Problems with Mixing Coaching & Assessment

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend an hour and a half with all the teachers and educators of Junior School, discussing the current approaches around the world to assessing teacher performance (yes, the Junior School children may have started their summer holidays, but the teachers have ‘gone back to school’ for the week!)

There’s no question that society collectively and each and every individual stakeholder sees the wisdom in addressing issues of ‘teacher accountability’. As a parent, of course we want there to be accountability for the teacher in to whose hands we place the education of our child. However, once we get past that point, agreement and consensus are much harder to achieve.

How should accountability be assured? What should teachers be held accountable for? If we have accountability, will we have better teaching? Will we have improved learning outcomes for children? Will children have a better, more relevant and more life-enriching learning experience?

In a well-known American academic research published as “The Widget Effect” it was discovered that in places in the US where there were teacher performance management/ assessment systems, at least 98% of all teachers were rated ‘Satisfactory’ or better in their performance. Can this be right in an education system which is seen to be in need of massive reform and to be failing vast proportions of its pupils?

When educators look at ‘assessment’ of students there is a clear separation between Assessment of Learning (AoL) and Assessment for Learning (AfL), The former is principally summative, use of tests, exams and other mechanisms to take a snapshot of what has been learned by the pupil – a backwards looking review. AfL is more formative assessment – any technique that is used in order to look forward and focus on what the learner would need to do to improve learning in the future.

(This is, of course why CCE as currently practiced in India is clearly a new variation of AoL, rather than true AfL)

At TSRS we favour AfL, seeing learning as an inherently developmental process. If that is the case for pupils, then logically and consistently we believe it should also be our attitude and approach towards teacher continuous professional development.

Below is the link to a fascinating article from ASCD that looks at the potential risks when performance assessment and developmental coaching get mixed up and confused. It sets out nicely the positive benefits to be achieved from a clear coaching approach and orientation to CPD. The approach is respectful of the teacher’s self-eficacy, professionalism and desire to develop, improve and deliver better learning outcomes for pupils.

ASCD Article on Coaching and Assessment

Great teachers want to enhance the impact they have for pupils, to do better tomorrow what they do today and to find motivation in being on a path of continuous professional development. I believe coaching offers a route to achieve those aims for more teachers more of the time. However, as the article rightly points out – coaching entails a very specific, recognizable set of skills. Focus needs to be on developing those skills for the people who are to be engaged in coaching, to ensure that the process is a productive and rewarding one for the coachees.

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