Getting Teacher Evaluation Right

The University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education has a series of Dean’s Lectures and I attended one on January 30 to hear Linda Darling Hammond speak on the title of this post.

She started by asking “Why is there so much attention to teacher education reform?” and her belief is that the mission of 21st century teaching is different to what was before. It’s no longer good enough for teachers to ‘know their content’ and deliver it. It’s more of a co-learning role now where teachers, and their students, are expected to be on learning journeys, where teachers should know about learning and how to better engender that learning in their students.

“Why has it been problematic?”

1.  Lack of:

  • clear standards of practice
  • time
  • expertise
  • links to professional development

2.   Little attention to student learning

3.   Unwieldy processes for making decisions

“How we might make matters worse”

1.   focus evaluation entirely after entry to teaching

2.  creating systems that focus on ranking teachers versus improving teaching

3.  making decisions substantially based on value-added test scores

4.  putting all of the weight on school principals

5.  designing systems that cannot be implemented

“What do effective teachers know and do?”

  • engage students in active learning that builds on what is known about their prior learning
  • create intellectually ambitious tasks
  • use a variety of teaching strategies
  • assess student learning to adapt teaching to student needs
  • create effective scaffolds and supports for language and content learning
  • provide clear standards, constant feedback and opportunities for revising work
  • develop and effectively manage a collaborative classroom in which all students have membership

Darling Hammond made the point that the above listed qualities of what effective teaching looks like are all embedded in the AITSL standards for the performance and development of Australian teachers.

So, if we now know what effective teachers need to be able to do and know, how do we develop teachers to reach these standards of practice?

Darling Hammond made the point that systems created for such a purpose need to combine evaluation with the creation of a standards-based teacher development process, and that this process should be educative (not punitive). And that this MUST (her emphasis, based on the research evidence) be concomitant with the training and development of the leadership group (otherwise the professional learning of teachers will go nowhere).

Within the development process should be opportunities to show integrated evidence of:

  1. practice
  2. professional contributions
  3. student learning

Multiple measures are required to reflect practice. Lesson observations used as part of the evidence platform need to be standards-based and performed by experts who have been trained in evaluation and ideally in the same content area.

What is your school doing in relation to the professional learning of all who work within it? One of the biggest dangers I see is that of too broad a palette. Look again at that list of what makes an effective teacher. Is the professional learning program at your school aimed at these elements of practice?


About Linda

I have been involved in secondary mathematics education in Victoria, Australia for over 25 years.
This entry was posted in Pedagogy, Systems, The profession, Vision. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Getting Teacher Evaluation Right

  1. Your column is excellent. Here in the US, we have the ongoing issue of urban education, in which every one of your “don’ts” are practiced on a routine basis. Teachers (including me) learn nothing about how to enter a troubled classroom environment and put water rather than petrol on the flames. Principals expect that the teacher come in and have a fully-developed pedagogy that jacks up test scores on the next quarterly benchmarks (AND leaves lasting learning and thirst for more learning). Now, they cut all the teaching aides AND the non-teaching aides, and eliminate learning supports outside the classroom. Good luck, colleagues!

    On the other hand, I have recently posted on a blog I am writing for ( the fact that if students aren’t working on something worth doing, nothing that happens in the classroom will make a bit of difference. I’m not the only blogger who likes John Dewey’s idea of situated learning; Dr. Robert Moses’s Algebra Project doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I have struggled to teach math by the development of ideas over the course of years, rather than weeks or days, in the face of an administration that crowed, “Our industry is our students, and their PSSA scores (our bubblehead tests in Pennsylvania) are our products.”

    Nuff said.

  2. Linda says:

    Hang in there, Ronald. Teaching needs people who think, reflect and act with integrity.
    You might be interested in this link to the recently released Classroom Practice Continuum –
    I have been meaning to write a post on it but have yet to find the time!

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