Just because everyone at one time or another has been in a
classroom as a student, that does not make them effective teachers or evaluators.
Heck, I use toilets many times each day. That does not make me a plumber!
What is the best way to evaluate classroom teachers? Is it by supervisor observation? Student evaluation? Test scores?
Truth be told, this is not an easy process. How does one really measure the effectiveness of relationship-building and helping students develop a sense of self-efficacy? Can it be done with a paper and pencil assessment? Can it be done by sporadic administrative intrusion into a classroom?
How do you know effective teaching when you see it?
Justice Potter Stewart famously opined in a 1964 Supreme Court case attempting to classify pornography: “I know it when I see it….”
My experience tells me the same when it comes to recognizing effective teaching: I know it when I see it. You can quantify what a student spits back on a state high-stakes test. You can attempt to equate knowledge with how many As, Bs and Cs have been awarded (maybe even earned). But how do you evaluate the curiosity, initiative, efficacy, social integration and social responsibility? I know those questions will not/do not sit well with the number crunching proponents for evaluating teachers. I do not shy away from meaningful evaluation; unfortunately, I have seen it only on a few rare occasions in the last three decades.
Video recommendation for the week:
Listen to a student speak about testing and teacher evaluations–and the challenges therein.
In fact, when it comes to effective teacher evaluation, in 32 years I have seen little of substance. I cannot remember (really, I cannot recall) one time when a supervisor who was evaluating my teaching ever witnessed an entire classroom session of my teaching. What generally has passed as a “classroom observation” has the observing party doing something close to:
- Entering my class after I have started the lesson;
- Writing notes or checking boxes on a clipboard for about 20 or 30 minutes;
- Leaving the class before we have completed the lesson.
The evaluation, then, consists of a person not seeing how the lesson began or concluded. And he/she typically comes in looking for some pre-determined “data-informed benchmarks” that indicate how well I am doing.
Video recommendation #2 for the week:
In my situation this happens twice per academic year (at my college). And then I have a formal evaluation—months later. My “teaching evaluation” is pretty much predicated on what has been viewed in 40 to 60 minutes for an entire year. If a teacher is on an annual review, he/she gets feedback once a year—and not necessarily immediately after the observation. Usually, my first observation is in October…the sit-down formal review in March or April. And in that short meeting we talk about other “important” issues like committee work. (For a while, we had an administrator who wanted to evaluate us how neat and organized our offices were. Really? Really!)
Think about having a golf coach who observed your swing for 20 minutes during one round of golf—and then gave you feedback months later. How valuable would that be? How about if that same coach did not see you address the ball, swing or hit the tee shot—but he showed up when you were standing over the ball for your second or third shot? And he left the course before you holed out? Not really very effective, is it?
I am not apologizing for poor teaching. Far from it, I have always advocated for more strenuous evaluation and coaching. I have constantly invited supervisors and colleagues into my classroom. In fact, if you are my supervisor, you better be a master teacher. If you are not, how am I to learn from you? I already know how to check off boxes on clipboards.
There are obviously problems in our educational system. The convoluted and tortured manner in which our teachers are evaluated does not (IMHO) fix the challenges. I question if it even addresses the problems. Next week we will examine some common-sense approaches (again, IMHO).
Hug a teacher this week!
Choose well. Live well. Be well—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) with friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli). If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment.
Make it a wonderful week!
(c) 2013. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.