Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

Over the last few months I’ve posted a few pieces related to the ways in which teacher performance is evaluated. There are many who say that they want to see a scenario in education that promotes excellence in standards and that this will never really happen without ways to differentiate according to the standards and quality of teaching, and to differentiate rewards and recognition for teachers. In the most extreme, can there ever be excellence in a system that fails to identify and address issues of chronic under-performance?

The earlier articles focused upon the debate in the US about the relative merits of evaluating teachers on performance of the learners (in standardized State level tests), value added and through classroom observations. Whilst we can all see the perils of focus on test results, there have long been criticisms from teachers that classroom observations were open to appraiser bias, favouritism and undue subjectivity.

So, I was very interested to come across this interview with Charlotte Danielson who is considered to be one of the leading experts in this area in the US. She provides a good starting point for understanding the framework that she recommends and talks of some of the positives and perils of utilizing observational techniques to gauge teacher effectiveness:

Edweek Blog – Interview with Charlotte Danielson

I found Danielson’s approach refreshing, sensitive to the anxieties that teachers can experience around such practices, but also bold and clear in taking as a ‘given’ that whatever happens in every teacher’s class all the time is the business of the school, the parents and the education system. We have an education system that is crying out for real, genuine accountability. The best teachers have nothing to fear from such accountability – in fact they stand a better chance of having their work recognized.

The only one hesitation I have is that such systems imply that all the learning in schools (and all the responsibility of teachers exists) only in the classrooms during defined lesson periods. In fact, I believe we need ways that evaluate far more holistically the impact that teachers are having on pupils. For this, we may need more ‘professional’ style appraisal and performance management systems like in companies that take a far more holistic approach towards an individual’s overall performance.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Revisited for the Digital Age

The internet inspires a level of free sharing amongst educators that is really something quite exciting, especially for educators who work in situations where their access to top quality learning materials may be limited. Here is a perfect example – a revised Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy from Colleen Young on the Livebinders website.

Livebinders – Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

With all the rubrics and other downloadable pdf documents in this binder it provides a great resource for teachers.

A big ‘Thank You’ to Colleen for sharing.

Who is Responsible for Learning in the Classroom?

Is it the students, the teachers, even parents, school management? It seems like such a simple question at first, but is actually very thought provoking. This can be seen clearly from this Edutopia piece written by US education consultant, Ben Johnson.

Edutopia Article

The comments and feedback inspired by the short article are also interesting.

My own take on this is that, as educators, we are better off not engaging in this debate beyond a point. I feel it’s better that we say – “I take 100% responsibility for whatever happens in my classroom”. This leads me to question myself and what I’m doing if there’s a student who isn’t learning effectively or if there are classroom management issues. I take the responsibility to inspire every student, to reach out to every student (where they are), to understand students’ issues of motivation, drive and interest in the learning.

This is consistent with the perspective taken in adult training environments where the trainer takes 100% responsibility for the learning experience of all trainees/ course participants. One effect this has, is that when a trainer is working with a group they are continually ‘antenna up’ scanning for body language, comments or any other signals that provide clues about audience motivation (not as a mass, but individually). The best trainers and speakers maintain an innate ability to be flexible and to vary what they’re doing according to this critical feedback from the audience.

To me, this is a fundamental part of the ‘process mastery’ that great teachers are continually aspiring to.

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