Management has four primary functions: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Controlling is the process of measuring performance and taking action to ensure a desired result. It is important because organizational performance must be measured and there must be accountability for strategic initiatives. Control systems are effective when they are strategic, results oriented, easily understood by human resources, timely, positive, fair, objective, realistic, achievable, and when they inspire and motivate intellectual capital. Control systems have many different applications, one of which is in the management of the student learning in a class.
I've taught about the control function of management many times, but for whatever reason, God has put it on my heart to truly consider it, to consider how I apply it in my classes and to take a deep look at whether or not my control systems are accomplishing what I hope to accomplish. In all of my courses, I have a control system called "Demonstrated Mastery of Key Course Concepts." I've created a rubric with specific criteria for this course deliverable, which has a significant impact on individual grades.
Students should come to class because they want to, because they believe the time spent in class will be valuable, and because they believe significant things are covered in class that are not found in the textbook. Why use low-functioning coercive power to force students to participate? Why demand that students stay off cell phones and computers?
In theory, control systems should take organizations to higher levels of performance because they inspire and motivate the employees. Sadly, many control systems, (implemented with good intent) do just the opposite of what's intended, often times eroding inspiration and motivation rather than strengthening these things.
My ultimate objective is to ensure that each student gets the correct grade, the grade that reflects their understanding and ability to practically apply key course concepts. What I’ve learned is that this course deliverable has been a source of dissatisfaction for many students. I have also learned that students who don’t speak much in class and earn low scores for this deliverable often have very high learning outcomes (demonstrated in final exam essays), exposing flaws in the control system.
I’ve decided that individual scores for Demonstrated Mastery of Key Course Concepts will be removed from all of my courses. I believe that the final exams, presentations and in-class graded exercises in my courses will continue to provide a very clear picture of student learning outcomes and their ability to practically apply key course concepts.
There will certainly be a small group of students who participate in Socratic discussions and are more actively engaged than the majority of the class. If I know very clearly over the course of fifteen weeks that some students have clear mastery of material because of their consistent and meaningful contributions to the discussions, those students may still very well be rewarded with higher grades.
In summary, control systems, by design, should be inspirational and motivating to employees, should empower employees and ultimately lead to higher levels of organizational performance. Just as in the classroom, businesses should look to examine their control systems to be sure they are serving their original purpose.