A couple of our friends are training to be teachers, having previously had careers in other sectors, and hearing their tales of the amount of reporting they have to do has been truly jaw dropping.
Don't get me wrong, I had little sympathy with teachers back in the old days when they used to moan about the amount of marking they had to do while finishing work at 3.00 and having endless holidays - we are talking a different league here. Teachers have to produce vast amounts of data and reporting on their activities and their pupils' performance to a mind boggling degree of granularity. Add on to this the extra burdens placed on them when their school is having an Ofsted inspection and teachers truly having something to moan about.
The trouble is that all of this work is based on three false assumptions. Firstly the false assumption that anyone is going read the damn stuff! There is just too much of it and it is too detailed. I just don't believe that anyone in the groups who demand all this reporting can actually take it all in. The second false assumption is that having read it and taken it in that they could make any sense of it. Too much detail and not enough interpretation makes information a burden and not a benefit. Lastly the biggest false assumption is that anything is going to do anything with what they "learn" from all of this stuff. It is just too hard to be confident that it means anything and that your decision to do something is the right one.
Now - and you would expect me to say this - what if you applied what I call the "ooh that's interesting principle"? What if every teacher had a blog? What if they were encouraged spend 15 minutes a day writing about the really interesting things they noticed about their students and their classes as a whole and to write that in plain English, accessible nuggets of writing? What if other teachers, who were also blogging, could read each others blogs and notice similarities and discuss what they noticed in comments? What if teachers could use folksonomic tagging to label their writing and what if school management then subscribed to interesting RSS feeds or tag searches in a local version of deli.cio.us that allowed them to see what were important themes or issues worth dealing with?
What if this worked and you applied it to any situation where bean counters place crippling demands on people to produce reporting that is practically meaningless?