Evaluating teacher effectiveness guarantees high-quality instruction and helps teachers grow. Or does it? Research shows that some models of teacher evaluation have the opposite effect. It’s understandable: being evaluated is anxiety-inducing. Imagine going about your work when you become aware that someone is watching and judging your every move. As the evaluator, it’s probably not your favorite part of the job either.
So, as a school leader, how can you change perceptions about the dreaded evaluation? Start by adopting a coaching mindset, giving formative feedback, and making growth visible. These actions will leave teachers feeling supported rather than judged.
First, let’s get clear on the roles teacher evaluation and coaching play in an instructional support system. The two serve unique functions but are inextricably linked. The first step in improving teacher effectiveness is understanding and respecting the differences between evaluation and coaching.
Teacher evaluation is the process of reviewing and rating teacher effectiveness in the classroom at a single point in time. Authentic teacher coaching is ongoing, supportive, and strengths-based. It puts teachers at the center of their own professional learning journey. The aim of teacher evaluation is to ensure teachers meet the minimum standard of quality. Teacher coaching invites growth beyond the minimum. Both have their place in an effective instructional support system.
You can have immediate impact when you approach your role with the mindset of a coach rather than an evaluator. An evaluator looks at what is happening, forms an opinion, and articulates what should be happening. A coach articulates what was observed and encourages teachers to reach higher while giving them the support to do so.
By making this small shift, you build trust with teachers. But make sure you are doing your homework and citing tried-and-true best practices. Relying on your own opinions can erode trust and cause confusion.
Another step towards growth-oriented teacher support is formative feedback. We won’t dance around the fact that providing feedback is one of the hardest parts of a principal’s job — especially when feedback is negative and causes teachers to become defensive of their craft. This tends to happen when you don’t provide much to back it up or when it’s a result of a one-time classroom visit. Defensiveness usually boils down to a lack of trust.
You can build trust through frequent feedback. Take the time to visit classrooms. Make it a point to know each teacher’s professional learning goals. Identify individual strengths and celebrate them. And don’t forget to offer feedback in a timely manner if you want it to land well. By upping the frequency of feedback and recognizing strengths, teachers will come to rely on and expect your support.
Teachers want ownership of their professional development. They want to be able to track their growth over time. They want to be able to visualize their progress. Google docs (or worse, paper and pen systems!) leave much to be desired when it comes to motivating teachers towards growth. And they leave much room for error and oversight.
That’s why you need better technology to manage coaching and evaluation; technology that allows both school leaders and teachers alike to visualize data and spot trends, and keep all feedback and classroom artifacts (e.g. videos, documents) in one easily accessible place.
Additionally, it’s a lot to ask a school leader to provide one-on-one coaching and feedback on a regular basis. And it’s a shame to do the work but not be able to visualize individual and school-wide progress. When you can make sense of the data, you can offer targeted support and differentiated professional learning.
In the words of Charlotte Danielson, “a commitment to professional learning is important, not because teaching is of poor quality and must be ‘fixed,’ but rather because teaching is so hard that we can always improve it.”(1) This is the message we want to impart to teachers about coaching and evaluation. Giving all students the opportunity to thrive isn't easy. Authentic coaching is how you, as a leader, show that you and your teachers are in it together.
We’re always happy to help and provide input where we can. If you have questions about your instructional support system, we’d love to talk to you. Schedule a complimentary strategy session with a Bullseye expert!
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Download Your Instructional Support Checklist Below
We know back-to-school planning as an instructional leader can be overwhelming. Download our top tips to make sure your instructional support plan for this upcoming school year is manageable, effective, and leaves teachers feeling valued, heard, and empowered to take charge of their professional learning journey.
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(1) Danielson, Charlotte. “Evaluations That Help Teachers Learn.” ASCD, 2010, www.ascd.org/el/articles/evaluations-that-help-teachers-learn.