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Top 3 Problems with Scripting for Teacher Evaluations

While most people generally agree that teachers must be held accountable, the current system of teacher evaluations doesn’t really do that.  Scripting, although ineffective at delivering significant improvement, has been one of the most widely used tools for teacher evaluations, largely because of the common misconceptions surrounding the practice.

So what, exactly, is scripting? Scripting involves recording what is happening in a classroom, including what the teacher is doing and saying, what students are doing and saying, and the interactions between teacher and student. Below are three major problems with this practice.

Problem #1: Scripting is Inefficient
If scripting sounds tedious, it’s because it is. It’s also inefficient and not as effective as it was once thought to be. In our work with schools throughout the country, school leaders are lucky if they can get 1-2 scripted observations completed for every teacher each school year.

Problem #2: Scripting is not as objective as it claims to be
A common misconception is that scripting is objective. If an observer is writing down or typing into a computer everything that happens in a classroom, then they’re being objective, right? Wrong.
First, it would be impossible to record every interaction. Think of the number of interactions that happen in a room of 20+ students and a teacher just using nonverbal communication alone. On top of this, evaluators are people, and people sometimes see what they want to see and fail to see what they don’t want to see – it’s called confirmation bias.

Problem #3: Scripting is really just a compliance practice

Although the flaws surrounding scripting are clear, evaluators are still using it. Why? Because they have to do something to be compliant, and this is what was touted early on to meet compliance. Unfortunately, this led to a widespread missed opportunity.  Teacher observations shouldn’t just be about checking boxes to meet state and federal requirements.  It’s time for schools to progress beyond mere compliance practices (i.e., scripting) and instead focus on processes that foster teacher reflection and growth.  One such process leverages video observations over scripting, and the results are very encouraging.

Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research (through the Best Foot Forward project) examined the benefits of using video observations to help teachers accelerate their development. The many benefits video observations, like iAspire Reflect, provide over traditional scripting practices include: capturing all information from an observation, unlimited opportunities to review the observation, objective data and feedback, opportunity to observe without being physically present in the classroom, allows teachers to record themselves and choose which lessons to submit for review, increased number of coaching cycles with each teacher, and the creation of a professional development library of exemplars of instructional practice that can be shared among staff.

Are you tired of prehistoric, time-consuming teacher observation practices involving scripting? If so, you’re probably ready to learn more about teacher video observations and leap into the 21st century of teacher evaluation practices!

Teacher Evaluation

Using Videos During Teacher Observations Part 3 – Helping You Get Started

The reflection that I did myself, when I videoed, offered me more opportunity for growth than anything an outsider could do for me. Watching my kids, what went on in my room, how I handled it, and things I said—that was more important than any sit-down that I could have with anybody [else]. ” Best Foot Forward teacher, North Carolina (2013)1

In this third installment of our Using Videos During Teacher Observations series, we will dive right in to what the research says with regard to using videos to support teacher observations.  Our previous two posts can be found here: My Own Struggles and Creating an environment where teachers self reflect.

I’m guessing most of you don’t formally use videos during your teacher observations.  Coaching?  Maybe.  The observer sitting down, watching the lesson on video, and providing feedback specific based on what was seen on film?  Probably not.  There are a lot of reasons why schools are hesitant to use videos.  According to Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research and their Best Foot Forward Project, these reasons may include but are not limited to:

  • Compliance Culture
  • Rudimentary Reflection
  • Inflexible Time
  • Inadequate content area feedback

I’ve personally had conversations with several administrators who had various other reasons why they aren’t using videos for teacher observations.  These reasons include their Union won’t allow it, they don’t have the appropriate technology, there is not a simple way to do it, and they are afraid of teachers putting on the proverbial “dog and pony show”.  Others had concerns about students being recorded and what would be required from a policy perspective to allow for recording in the classroom.  However 95% of these administrators rated the potential of video reflections/observations as having a major impact in their school.  In other words, most (95%) think using videos during observations would make a positive difference for them and their teachers.  They just aren’t doing it.

The aforementioned Best Foot Forward Project from Harvard University does a fantastic job providing specific suggestions to break through these barriers.  Their toolkit is simply amazing.  If you haven’t reviewed their toolkit, you should download it now.  The Toolkit provides support in the following areas:

  • Leveraging Video for Learning
    • Video for self-reflection, peer collaboration, virtual coaching, evaluation, and building a video library
  • Cultivating Trust in Video Observations
    • Create a safe environment for teachers and communicate with parents and manage student privacy concerns
  • Turnkey Technology: Setting up Schools for Effective Implementation
    • Choose the right technology, set up your infrastructure, train teachers and observers
  • Measuring Readiness and Assessing Success
    • Ensure readiness, Assess Success
  • Appendix
  • References

Speaking of the dog and pony show, The Best Foot Forward project addressed that directly in its Leveraging Video for Learning section: “If teachers control the camera, they are able to choose a videotaped lesson that they believe represents a comprehensive view of their best work.  Not only does this process increase teacher agency in evaluation, but it also encourages teachers to rewatch several lessons and contemplate what constitutes effective, evaluation-worthy instruction before choosing what will be submitted to the administrator.”  Later it reads “…teachers put their ‘best foot forward’, but this did not fundamentally change the distribution of observation scores between teachers.”2  For a more detailed quantitative review, please see the Best Foot Forward research brief.

The Best Foot Forward Project also includes a self-guided module for analyzing videos of your own instruction, a self-analysis noticing rubric, coaching conversation scripts, and many other worthwhile resources.

If you are considering using videos to support teacher reflection, coaching, and/or evaluation, the guidance from the Best Foot Forward project may help you map an implementation schedule and feel comfortable doing so.  There are definitely logistics to consider, timing issues, collective bargaining disagreements, and other barriers you will face, but best practice suggests using video can have a positive impact on your entire observation process.

Next week we will take a look at how a professional athlete uses video to improve his game, and you may even learn a little bit about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle.

 

Have you used videos during any of your observations, coaching cycles, or evaluations?  If so, how did it go?

 

1Fullerton, J., Greenberg, M., Kane, T., Le, L., Quinn, D., Thal, D., & Zelaya, S. (2015). Leveraging Video for Learning: Strategies for Using Video Observations for Professional Growth [PDF]. Center for Education Policy Research. p. 2

2Fullerton, J., Greenberg, M., Kane, T., Le, L., Quinn, D., Thal, D., & Zelaya, S. (2015). Leveraging Video for Learning: Strategies for Using Video Observations for Professional Growth [PDF]. Center for Education Policy Research. p. 11-12

Teacher Observations

Infographic – 5 Best Practices for Teacher Observations

Just two weeks ago, we published a blog post highlighting 5 best practices for teacher observations.

It was so popular, we decided to turn it into a simple infographic to share with others!

Best Practices for Teacher Observations

Sources:

https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/implementation-support-unit/tech-assist/usingobservationstoImproveteacherpractice.pdf

http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/TeachrAssmntWhtPaperTransform10_2.pdf

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/04/20/charlotte-danielson-on-rethinking-teacher-evaluation.html

https://networkforpubliceducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/NPETeacherEvalReport.pdf

Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

5 Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

Of all the different components to the various teacher evaluation frameworks out there, the most misused piece is often the classroom walkthrough. It’s no surprise given there’s much less discussion and research on classroom walkthroughs compared to formal observations. In fact, if you googled walkthrough right now you’d get results mostly about video games! In her research, Carolyn Downey and colleagues offered this definition for a classroom walkthrough, “short, informal visitations to classes followed occasionally by reflective questioning.”. In this way, classroom walkthroughs are quite different than short classroom observations which are formal and evaluative.

When used correctly, classroom walkthroughs provide the observer with key information they can use to build reflective dialogue with teachers and customize professional development opportunities for teachers. If you follow the 5 best practices outlined below, your walkthroughs will transform your performance evaluation processes into something more meaningful – a framework of self-reflection and self-direction to drive the cycle of continuous improvement.

Here are 5 best practices to follow for classroom walkthroughs:

  1. Classroom walkthroughs should be informal.
    This means that minimal data are collected. Any data that is collected is not shared with the teacher directly, rather the information is used to generate reflective questions.
  2. Classroom walkthroughs should be short.
    Most walkthroughs should be no longer than about 10 minutes – just long enough to gather information on how curriculum and instructional decisions are made.
  3. Classroom walkthroughs should be non-evaluative and nonjudgmental.
    This means no checklists with performance descriptions, and no feedback! The focus isn’t on judging the actions of teachers, but to gather information about decisions teachers make. This allows the observer to take on more of a coaching role with the teacher.
  4. Classroom walkthroughs should be tied to a model of collegial supervision, not conventional supervision.
    This puts the focus on teacher development rather than teacher conformity. Conventional supervision will result in substandard results and even lower job satisfaction. Walkthroughs make supervision practices more collegial and encourage collaboration and ongoing reflective inquiry.
  5. Classroom walkthroughs should be tied to a reflective dialogue process.
    The overarching purpose of walkthroughs is to create high quality reflective questions to guide reflective dialogue with teachers. The goal is for the reflective questions to nurture teachers into deeper self-awareness and self-reflection of their teaching practices. However, dialogue with teachers is not necessary after every completed walkthrough.

At the very core of these best practices is trust. Remember, trust is the foundation upon which all teacher observations and classroom walkthroughs are built. If you stick with the core best practices listed above for classroom walkthroughs, your school will build a cycle of continuous improvement focused more on self-reflection and professional growth instead of mere conformity.

Best Practices for Teacher Observations

Best Practices for Teacher Observations

With so many different frameworks and models for classroom observations out there, it’s no wonder why a large number of educators expressed confusion and frustration with classroom observation and teacher evaluation processes in a 2016 report from the Network for Public Education.  The U.S. Department of Education also indicated as much in their 2015 report on classroom observations to improve teacher practice. Evidently, some educators even need a support group!

Surviving Teacher Observations and Evaluations

The truth is that best practices for classroom observations can be condensed into a concise and practical list of core features essential for reaching the intended outcomes.  This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a core set of practices to ensure your time is well-spent and delivers results.

  1. Streamline your observation domains and rubrics to your state teaching standards.
    • Domains and rubrics should use clear, observable, and explicit language.  The rubrics/forms should be concise, or they will be cumbersome to both the evaluator and the teacher. Clarify vague content and eliminate redundancies or indicators that are not related to student outcomes.
  2. Observations must be anchored to a strong conversational process such as reflective dialogue or cognitive coaching.
    • The observations must engage evaluators and educators in dialogue that strengthens the knowledge and skills of professional educators in a culture of trust and support.  It’s all about professional growth!
  3. Consider differentiating your observations for entry level teachers and experienced teachers.
    • One-size fits all approaches will not work. Entry level teachers and experienced teachers are in different phases of their professional journey as educators. The types and number of observations for these groups should be different to reflect their different professional needs.  For example, consider more peer-based observations for an established, highly effective teacher.
  4. Develop a variety of observation forms and tools from which to choose (formal, informal, long, short, walkthroughs, co-observations).
    • Every situation is unique, so you need to have a fluid process with a variety of observation types to be flexible and adaptable to the unique professional needs of your staff. Maybe a co-observer is needed at times, especially for ancillary staff (e.g., school psychologists, speech and language pathologists, special education teachers, social workers, guidance counselors).  Maybe frequent, informal walkthroughs are needed to complement the longer, formal observations.
  5. Ensure classroom observations are used for both formative and summative feedback in teacher evaluations per the recommendation of the National Education Association.
    • Formative feedback should be ongoing and assist teachers in real-time regarding their goal-setting and professional learning.  Observations should also contribute to summative feedback to help determine whether standards of practice have been met and to help guide employment decisions.

To the extent that different states allow it, picture your district as a center of innovation to try new observation strategies, produce observation forms that benefit observers and teachers, and even create new observation frameworks.  Remember, your classroom observation and teacher evaluation process shouldn’t make your evaluators’ and teachers’ heads spin causing confusion and frustration.  Stick with the core best practices listed above, and you’ll develop a culture of meaningful and manageable classroom observation and teacher evaluation processes!