Accountability – What does it mean to be accountable?

Accountability. A word that is thrown around schools, discussed with parents, and expected of students. But what is it? The New Oxford American Dictionary on my computer defines accountability as: the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility. So when we say students need to be accountable, we are saying we want students to be responsible? When we tell students’ parents to partner with us to ‘make their child responsible,’ are we talking about teaching accountability? Sounds easy. Just telling students to be responsible or be accountable for their learning, should just make it happen. Yea right…

If it was that easy, we would not see college students expecting chance after chance to turn in work that was assigned the first day of class. These young adults would not cry foul when expected to turn in an assignment when it is due or take a hit on their grade when it is late. Or have their parent or coach contact the teacher to explain the situation and resolve it for the college student. But this should not be surprising, because this same student’s parents talked to his/her teachers form preschool through high school to fix issues.

Please don’t get upset and think I am against parents advocating for their children. In fact, I endorse that and have done so myself. I am not talking about the parent who emails a teacher to explain that her child was frustrated doing homework and after a reasonable time period and her trying to guide him, she is letting the teacher know that she told her child to stop and move on to another subject. Let’s applaud that parent for knowing that frustration will impede any review or benefit from that homework.

But what do we really want the students to be accountable for and how do we teach them to be accountable. So, in my opinion, docking them in the behavior system for forgetting their pencil does not teach responsibility. I know the last time I forgot a writing tool in a meeting, there were some on the conference table or someone let me borrow one of theirs. Please just give out the pencil. Did they forget their homework? Ask why, then decide if the student’s current organization system is working. Is the student remembering to take the necessary materials home? Is there a time period for homework at home? Working with the student (and the parents) to create a plan may be the path to teaching the student to be accountable, rather than giving a negative consequence.

Sticking to given deadlines will teach students more about being accountable and give them the experiences they will need in higher education and ultimately their jobs. Expect students to follow the outlined assignment plan. Teaching a student how to plan for a deadline and break large assignments into manageable chunks, will guide them towards being responsible. Understand why your students are not demonstrating accountability and then help them create strategies.

So, what does it mean to be accountable? How do you teach your students to be accountable? Share your thoughts and ideas, @edtechease. 

Originally posted on  Thursday, 26 April 2018.

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