injured students who refuse medical treatment by not turning up to class, put themselves beyond the reach of the help they need. What colour tags should we use for them?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An educator's character will determine their classification of those seriously inured and seriously disengaged students. Justification as to why he/she chose the path of an educator SHOULD drive their choice classification. 

A professor who primarily focuses on brighter pupils or those whom HE considers show potential for growth, would classify the injured and disengaged student as Black.  Whereas a professor who primarily focuses on elevating each pupil's experience and strives to leave not one student behind, would provide a contradicting classification. Further more, the latter example might not offer any associated classification. Whatsoever. 

Which classification or color should the disengaged student be assigned? None. Attempt Reengagement. There fail is there fail, but they should not be forgotten. Even if "passing" is unlikely, they still should receive the same level of attention. Learning should be every students objective; not receiving a grade. Educating and/or providing a sturdy platform for learning should be every educators objective; not passing out grades. Society offers a more than abundant supply of stereotypes. Why add any more? - Pierce