Highly skilled, competent and motivated teachers are the backbone of any educational institution. Teacher evaluation is therefore a continuous process that involves identifying personal and professional gaps in teachers and supporting them to turn those gaps into strengths.
Meaningful teacher evaluation is a comprehensive and multifaceted process that covers a wide range of parameters. The biggest challenge is to identify and select an implementable assessment framework, while establishing evaluation criteria and reference standards. Also, the evaluation platform must be scalable, repeatable and low-cost to be seen practical.
This article focuses on the six frameworks for evaluating outstanding teaching. They are listed in order of demonstrated effectiveness. While some frameworks can perform in a standalone fashion, it is recommended by experts that no single framework be used as a sole criterion for assessment.
These are –
- Classroom Observations
- ‘Value-Added’ Models
- Student Ratings
- Principal /head Teacher Judgement
- Teacher Self-reports
- Analysis of Classroom Artefacts and Teacher Portfolios
Classroom observation is the most common and widely used method for evaluating teacher performance. There are three types of classroom observations namely, peer observation, observation by principals and by external evaluators. Peer observation is conducted by colleagues. Teachers typically use feedback from peer observation for self-development but are reluctant when used as high-stake observation tool during appraisal cycles.
Observation by principals are carried out by the principal, or the school leader. While it is said to serve the purposes of building relationship with the teacher, providing constructive feedback and support for professional development, principals need to be properly trained for successful implementation.
Observation by external evaluators is sometimes preferred as teachers are often reluctant to show their weakness to their peers, senior teachers or their principals. External evaluators consist of regional inspectors and inspectors from district/state/national evaluation departments who are mostly inexperienced and can pose challenges that are political in nature like jurisdiction and authority over the information collected over the evaluation.
Classroom observations should be used as a formative process for creating reflective changes in teaching and student learning. Transparent teacher assessment promotes a sense of community among teachers and makes it a learning experience instead of high stake appraisal and evaluation. Feedback plays a critical role in improving teaching practices. Specific and actionable feedback helps teachers make necessary changes in their teaching style. High-quality observations demand standard protocols, properly trained observers and feedback that are aligned for quality.
Value Added Model
Value-added model(VAM), also known as value-added analysis, is another method that has been widely used for evaluating teaching quality. VAM refers to the statistical approach where student’s previous years’ test score is used to predict the student’s future test score. Then the actual score is compared to the predicted score and the difference between the predicted and actual scores, if any, provides the measure of teacher’s contribution. This model attempts to isolate the contribution i.e. the “value added” by a particular teacher in a given academic year in student achievement. This also compares teacher’s effectiveness with other teachers.
Teacher’s value-added = Student’s actual score – Student’s predicted score.
Therefore, teacher effectiveness is decided by his or her students’ performance whether they are able to reach the benchmark i.e. the predicted score on the standardized test. Students ability to meet or exceed the predicted score identifies the teacher being effective and vice versa. VAMs are considered a more reliable indicator of teaching ability compared to assessment through current scores as it eliminates the effect of non-educational factors like family background.
Limitations of VAM
VAM alone cannot provide an overall understanding of the aspects that make a teacher effective. This model of measuring teaching quality assumes that teachers are solely accountable for student achievement, rather than considering other influences like school, family, peers that also contribute to student achievement. VAM is typically used after the third grade, as it requires previous two years of student scores and kindergartens often do not have standardized tests and scores. Schools may not be able to obtain new students’ prior scores from their former schools, or the scores may not be useful because of the non-comparability of some tests. A range of evidence suggests that VAMs can be affected by the effects of prior teachers, measurement error, and the distribution of students into classrooms and teachers into schools.
This method is typically employed in the form of questionnaire where students assess various aspects of teaching. Compared to other methods, student ratings assessment is a cost-effective method that require minimal training and can provide valuable feedback. Student ratings are typically used in higher education, especially in degree colleges. Students from different age groups will assess their teachers differently. For example, younger students are likely to value their relationship with the teacher more, compared to older students who might be more emotionally equipped to make objective observations based on learning outcomes. A well-designed questionnaire that keeps in mind the emotional and evaluative capacity within various age groups of students thus becomes an essential requirement in the evaluation process.
Studies recommend that student ratings should be included as one part of the overall teacher assessment process. It should never be a single evaluation criterion, as students are not capable of rating teachers based on curriculum, classroom management skills or content knowledge.
Principal judgement is not to be confused with Principal Observation. Observations by principals include steps like pre- and post-observation. While pre-observation involves pre-negotiation of the goals of the observation, post-observation is used for providing constructive feedback.
Principal judgement is an informal assessment that might be conducted during a brief drop-in to the classroom. Principal judgement depends on the assessor’s (principal or head teacher) background knowledge about the teacher and the assessment context. Maintaining uniformity and unbiasedness is the key challenge in such kind of observation that lacks any standard protocol, training for the assessor or quality check on the feedback provided.
Teacher self-reporting provides teachers with an avenue to express their views about their own teaching practice while allowing reflection on organizational factors, that influence their teaching. Such reports contain details of classroom activities, surveys, instructional logs and interviews. Self-reports consist of a collection of checklists assessing observable behaviors and teaching practice. They also include self-assessment in the form of a rating scale to check how teachers consider themselves aligned to the school prescribed teaching practices. Teacher Self-reports offer good validity as both quantitative and qualitative opinions can be collected directly from the assesse. This form of assessment is cheap and scalable while easily summarized into tables and graphs for comparison.
Like other observation techniques, self-reports also cannot be used as a primary tool for assessment as teachers are likely to over-state parts of questionnaire that they know are not easily verifiable. Questionnaire often lack flexibility and forces answers, there are typically more “Yes” or “Agree” responses compared to “No” or “Negative” and chances of misunderstanding a question is high as filling out comprehensive questionnaire is viewed as an additional burden to teaching activities.
Analysis of classroom artefacts and teacher portfolios
Analysis of classroom artefacts like lesson plans, teacher assignments, assessments, scoring rubrics and student work, evidence of teaching practice etc. can also be used to determine teaching quality. Evaluators focus on how learning opportunities are created in the classroom to adjudge the effectiveness of teaching. This evaluation process is considered practical as the content to be assessed have already been created by the teacher and do not require any extra effort on their part.
When teachers submit a collection of classroom material to showcase their achievement, it is called a Teacher Portfolio. Teacher Portfolio often contains samples of student work, videos of classroom instruction, reflective writings, notes from parents and any special award or recognitions, in addition to classroom artefacts. It may also contain evidences that showcase teacher’s ability in identifying certain problems in a lesson, followed by accommodating necessary changes and using that information while planning future lessons.
Studies have shown the merits of analyzing classroom artefacts and teacher portfolios, when used in a standardized format and following specific protocols like the Instructional Quality Assessment (IQA) and the National Board certification for its Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
The IQA protocol recommends guidelines to be followed while scoring classroom artefacts into 10 categories namely, Cognitive Depth, Connections/ Applications, Discourse Community, Explanation & Justification, Grouping, Mathematical Tools, Multiple Representations, Problem Solving and Structure of Lessons.
The NBPTS provides 25 different certifications based on assessments of a multimedia teaching portfolio for evaluating pedagogy and student outcomes, followed by a three-hour assessment center examination.
As a concluding thought, the six frameworks discussed above can be used in combination to arrive at a framework that works for your organization. As with any process change, 1) it is important that all stakeholders are included in the planning stage, 2) teachers are empowered to accept, reject or suggest modifications, to ensure they are committed and accountable and 3) sufficient training with recommended use-cases be provided to the assessors and the assessed.