Making Teacher Evaluations Better
This morning I had a chat with a good teacher friend about their school year and the progress they made. While it felt like their classroom management and pedagogical skills were at an all-time high, their principal did not share the same sentiment. In fact, in a number of ways, the principal felt that over the past two years, my friends’ skills had regressed.
What bugged my friend the most was that her colleagues routinely commented on her growth as a teacher without her even asking, and she had even been nominated teacher of the year in her school district. So, where was the discrepancy coming from? Did her principal have some kind of agenda, or were her skills truly regressing. Sadly, this is an all too common occurrence in the field of k-12 education.
What Does Teacher Observation Currently Look Like?
Educators are observed by their principals both formally and informally every year. Informal observations are sporadic and can be done at a moment’s notice. However, formal observations are planned prior and have a pre and post-observation phase.
What this means is that before a formal observation, the principal and teacher have a sit down to arrange the date and time of the observation, what lesson the educator will be teaching, and the criteria upon which the teacher will be assessed. This is referred to as the pre-observation conference.
Once the formal observation ends, the principal and the teacher proceed to what is referred to as the post-observation conference. Here, they discuss the observations made, and the principal will go through the educators’ performance, acknowledging the things they did well and where they need to improve. The principal works together with other teachers to develop an improvement plan to help facilitate the educators’ growth.
This plan will help correct any pedagogical deficiencies as well as propel teachers toward their full potential. Once the plan is put in play, coaching sessions and informal observations are used to accelerate progress.
How Can We Make the Teacher Observation Process Better?
To improve the teacher observation process, we ought to make it multifactorial. What does this mean? Instead of having educators observed by just a single administrator, perhaps they should be observed by several stakeholders. Of course, their resident principal should be one of the observers; the district can also have its team of observers. Since district observers don’t work with the teachers on a daily basis, their observations can be seen as unbiased.
Both the district observers and the principal should be coached to apply the same observational metric. All the parties (the principal, district observers, and teacher) would be present at the pre-observation phase and subsequent observations made. In the event of extremely divergent ratings, the district observers and the principal can work together to reconcile the score before facilitating a post-observation conference with the teacher. Theoretically, in the end, the teacher’s observational score should have an increased validity and increase teacher efficacy and quality.
What do you make of my suggested amendments to the teacher observation process?