The Kneighborhood Annex

professional blog of a teacher, future administrato, writer, learner, motivator, inspirerororor

The Hawthorne Effect


I recently had a conversation with my friend about all this data I’m collecting.  I’m tracking a few aspects of my life from coffee consumption to miles run and books read to number of tweets.  Apart from asking me, “why in the world are you doing this?,” he was quite amazed at my dedication to collecting this data.  I’m still questioning my dedication in the summer months, but I guess only time will tell.

He had another intriguing questions…”Do you think your results will be skewed because you are aware of what you are collecting?”  Do I consciously make an effort to “pad” my stats because it will make me look good?  I don’t think so.  If I wasn’t collecting data, would I run as many miles?  Who’s to say?  I think seeing a “0” in the column of miles run makes me feel guilty which, in turn, makes me run more miles.

This thought brings up the idea of the Hawthorne Effect.  This idea says that if someone thinks they’re being watched, their production goes up.  Tests were run in a warehouse where they increased the amount of wattage used in the lighting. Productivity went up.  Then then decreased the amount of wattage used in the lighting.  Productivity went up.  Then they pretended to change the amount of wattage used in the lighting. Productivity went up.  Just the fact that the workers thought they were being watched was enough motivation for them to increase productivity.

Now, lets talk about teacher observations.  Isn’t the Hawthorne effect present in every single teacher observation?  The scenario goes like this…Administrator informs teacher of his visit.  Teacher makes his “best” lesson.  Administrator gives good review.  Rinse and Repeat.  Teacher eventually receives tenure.  What happens the other 177 school days?  That teacher might really be good, but sometimes that is not the case.

Possible solutions:

1.  “Pop in” Observations: I am not a fan of this solution, but it might work.  “Catching” a teacher off guard will definitely prove for a bad lesson.  That is of course if the teacher has no clue what he is doing.  If that is the case, then get out of teaching.  But still, even good teachers have bad days.

2.  Two-Way Mirrors: This is an idea I can get behind.  Think of the possibilities!!  Teachers would always think they were being watched, forcing them to be on their “A game” every single day.  Plus, the kids would think they were being watched, so some of the classroom management issues would go away.  And then there would be the constant paranoia of the staff.  This would just make me laugh, because all those teachers that have no business in the classroom would have the worst paranoia.  Think of the conversations that would take place in the faculty room.  It would almost feel like 1984.

If you have any other solutions to this problem, feel free to share.

Author: GraKneeToe

I'm a regular guy with a regular job. I write for fun, self-reflection and to possibly impart some of my thoughts on those that will listen. I do not claim to be an expert on anything, but have opinions on many things.

2 thoughts on “The Hawthorne Effect

  1. I bet the Hawthorn effect if researched over the course of a year would have the same results as…
    After time, if you grade something, productivity goes down. If you pay someone more for doing more, productivity will go up, but then after a year dip below the original starting point. Tell kids they will be graded on what they are reading and they will score lower than kids who are not told they will be graded.

    Measure yourself for a year doing something new (so if you are already a runner, don’t measure miles run) and I would be curious if you end up doing “less” of whatever you are measuring at the end of the year.
    Interesting post.

  2. I totally agree. When kids know they will be graded on something, most will try harder. They constantly ask me, “Will we be graded on this?” My response is, “your graded on everything you do in this class.” They don’t know that only some of those “assessments” go into my grade book. A lot of my “grading” is informal observations I make during the day.

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