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.
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
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
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.
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?