Who IS Responsible for Student Learning?

Of course, I laughed and thought that this video (which has now received over 1 million hits worldwide) ‘had a great message’ and that all parents should listen to it and reflect on their school communication BUT…. it is really only a half truth if considered as anything other than a clever (and funny) SATIRE. As a disclaimer to my following comments; only read on if you are able to consider these comments but STILL ENJOY THE VIDEO. This is not meant as a vigilante on humour. If you haven’t seen it, here is the video…. followed by my ramblings.

Am I being a spoil sport by writing about this in a serious way and objecting to some of its content? (Especially the final comment which shoots inclusivity as an unfriendly footnote!). Well, the fact that the video is now packaged as ‘an actual recording that is used in a Queensland school’ is both dubious and (I would suspect) an attempt to give a tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at parent/school communication a far too considered hearing. I sincerely hope that no one REALLY used this for an actual answering service (as stressed in this posted version).

I was part of a staff discussion once (no school / staff disclosed) in which we discussed the role of the teacher. I asked staff to move to different corners of the room according to their response to certain statements. The room corners to which staff moved were labelled “AGREE”, “DISAGREE” and “UNDECIDED” – we covered a lot of issues over this time but the core intent was to get to the following decision statements:

Teachers are responsible for student learning” – AGREE / DISAGREE or UNDECIDED


Students are responsible for their own learning.” – AGREE / DISAGREE or UNDECIDED

I admit the questions could be interpreted as divisive yet I realistically thought that there would be a 50/50 split between the AGREE and DISAGREE categories on this issue. That wasn’t the case. Only 4 of over 50 agreed with statement one and only 5 disagreed with statement two. There were a handful in UNDECIDED. Each group was asked to defend their position, ‘Why” did they believe this was the case?

The discussion was robust, challenging and decisive. Being one of the five, I reflected long and hard about the beliefs of my peers. I knew that they were committed, focused individuals who gave beyond the ‘requirement of the job’ on an ongoing basis; yet I found it difficult to understand what I perceived to be a lack of personal ownership of our responsibility in teaching.

  • Was there any incentive to ‘get better’, as a teacher, if one fundamentally believed that learning was the sole responsibility of the child?
  • Did this belief make staff more resistant to ‘changes’ that created ‘inconvenience’ on the journey to a ‘greater good’?
  • Were staff of the opinion that educators who delivered Professional Learning to THEM were more or less effective in achieving learning outcomes based on an adjustment of teaching style/energy/activity choice, etc?
  • Did this belief impact a teacher’s willingness to support ‘special needs’ in the classroom?
  • Did this belief foster an attitude of ‘giving up’ on students too early?
  • Did this attitude result in a tendency to ‘quickly flick poorly behaved students to someone else’?
  • Did this belief impact the volume of teacher/parent/student communication?
  • Was it WRONG to THINK this way?

I have a simple illustration that I use most frequently with students to help them understand effort and reward. “If I promised to give you $1,000,000 if you got a “B” in English, what would you DO to ensure it happened?” Clearly, they know I will not be delivering on this but the point is clear – behaviour WOULD change. Can’t I ask the same question of our teachers? Our parents?

The truth is, that we are responsible to partner together regardless of how right or wrong any of us are. I will try to the best of my ability to persuade staff that whilst students must contribute a willingness to be present; that we do bear a responsibility to be ‘learning bridges’, to take students as far as humanly possible.

If the point of this video is to remind parents that they can’t flick all responsibility to schools, point well made – but I just don’t want to hear others cheering TOO loudly about it.


4 comments on “Who IS Responsible for Student Learning?

  1. Great points PB. I guess I expect that the gut response to the question “Am I responsible for student learning?” would have to be (at the core) YES. I concur that the partnership is the MOST important thing to develop (not something that always happens effectively).

    Ultimately, however, I (as the educator) have no control on the other two variables so can only adjust the things that DO impact on student learning; environment, discipline, assessment, testings, task types, class interaction, research access, IT access, currency of information, emersion, joint construction, homework rigor, contact home, policy, routine, procedure and etc.

    The word ‘teacher’ is imbedded with a verb.

  2. I’m not a WA teacher, but I stumbled upon your site via Get Schooled on fb, which I just joined for the very purpose of finding stuff like this.

    Loved the video and fully understand the pov expressed. As to the who’s responsible for what, is it cutting things too fine to suggest that students are responsible for their learning and teachers are responsible for their teaching?

    The metaphor I use is that of quarterback/receiver: “The quarterback’s job is to de­liver the ball, but that’s all that he can do. In order for the play to be successful, it’s up to the receiver to catch the ball, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter how good the blocking is, how well executed the offensive scheme, or how fine the throw—if the receiver drops the ball, no touchdown.”

    It’s the same in school. It makes no difference how well planned the lesson is, or how varied, if the student drops the ball. In order for education to be success­ful, it has to be received. Regardless of how often it is over­looked, this is not a minor point, and it goes straight back to student readiness.

  3. Pingback: The Parent Partnership « WA Teacher's Lounge

  4. Love your input, Fred (and your blog by the way). To milk your illustration I want to be the best quarterback and let the coach know if my receiver keeps missing.

    Having kept a blog for a few months now, I am intrigued by the posts that people respond to; this has had the second highest number of ‘hits’ and I think I wrote it without much focused energy. Great thing about online publication is getting a pulse for what strikes a chord.

    Onward and Upward!

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