As educators, we have a lot on our plates. Somewhere among best practice, student relationships, responsive instruction, 21st century skills, and our own families/personal lives we need to find time to reflect. What is going well for you and your teachers right now? What is not? How effective are your teachers? And probably most importantly, how do you know?
There are a myriad of ways to measure teacher effectiveness. Rubrics and walkthroughs are the most common ways, but some schools and districts have also included student assessments into the teacher evaluation mix. Personally, I am a huge fan of the word ‘balance’. Relying on any one tool to measure all aspects of teacher effectiveness is short-sighted and may result in faulty data or incorrect conclusions being drawn. Instead, looking at several data points can increase the credibility and validity of data. This is the concept of data triangulation.
When thinking about data triangulation, consider multiple data points collected in various methods (qualitative and quantitative) and sources, such as:
- Rubrics: rubrics are powerful and communicate to teachers their performance based on a continuum of effectiveness. Typically 3 – 5 different descriptions of teacher performance are described with specific teacher actions in each rating category. Ratings could range from ineffective to highly effective, basic to distinguished, and other categories. Observers can give very specific feedback to teachers when using rubrics. Rubrics are typically used for longer observations and final teacher ratings (when applicable) but can also be used for formative feedback throughout the school year.
- Walkthroughs: walkthroughs are typically meant to be used during shorter classroom visits. Walkthroughs have the ability to collect big-picture data to determine trends among things like teachers, grade, subjects, buildings, and observers. Walkthroughs usually have a specific list of possible selectable options in various categories, such as student engagement, types of questions, or instructional strategies being use by the teacher. Walkthroughs are highly customizable and provide flexibility for organizations to collect data that matters most to them.
- Short observations: short observations can be very simple in design and are typically used for narrative observations and feedback. This narrative feedback communicates to teachers what was observed and the observers’ own reflections after the lesson. Within the feedback could be questions, comments, commendations, and recommendations.
- Student assessment data: Ultimately the goal of education is for students to do well when taking some form of an assessment. The assessment could be a performance, creation, reflection, discussion, test/quiz, state assessment, portfolio, etc. When the assessment itself is valued and reliable, the student data can be a very important part of the teacher effectiveness equation. On the other end, though, if the assessment itself is not valued (think state assessments…) or reliable, perhaps it’s better to consider other assessments for teacher evaluation data points.
There are a few other data points schools could consider when thinking about teacher effectiveness: parent input, student input, and peer input. All must be carefully considered before deciding to include within your teacher evaluation program.
This leads me to a few questions: what’s best for you and your unique situation? What information do you want to be able to measure and track? How do you know that your teachers are performing well or not well in certain areas? Each school/district/organization will have specific indicators of success based on the the unique community the organization serves. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for all organizations. Instead, consider what your collective goals are, what your vision of success means, and align your teacher evaluation program to your goals.