Teacher Evaluations: A Different Approach
Sid Cates, Ph.D.
Parents expect quality education in a Christian school. Anything less is not pleasing to them or to our Lord. In many Christian schools the administration assumes that excellence is taking place in the classroom, but assuming this is not enough. Unfortunately, most principals are unaware of what is going on educationally because they are not evaluating their faculty. Without an evaluation, the principal should never infer that stellar teaching is taking place. That is, don't expect what you don't inspect. Nor should a principal shape an opinion of a teacher's skills by listening to bits and pieces of information from parents, students, and other teachers. The principal owes it to the parents, the board, the Lord, and especially the faculty, to know the caliber of instructional abilities in the classroom. Table I lists reasons to appraise teacher performance; however, many Christian school principals do not accomplish this important function.
Table I. Reasons for Conducting Teacher Evaluations
know what is going on in the classroom.
To determine the teacher's abilities.
To measure the teacher's effectiveness.
To make the teacher accountable.
To measure progress or regression.
To foster competency in the teacher.
To lay the groundwork for removing the incompetent.
To emphasize a particular educational thrust or direction.
To correct a problem.
Reasons for Not Doing Evaluations
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the principal should know the quality of education taking place in the school. Since one recognizes the need, then one must pose the question: "Why are principals not evaluating their faculty?" Probably the reason given most by principals would be lack of time. In most Christian schools, particularly the small ones, the principal has no supervisor to perform classroom appraisals. With a myriad of duties including teaching, counseling, bookkeeping, chapel preaching, etc., teacher assessment is far down the list. There is no easy solution to this problem of being overworked. The principal must realize that an assumption of instructional quality can lead to a decline in the caliber of the overall educational program. Perhaps evaluations should take a higher priority in the principal's time.
Another reason principals do not want to analyze their teachers is a feeling of inadequacy. He or she can express this perceived shortcoming as, "I feel inferior to the teacher" or "I don't have enough teaching experience or "I know little about the subject being taught." Any principal can choose to use these excuses for not doing the job. The only way to overcome these fears is to gain experience in doing evaluations. Perhaps the most common excuse is "I don't know how" or "My college class didn't teach me that."
This article will center on another defense given: that of not having a suitable appraisal form. Many educational supervisors who are derelict in their appraisal responsibilities believe that they would do them if they only had the right instrument. Even though there are many evaluation instruments available, most principals will not find the perfect one for themselves and their school. Commercially available critique mechanisms do not give substantive results. They oversimplify the teaching art by providing a list of generic statements that require a subjective response on a scale of "poor" to "outstanding". Such statements as "Rate the teacher's relationship to students as: (1) Poor, (2) Satisfactory, or (3) Outstanding" do little to point out a teacher's strengths and weaknesses. An educator cannot be accurately graded by a list of competencies given such ratings. Each principal must develop the right instrument for him. Only the person responsible for quality education in his own unique situation can devise an acceptable appraisal tool. That is, the appropriate instrument for an evaluation of a school is one customized to that school. This article will help in the development of an evaluation instrument for a Christian school.
Developing an Evaluation Form
"Anybody with common sense, regardless of educational background, can analyze a teacher in three-fourths of the areas of significance." This is a bold statement but true. Most people have sat through twelve years of schooling and have witnessed a broad spectrum of instruction. These "veterans," therefore, have formed a "pattern" of what are good and bad teaching techniques. With this "pattern" in his mind, this twelve-year veteran can make commonsense judgments in such areas as lesson preparedness, communication abilities, room conditions, student attention, and student conduct. Without college courses in education, however, he would have a difficult time analyzing the lesson plan for the observed class.
A principal with an educational background and this "pattern" in mind, can critique her faculty in her own way. That is, she can develop her own evaluation instrument. The following four steps will help in the development of this important tool.
First of all, visit the classes. Let the teachers know when you will be visiting so you will see them at their best. Ask for a copy of the lesson for the session, including goals or objectives. Plan to stay no more than forty-five to fifty minutes. Before the visit, take a sheet of notebook paper and place headings on the sheet to remind you of major areas to examine. Table II is a list of suggested headings for this "review sheet." This is the beginning of the evaluation form in a rough state. Also before going into the classroom, thoroughly review the lesson plan and objectives. After the class is over, in the section entitled Lesson Plan you should comment on accomplishment of the objectives. This will take a good ear and is the most important part of the evaluation.
Try to arrive at the classroom before the session begins. Notice the conditions of the room: temperature, desk arrangement, cleanliness, bulletin boards, posters, lighting, clutter, etc. These elements of the room make up the items or room conditions to review under the heading Room Observations (see Table II). Compare these areas to your preconceived "pattern" of what is acceptable. Place a check mark by items on your review sheet concerning room conditions that are satisfactory to you. However, make written comments on unacceptable ones. You will find that as you gain experience in doing observations, you will add other items to this section.
Under the Analysis section, list all the methods the teacher uses along with any appropriate comments on whether or not each method fits the "pattern" of good or bad technique. You do not need to make any comment for acceptable use of a method. Do include, however, an explanation on your crude form as to why a method is poor and give suggestions for improvement. Reasons why the method is not good and suggestions on improvement are important to the appraisal. The use of this evaluation tool not only helps in making an assessment, but also helps improve the teacher and his or her methodology.
With the previous instructions in mind, the principal needs to complete the other sections of this preliminary observation form. As you observe the teacher, note those areas that fall inside the good "pattern" and those that fall outside. The observer should then add any additional comments on areas that need improvement.
Next, the observer should add sub-areas under the main headings as reminders of items to observe. Table II lists examples of these sub-areas to include. They are just suggestions; a good observer will include his own sub-areas and any "pet" emphases that he deems important. Taking a look at another school's evaluation tool will give some ideas.
Table II. Evaluation Form
Temperature, Cleanliness, Arrangement, Lighting, Displays
Enthusiasm, Grammar Problems, Voice Heard, Movement, Individual Attention, Variety of Methods, Efficient Management of Class, Biblical Integration, Illustrations, Demonstration, Lesson Previewed, Readability of Visual/Handouts, Teacher Questions (number)
Student Interest and Conduct
Student Questions, Corrections (number), Positive Comments, Class Attention, Disciple Problems, Student Cooperation, Number of Active Participants
Opening of Class, Assignments, Grade Book Readable, Interruptions, Dress, Students Late, Students Leaving Early
Neat, Clear, Understandable, Proper Form, Objectives Included
Analysis of Each Objective
Clear, Capable of Being Taught, Written in Action Form, Methods Used to Determine if Objective Covered.
The second step in developing an evaluation form is to write a report on the session. Summarize the observation immediately while the facts are fresh in your mind. The report should begin with a title section which includes the teacher's name, the date, the time of the observation, and any other like items. The summation should then include the main headings mentioned earlier. Under these headings, verbalize the good and bad areas observed. Again, the observer needs to include comments and suggestions on all observed areas, even ones of lesser importance. Each heading could begin with a standard opening. For example, the following is a suggested opening for the heading Room Observations:
The following are specifics noted during the observed session concerning the classroom. Take note of recommendations for perceived weak areas.
Next, list each observed area in the room and the analysis of that area in 1, 2, 3 format. After doing several of these observations followed by written evaluations, the observer will notice that the inspected areas will increase in number and so will the length of the summary to the teacher.
One can easily see that this process can be time-consuming. However, the report given the observed teacher is far more beneficial to the teacher than a standard "check-off" assessment form. The review is beneficial not only to the teacher but also to the school administration as it seeks to evaluate its personnel as to merit pay, advancement opportunities, determining a master teacher, and grounds for dismissal. One suggested time-saving technique involves transcribing the summary into a dictaphone and having it typed. As one becomes experienced in dictation, the time savings is noticeable.
If the report describes a satisfactory performance, the third step is to send the teacher a copy of the report with a letter stating overall satisfaction with the observation. The letter should also include a willingness to answer any questions. If, however, the summary reflects a poor showing, the observer should go over the review in person with the teacher. A copy of the report must go in the teacher's employment file.
One additional point is important regarding the evaluator and the one examined. To observe the teacher at his or her best, the principal should inform the teacher ahead of time about the details of the visit. That is, the teacher should know when the visit will come and what areas the observer will inspect. The observer can handle this in one of two ways: he can send a letter detailing the analyzed areas or he can explain them in a faculty meeting. The latter is best.
After an observer makes several critiques with his "homemade" evaluation instrument, he should have specifics of its framework in mind. At this point, the fourth step is to type the form according to the specifications and run off copies. However, the good evaluator will find that this "final" product will not be permanent. That is, he should regularly modify its design. The evaluator who modifies a form to meet his needs not only will have a more satisfactory evaluation tool but also will find that it is constantly changing as his focus and techniques change. Thus, the most effective evaluation instrument is a dynamic or "fluid" one.
No matter what type of observation form is employed by the administrator to evaluate his teachers, the important thing is to evaluate the teacher. Your parents expect it, your teachers expect it, and it is a vital step in the development of a quality school. And ultimately will it not please our Lord?
Reprinted from Balance, a publication of the School of Education, Bob Jones University. Used with permission of Bob Jones University. Please write BJU Press, for permission to reproduce this article.