Do we need bad teachers?
The retiring Chair of Ofsted, Zenna Atkins, has got herself into trouble (and no doubt been misquoted) in saying that it might be good for kids to learn to cope with the occasional bad teacher. Even if she is misquoted, I am with her (despite her ghastly website)... the idea that public services can be free from human frailty is surely bonkers. We all need to learn how to recognise and deal with a teacher/policeman/tax-inspector/doctor we don't entirely trust -- just as we learn how to deal with a private business that does not give us what we asked for. The appalling encroachment of (illusory) tick-box competence is something we need to resist; we are always going to have to deal with people who are below par (that's the definition of par, after all).
But the big question is not "what do you do with bad teachers?", but "how do you know who a bad teacher is?"
When I was an undergraduate, I was very fierce about what I considered bad lectures. In fact a good friend of mine on one occasion went up to the then Professor of ***** (one Professor K***) and told him publicly that his lectures were a disgrace to the university. The truth is that they both were and weren't, but my friend's fully frontal confrontation was a much more effective way of raising the issue than pouring her heart out in an anonymous questionnaire.
But when a student activist in the 1970s, I got a shock.
We activists decided to run the first ever (I think) Classics Faculty lecture questionnaire, hoping to out the malefactors, the dull, the unconscientious (the Professor of ***** among them). The result was not what we had expected. Sure, our view on who the best and worst were got broad confirmation, but there wasn't one lecturer who was not rated tops by somebody. Unless you took the view that minority tastes were not to be catered for, then you could really not pillory anyone at all (although you might want to nudge a few of them in a slightly more popular direction).
Having done the lecturing game myself now for 30 years or more, I think that there is an even bigger problem. It is how and WHEN you judge whether teaching has been a success. It is all well and good to correlate peoples' lectures and supervisions with final degree results. But that can't be the be all and end all. Because getting a first or a 2.1 isn't in the end what really matters; it's what you do with the degree next -- 5, 10. 20, 30 years down the road. And of course some of our most impressive citizens got 2.2s years ago, and they have been inspired no doubt in the long term by what might have seemed at the time to be at best inefficient teaching.
The trouble about assessing bad teaching is that some of what you think is bad aged 21 turns out to be the most influential and inspirational when you look back aged 41 -- even Professor K...'s.