A variety of teacher evaluation models and methods are used in schools around the world and teacher and school leader attitudes towards them differ considerably.
From the teacher perspective, perhaps the greatest concern regarding teacher evaluation systems is their fairness. In some schools teacher evaluation comprises an extensive list of things that the teacher will, in some way, be measured against by an evaluator. The trouble with such a list is that most evaluators are not able to spend enough time with the teacher to be able to reasonably evaluate the teacher on all of these performance standards. As a result, some schools have moved towards 360 degree evaluation models. Unfortunately, the extensive checkbox list still remain in the 360 models and many of the people participating in the evaluation do not see anywhere near enough of the teacher’s practice to provide fair judgement. Furthermore, there is the whole debate about using rating scales in teacher evaluations anyway but we’ll leave that one alone for now.
From the evaluator’s perspective, some understand the above concerns of the teacher but, for many, they are mandated to conduct the evaluation as required by the school leadership, the district, or education system. Moreover, an extensive checklist evaluation system can be onerous for the evaluator who goes out in search of the evidence to justify the judgement being made, then we come back to the amount of time that can be given to the process to avoid it being rushed.
Teacher evaluation is really about providing a platform for teacher growth and development not judgement. In this sense, a teaching professional should be doing most of the work in identifying the areas for improvement with the evaluator supporting and guiding them. If the evaluator is doing most of the work, then the teacher does not take enough responsibility for their own professional learning and development in line with the expectations of the school in which they work.
Evaluation should be driven by a teacher’s self-reflection first and foremost. Evaluators become essentially coaches clarifying what elements of better teaching practice may look like and support the teacher in identifying the steps needed to get there with the responsibility falling on the teacher to self-report progress made. Of course feedback is needed throughout the process.
A difficulty with self-evaluation is that the level to which a teacher will engage with the process will vary along with the amount of honest reflection that takes place. Evaluators have to support those who will be extremely hard on themselves regarding their ability and performance but may need to be tough in giving feedback to those that have significant blind spots in their practice and ignore major areas for development. The best evaluation models school’s can have is where teachers genuinely wish to seek feedback and are motivated to improve rather than afraid of the consequences.
In thinking about self-reflection in driving teacher improvement, a great tool is the Johari Window, which was developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram in the mid 1950’s. Evaluation models that incorporate self-reflection and move outwards to seeking feedback from others should highlight to teachers that there are blind spots in their practice, things that they may be unaware that they do really well and other things that they may not know need improvement. Using a model like this, schools have the opportunity to develop greater trust in the teacher professional growth and evaluation process if they see that it it sincerely used as a tool for self-exploration to become a better teacher. There is always something we can improve upon.
The following video, from Norquest Associates, is a great introduction to the Johari Window and may be useful to weaving into beginning evaluation with self-reflection before others begin to offer feedback.