Teacher Evaluation Policies and Practices
A summary of a thesis by Rick Sawa (1995)
SSTA Research Centre Report #95-04: 68 pages, $14.
|Introduction||Teacher evaluation systems are deemed by most school administrators and teachers to be extremely stressful, of little or no value, and a barrier to high staff morale. This report provides a review of the literature with a list of criteria and recommendations for an effective teacher evaluation process.|
|PART I: Toward An Effective Teacher Evaluation Policy - A Review of the Literature|
|PART II: Where Are We Now? - An Analysis of 47 Saskatchewan Rural School Divisions|
|PART III: Looking Ahead - Implications for
Administrative and Board Action
The Common Problems
Back to: Instruction
The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three
copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA
Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available
from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.
Ineffective teacher evaluation systems are more costly than effective
ones. Shoddy teacher evaluation programs, because they neither improve
teachers' instructional skills nor permit the dismissal of incompetent teachers, rob
children of the achievements, when well-taught, they have the potential to obtain
(Stanley & Popham, 1988). Conventional teacher evaluation, warns Barth (1990),
often resembles a meaningless ritual. "Or even worse, it becomes a recurring
occasion to heighten anxiety and distance between teacher and administrator, and
competition between teacher and teacher" (p. 56). In short, it minimizes dialogue,
reinforces institutional hierarchies, and risks poisoning otherwise productive
working relationships among school professionals.
The appraisal of teaching performance is as old as the education
profession (Rehore, 1991). Few issues in education have the potential to generate
as much heat for educators as the evaluation of teachers (Gitlin & Smyth, 1989).
These points bring into clear perspective the need for effective teacher evaluation
policy, and the need for boards and administrators to examine policies with a
view to improving learning opportunities in their various classrooms.
This document provides a summary of the research literature associated
with teacher evaluation. It also reports a study (Saw, 1994) in which teacher
evaluation policies of 47 rural Saskatchewan school divisions were analyzed on
the basis of 17 criteria for effective teacher evaluation policy generated from a
variety of literature sources. The effectiveness of these policies is discussed and
implications for administrative and board action are presented.
This document concludes with a teacher evaluation policy assessment
categorization instrument (Appendix B) that a Board of Education could utilize to
assess the effectiveness of its policy on evaluating teachers or to refer to if the
Board was interested in developing one. Also, included in the appendices, are
other practical applications for teacher evaluation.
Table of Contents
Teacher evaluation is a complex process. It is a series of activities and
actions that are interconnected and relate to a specific purpose. Since teachers
deal with complex problems, they should be evaluated as professionals which
means that their standards should be developed by their peers and their evaluation
should focus on the degree to which they solve professional problems
competently (Soar, Medley, dk Coker, 1983). The emphasis of their evaluation
should be on their teaching and not on them as individuals (Findley & Estabrook,
1991) and take into consideration the involvement and responsiveness of others
involved in the education process (Weade & Evertson, 1991).
The evaluation process usually involves preparation, observation, data
collection, reporting, and follow-up. Data collection normally entails a formal
observation which is preceded by a pre-conference and followed by a post-
conference. The utilization of formal observations does not mean informal
observations are ignored. Many unannounced visits usually prove to be more
effective than a few announced visits. However. there are limitations to classroom
observations as an assessment method. DarlinB-Hammond, in Mitchell, Wise, &
Plake (1990), warns:
They reveal little about the coherence of the curriculum, the
depth and breadth of content covered, the range of teaching
techniques used, the quality and variety of materials employed,
the types and frequency of students '
assi gnments, the quality of instruments used for student
assessment, the kinds of feedback students receive an their work,
or the appropriateness of any of these things for individual
students and for the classroom context as a whole. (p. 158)
Teacher evaluation should be a small but significant part of the larger strategy for
school improvement (Mitchell et al., 1990) which would see staff development
take place prior to evaluations (Wood & Lease, 1987).
Teacher evaluations should be dialogical rather than hierarchical (Gitlin
& Smyth, 1989). The division of labour between those who determine what is to
be taught and when and how it is to be taught and those who teach must be
addressed, because teacher-proofing curriculum and instructional strategies is in
direct opposition to treating teachers as professionals. Evaluators should know the
subject matter, pedagogy, and classroom characteristics of the teacher being
evaluated (McGeachy, 1992), as well as take into consideration the fact that
experienced and excellent teachers are capable of pedagogical performances that
educational theory and research can neither explain nor predict (Shulman, 1987).
These risk-takers and innovators must be encouraged not stifled. Consequently,
any effort to define standards for teaching and to operationalize them in an
evaluation must reach beyond the judgment of academic experts. Therefore, we
need a form of evaluation that will reflect
a more enlightened view of teaching, that will inspire teacher
educators to aim higher in creating their curricula and
designing their pro grams, and that will, in the very process of
being implemented through supervised residencies in the
schools, introduce new forms of mentoring, collaboration, and
collegiality. (Shulman, 1987, p.44)
Table of Contents
The general purpose of teacher evaluation is to safeguard and improve the
quality of instruction received by students (Kremer, 1988) so boards must provide
a process that allows and encourages supervisors and teachers to work together to
improve and enhance classroom instructional practices. According to the literature there are six main
purposes of teacher evaluation.
l. It should strive to improve instruction by fostering
self-development (Rebore, 1991) and peer assistance.
2. Staff development activities can be rated and identified (Stanley
dk Popham, 1988).
3. The selection process can be validated (McGreal,
4. A well-designed, properly functioning teacher evaluation process provides
a major communication link between the school system and teachers
5. Personnel decisions such as retention, transfer, tenure, promotion,
demotion, and dismissal can be enhanced through an effective
evaluation process (Kremer, 1988).
6. Teacher evaluation is capable of protecting students from incompetent
teachers by bringing structured assistance to marginal teachers (Stanley 2
Popham, 1988). Since there are no clear-cut standards for judging
incompetence, multiple indicators must be utilized to identify marginal
teachers (Bridges, 1986). When found, marginal teachers should be
required to enter an intensive assistance program as found in Appendix
Table of Contents
Although incompetent teachers may constitute only 2-3% (Fullan dk
Hargreaves, 1991) of the teaching force, they tarnish the reputation of the entire
profession, shortchange many students, and engender parental dissatisfaction with
the public schools (Bridges, 1986). However, the diKculties which incompetent
teachers experience in the classroom often stem from multiple causes:
1. the personal shortcomings of the teacher,
2. non-job related influences, and
3. the limitations or failings of supervisors (Bridges,
Administrators are obligated to confront poor teacher
performance (Dennis, 1990). Poor performance is marked by excess -
1. excessive lack of preparation;
2. excessive deficiencies of teaching skills;
3. excessive problems of student control;
4. excessive manifestations of poor judgment; and
5. excessive absence from school (p.15).
Bridges (1986) further states that there are four different means
to identify incompetent teachers:
Incompetent teachers tarnish the
reputation of the entire
profession, short-change many
students, and engender parental
dissatisfaction with the public
1. supervisory observations,
2. complaints from parents or students, (Bridges, 1986)
3. complaints from other teachers, and
4. student test results.
Given the limitations of each indicator, the reliance on multiple
measures appears to represent a sound practice. Cangelosi (1991)
describes a marginal teacher as an experienced teacher whose instruction
is deemed by a supervisor to constitute malpractice and, consequently,
whose dismissal from his or her position should be considered.
Dennis (1990) further claims that confrontation is a process
rather than a single event. It requires thought, preparation, and planning
and should not be rushed. The following twelve steps are recommended
1. Gather information
2. Talk to others
3. Organize your information
4. Wait for a specific incident
5. Schedule a meeting with the teacher
6. Meet with the teacher
7. Write the meeting up - letter to teacher summarizing the meeting
8. Monitor the situation
9. Develop a file
10. Help the teacher to improve
11. Demonstrate your on-going concern
12. Work with your teacher union
If a teacher does not meet minimal accountability standards, he or she
should enter an intensive assistance program (Dagley & Orso, 1991). An
agreement between the teacher and supervisor, in which the teacher agrees to
improve and the supervisor agrees to provide resources to help the teacher
improve, should be the first step of the intensive assistance program. Conley
(1987) states that the dismissal mode is reached only after effort has first been
made to remediate the individual's performance because unemployment
detrimentally affects the welfare of an employee and his/her dependents (Rebore,
1991). Cangelosi (1991) best sums up the serious consequences of the practice of
retaining incompetent teachers:
Teaching malpractice continues to victimize students by wasting
their opportunities to learn, society by failing to provide a service
for which it paid, teachers by perpetuating their failures, and the
teaching profession by diluting quality, contaminating its ranks,
and tarnishing its image, thus causing it to lose its
political power. (p.188)
Table of Contents
Various models of teacher evaluation have been offered.
McGreal (1983) categorizes them into four main models: Common Law,
Goal Setting, Product, and Artistic or Naturalistic. Gitlin dk Smyth
(1989) neatly package them into two main categories: educative and
dominant, with Walsh (1987) calling them participative and controlling.
Gitlin and Smyth (1989) would classify McGreal's Common Law, Goal
Setting, and Product models as dominant and Walsh (1987) would
classify them as controlling because they are individually focused,
judgmental, and hierarchical. Processes of evaluation like those promoted
by people like Madeline Hunter, that make lavish claims to being
scientific and research-based, are really nothing more than ways of
"bolstering corporate, institutional, and bureaucratic interests" (Smyth,
1991, p. 70). "I tried to follow the letter and spirit of 'The Hunter Model'
as we trudged through each part of our teacher evaluation system, hut it
just wasn't working" (Rooney, 1993, p. 43). By concentrating exclusively
on the technical aspects of good teaching, they divert attention away from
"an analysis of the economic, social, and political hierarchies that
maintain and perpetuate inequality and injustice" (Smyth, 1991, p. 70).
Critlin & Smyth (1989) and Walsh (1987) would also catalogue
McGreal's Artistic or Naturalistic model as a transitional stage Bergen
the dominant, controlling models and their educative, participative model
which they claim is collectively focused, developmental, and
cooperative. Unless methods of teacher evaluation explicitly challenge the
authoritarian, commodified view of teaching, teachers will continue to be
"blamed for problems that more accurately reflect the priorities and
failings of oar economic system" (Gitlin dk Smyth, 1989, p. 25). Moving
involvement in teacher evaluation beyond individual teachers means that
the evaluation of teachers can be shifted from one of blaming the teacher
for educational problems to a circumstance in which the wider
community begins to accept its legitimate responsibility and role in
setting, debating, and monitoring the agenda, norms, and goals of schools.
The educative and participative model, if used wisely, could reduce
the need for dominant, accountability forms of teacher evaluation (Gitlin &
Smyth, 1989; Walsh, 1987). However, the educative, participative model
cannot be mandated from above.
It is no longer acceptable to judge teaching ability according to a set of pre-
determined criteria. Twenty-first century conceptions of school reform and the
professionalization of teaching cannot co-exist with early twentieth-century models
of evaluation, especially when these afford unacceptably simplistic notions of
teaching (Shulman, 1988). The true test of approaches to evaluation will be whether
or not they contribute to the needed reforms of teaching and teacher education. If
evaluation does not become part of the solution, then it surely will become part of
the problem (Shulman, 1987).
Table of Contents
In an examination of the literature relating to teacher evaluation,
Saw (1994) identified 17 criteria, illustrated in Figure 1, against which
existing policies could be assessed. A convenient policy assessment
categorization instrument, devised for this purpose, can be found in
Appendix B. As mentioned previously it is advisable to include all
stockholders in the process of developing or reviewing a policy.
Table of Contents
The Saw (1994) study subjected the teacher evaluation policies of 47
rural Saskatchewan school divisions to assessment via the criteria in Figure 1, in
order to determine the degree to which aspects of effective teacher evaluation
policy were reflected in specific system contexts. The ratings, simply based upon
a reading as to whether or not the policy met each criteria, are summarized in
From the data in Table 1, it can be seen that 98 per cent of the responding
divisions provided clear identification of who was responsible for teacher
evaluation; 85 per cent distinguished between tenured and non-tenured teachers;
83 per cent stated the purpose(s) of teacher evaluation; while 79 per cent of the
policies provided a statement of teacher standards and 70 per cent articulated the
philosophy of the board regarding teacher evaluation. However, several
characteristics were not addressed by significant numbers of policies. For
example, only 9 per cent of the policies had provision for evaluator training; 11
per cent provided training for evaluates; 11 per cent specifically earmarked
financial support for teacher evaluations; and 17 per cent addressed a grievance
process for evaluates.
In addition, the alignment of the evaluation process with staff
development was clearly enunciated in only 34 percent of the policies. When it
came to such provisions as assistance for marginal teachers (404/%), emphasis on
self-development (57%), and allowance for written responses for evaluates
(60%), policies were fairly evenly split.
The extent to which the policies met the established criteria for effective
teacher evaluation policy is reflected in Table 2. As illustrated in this table, only
30 per cent of the policies met 11 or more of the 17 criteria. Further, 25 percent of the policies failed to meet more than seven criteria. No policies
scored perfectly, but one policy met 16 of the 17 established criteria.
Another revealing categorization is shown in Table 3 according to the
broad areas of teacher evaluation into which the seventeen criteria ware grouped,
namely, technical effectiveness, teacher improvement, account-ability, and
Twenty (43 % ) policies had six of 10 criteria for technical effectiveness,
30 (64º/o) policies had six or more of the criteria, and one policy was considered to
have met all of the desired criteria. Of the teacher improvement area, 27 (57%)
policies addressed less than two of the three criteria. Only five (11%) policies
made reference to all three criteria necessity to foster teacher improvement,
compared to 29 (62%) policies which clearly possessed both criteria for
accountability. When it came to teacher rights provisions in policies, 17 (36º/o)
policies made no mention of it, 24 (5 1 % ) stated one of the criteria, and six (13%)
supported both criteria.
The success rate for meeting criteria was, for accountability 72.3 per cent,
for technical effectiveness 53.6 per cent, for teacher improvement 45.6 per cent,
and for teacher rights 38.2 per cent.
Policy emphasis on self-development was compared with the emphasis
placed on accountability. These results are illustrated in Table 4. Only 22 (47%)
policies clearly dealt with both self-development and accountability and 10 (21%)
of them made no reference to either. Of the 15 policies that dealt with only one
aspect, six policies made reference to self-development without mentioning
Further investigation revealed a relationship between provision for
assistance for marginal teachers and provision for placement in growth or
remediation tracks. Of the 30 policies that distinguished between growth
and remediation tracks, 19 (63%) did so only after a teacher was found to
be experiencing serious problems, or considered to be marginal or
incompetent. The other 11 (37%) stated that evaluators pointed out
problems for evaluates, made recommendations for improvement, and
provided them with a certain length of time to improve, but, according to
policy, did not offer assistance.
Other elements of teacher evaluation policies such as dates for
adoption and revision(s) of policy; who, according to policy, was involved
in determining policy; and whether or not policies were gender friendly
were also looked at. Table 5 shows the degree to which these elements
were addressed in policy.
Three (6%) policies stated that a collaborative effort was
responsible for the existing policy. Thirty-eight (38) policies were
gender friendly. Thirty-six of the 47 policies submitted indicated the year
in which the policy was adopted and/or revised.
Through interviews conducted with evaluators and evaluates as part of
the Saw (1994) study, it was discovered that congruency in terms of intent,
implementation, and experience was elusive when it came to the policy and
practices of one rural school division. Although the existing policy was
considered by the administrators and teachers to be a worthy beginning, it was
concluded by all that it could he improved in several respects. For example, it was
agreed that more resources, such as time, were necessary if evaluations were to
effectively aid teachers to improve and to be held accountable. Teachers showed a
strong preference for becoming more involved with policy revision, and with
assisting one another. Encouraging and supporting self-development was another
area considered to be in need of improvement, as well as distinguishing the
difference between those on formative and summative evaluation tracks.
Table of Contents
The Common Problems
Educators at all levels and members of the public would probably
agree that teacher evaluation is fraught with numerous, serious problems
which pose an ever present threat to the well-being of professional
relationships and, in turn, to the effectiveness of the educational system as
a whole. It is noteworthy that the same problems have recurred in research
findings and in literature related to teacher evaluation for many years.
They seem to cluster around four "problem types".
Table of Contents
There is a temptation to attempt to reduce evaluation to a
numerical basis for ease of making some quantitative assessment (Findley
& Estabrook, 1991) in spite of the fact that these results reveal little about
the qualitative aspects of what teachers actually say during instruction
(Herrmann, 1987). Most accountability-oriented evaluation systems are
not accounting for the right things. Consequently, they are less effective
than planners hoped in bringing meaningful oversight to the schools
(McLaughlin dfc Pfeifer, 1988). Some of the most widely adopted forms
of teacher evaluation in current use rely on behavioural indicators to
assess teaching, without reference to the appropriateness or effects of the
teaching behaviours being measured. Teacher evaluation systems based on
whether teachers exhibit behaviours consonant with research-supported
instructional principles are conceptually flawed because they presume that
research-derived principles, adhered to by a specific teacher, will
invariably lead to successful results. What tends to be ~e for large groups
of teachers and students, however, may not be true in the case of
"Teacher evaluation is a profoundly particular undertaking" (Stanley & Popham,
1988, p. 63). Furthermore, Duke (1993) states that "policies that mandate that all
teachers must grow according to a fixed schedule and in similar ways are
Simply itemizing what a teacher possesses or demonstrates, argue Weade
R Evertson (1991), can add up to a description with limited utility. Worse yet,
It can suggest that isolated behaviours make a difference in and
of themselves, independent of the context in which they occur.
By default, the roles played by students and materials get left
out of the picture. (p. 41)
Reductionist teacher evaluations actively ignore the overwhelming importance
that teachers' personal and
pro fessional histories play in the construction o f meaning about classroom
events (Gitlin & Smyth, 1989). These authors claim that the alleged supremacy of
technique within evaluation should be seen for what it is - "a means of portraying
a false consensus about the ends of teaching, and a denial of the debate that
should ensue about what the nature of these desired goals might be" (p. 163). If
the intent of evaluation is to help teachers improve their instructional practices,
the categories and descriptors may become "obstacles to seeing, rather than aids
to better vision" (Wood, 1992, p. 55).
Table of Contents
Although agreement on a clear set of criteria on which a teacher's
performance in class can be assessed has been elusive (Walsh, 1987; McNeal,
1987), most current evaluation methods seem to be characterized by an allegiance
to a rational/technical or scientific approach to inquiry (Wood, 1992). In this
approach, the observer's judgment of teaching behaviours takes precedence, while
little or no consultation with the teacher or reflection on the
teacher's and students' interpretations of their classroom experiences, is
considered. This, claim Gitlin k Smyth (1989), amounts to a misplaced
faith in the capacity of scientific forms of research on teaching to deliver
definite knowledge about the nature of teaching.
On the other hand, an educative approach, as espoused by Gitlin dk Smyth
(1989), facilitates the breaking down of barriers that stand in the way of dialogical
relations. One such barrier is the "artificial division of labour between those who
are reported to hold educational theories and those who engage in teaching" (Gitlin
& Smyth, 1989, p.56). While a technocratic view of schooling focuses attention
solely on "how to" questions, an educative approach encourages a critical
orientation linking what ought to be with how it will be. Additionally, it attempts to
focus upon the school and its place in the community rather than upon the
Table of Contents
Evaluator competence is probably the most difficult aspect of the
evaluative process (Mitchell et al., 1990). Administrators, whose background may
be in widely different fields, states McNeal (1987), are forced to rely on simplistic
measures such as checklists. The degree to which administrators "slip into mindless
activity by allowing the structure of the (evaluation) instrument to control their
sight and awareness" (Wood, 1992, p. 56) exacerbates the problem of expertise.
Questions are sometimes raised about the extent to which an observer's account is
an adequate match for what usually occurs in a classroom (Weade & Evertson,
1991), especially when, as was documented in Miner's (1992) study, some
principals make evaluations after only 20 minutes of observation. Further, when a
class is being observed, the teacher and students take on "artificial roles that they
believe to be appropriate to the occasion" (Weade Ee Evertson, 1991, p. 41).
School executives often fail to observe and evaluate teachers, or they
overrate the teachers they do evaluate (Langlois & Colarusso, 1988). In fact, Miner
(1992) found that "some principals gave outstanding evaluations to teachers who dozed in class because the teacher was a friend" (p. 3). Often
those responsible for evaluating teachers are not sure of the rules or the
procedures for conducting the evaluation. This also drastically affects the
soundness and fairness of the evaluation (Rieck, 19S9). Also, the level of
objectivity of evaluations is lowered because administrators are either not
cognizant of, or admit to, the manner in which their own attitudes and
experiences may tend to slant what they see and hear (Wood, 1992). It is
little wonder, therefore, that according to Medley 8c Coker (1987), studies
have found no appreciable agreement between administrator judgments of
teaching effectiveness and the amount students learn.
Table of Contents
While dominant forms of teacher evaluation might be designed
with the very best of intentions to institute a necessary form of "quality
control", what they end up doing
is reinforcing the notion that teachers are not the
experts, that educational hierarchies are necessary
and just, and that teachers do not have to enter into
educative dialogue with one another about their work
(Gitlin dc Smyth, 1989, p. 164)
This feeling is echoed by Walsh (1987) when he writes: "The notion of
teachers as independent, autonomous professionals has been eroded, and
the importance of management and hierarchical accountability
emphasized" (p. 148). In dominant forms of teacher evaluation, where the
teacher's intentions are not considered, the teacher is effectively silenced
Teachers, therefore, become technicians concerned with implementing the
ideas of others, rather than intellectuals involved in questioning and
interrogating their own teaching and the context in which it occurs
Teachers are disgruntled by the number of administrators not
directly concerned about, or involved with, improving instruction
(Wareiag, 1990). For many experienced and tenured teachers, yearly evaluations have been more a
matter of pride than of job security (McNeal, 1987) which causes evaluation
to become an empty, time-stealing ritual. According to Duke (1993):
To conduct yearly evaluations of competent teachers for
purposes of accountability conveys distrust - hardly the
stuff of which professional cultures are built. (p.704)
If there is a less meaningful ritual for The vast majority of
experienced teachers, it would be hard to find. The idea of
evaluating all competent teachers every year according to a
common set of performance standards that, at best,
represent minimum or basic expectations is little short of an
institutionalized insult. (p.7033
Gitlin dk Smyth (1989) claim that far from being value-free, traditional
notions of teacher evaluation serve conservative interests by reinforcing authoritarian
school relations which ultimately run counter to the idea of an active, informed
citizenry. They also run counter to the demands of the profession for self-regulation
and autonomy and in this regard they highlight a basic tension which naturally
accompanies the professional and the bureaucracy as they attempt to occupy the
same organizational space (Corwin, 1965).
Table of Contents
There is general agreement among education writers that teacher
evaluation must satisfy two competing individual and organizational needs. One
requires a process of control and surveillance which is hierarchically performed; the other utilizes educative relationships in which the
educational community creates self-knowledge.
"By separating accountability-driven and growth-oriented evaluation,
school systems remove a number of obstacles to professional
development" (Duke, 1993, p. 704). Teacher evaluation can determine
whether new teachers can teach, help all teachers to improve, and indicate
when a teacher can or will teach effectively (Wise et al., 19S4). Personnel
decisions of retiring, tenure, promotion, demotion, and dismissal are
greatly influenced by it.
Any system of teacher evaluation, however reliable, must first and
foremost be faithful to teaching. The cornerstone of evaluation schemes
should be the belief that teachers wish to improve their performance in
order to enhance the education of their pupils. Montgomery & Hadheld
(1989) claim that a
fair, non-threatening, valid, and comprehensive evaluation
system offers what is often an unprecedented opportunity to
learn and develop in a situation which benefits the
individual and the school, and meets the prime aim of
evaluation which is to improve the quality of teaching and
learning. (p. 194)
Wareing (1990) echoes this feeling when she writes that an effective
evaluation process "will serve to minimize fear and maximize Hunan
potential and, ultimately, improve the quality of the teaching-learning
process" (p. 250). The evaluation process holds great potential as a means
to push toward improvement of pedagogical skills and instruction it our
schools. Its potential as a "positive, growth-inducing process has been long
overlooked" (Conley, 1987, p. 64). While it is obvious that some form of
accountability in education is imperative, this does not mean it has to be
impositional We need practices that
highlight the tensions, contradictions, and
distortions in schooling g and that permit
alternatives to be debated and adopted. Accountability of this kind means that teachers not only acquire a
voice in the determination of educational aims, but that they do so
on the basis of a joint assessment of the political, ethical, and
moral implications of schooling. (Gitlin dc Smyth, 1989, p. 563
Teacher evaluators should be concerned with words, behaviours,
methodologies, and pedagogies of teachers and not just what is taught. Teacher
evaluation is judgmentally based and, therefore, varies according to an evaluator's
conception of teaching. This implies that teacher evaluation tends to be as effective
as the people who carry it out. The need for better trained evaluators is more evident
as they are being required to be collaborative, collegial, and dialogical and less
directive. Teacher evaluation, although in many instances still dominated by
inspection and control, is becoming more concerned with assisting teachers to
Daresh (1992) suggests the following to help an administrator
provide colleagues with feedback that will enhance positive, professional
self-images and encourage more effective performance:
1. Stick with facts - Evaluation should be based on facts not rumour or
2. See for yourself - Information gleaned from students, other teachers,
and parents should be checked out before used as part of an
3. Be honest - effective evaluation depends on trust and
communication that should exist in the organization.
4. Be confidential - Evaluation comments and feedback should be shared in
private by the evaluator and the person being evaluate
5. Don't try to be funny - Evaluation is a serious business and the use
of sarcasm in tense settings usually backfires.
6. Talk about problems not people - The goal of evaluation is to
improve performance not to attack individual teachers.
Alkire (1990) states that teacher evaluation is an essential element
in attempts to improve instructional programs and that teachers and
students deserve nothing less than the best. He offers the following
suggestions for effective evaluations:
1. Read union contracts and board policies and abide by them.
2. Ask teachers for self-evaluations.
3. Plan classroom visits wisely - make unannounced
4. Do observations correctly - longer visits at different times of the
5. Take accurate notes - crucial for marginal teachers.
6. Consider video-taping teachers.
7. Don't limit yourself to ratings - no single source of data is
sufficiently problem-free that it can form the cornerstone of a
8. Make sure post-evaluation conferences mean something - discuss
possible solutions to problems and complement strengths.
9. offer teachers a chance for a rebuttal - compromise and change
can result. Rebuttals are attached to the report.
10. Show that you take evaluations seriously - hire substitute teachers
to free teachers for post-evaluation conferences to be held during
11. Get the teacher's signature on the report - proof that the
evaluation actually occurred.
There is no recipe or template for a successful teacher evaluation
program (Hickcox, Lawton, Leithwood, dk Musella, 1988). Systems where
effective, well-operated procedures for teacher evaluation are in place ensure that
the previously mentioned problem areas are considered in policy and practice.
Furthermore, teacher evaluation processes should be continually monitored for
consistency and fairness as they address organizational and individual interests.
Toward this end, several practices can be identified from the literature which over
the past decade or so has reported successful practices. They reduce to the
1. While multiple methods should be used for evaluating teachers, school
systems must consider the purposes that each serves, to ensure that
teacher evaluation goals and processes do not conflict (Mitchell et al,
1990). Some currently in use, albeit some more than others, are:
performance assessment centres (Shulman, 1987, 1988), written teacher
competency tests (Medley and Coker, 1987), videotaping (Ellis, 1991),
students' standardized test scores (Findlay and Estabrook, 1991),
documentation portfolios (Shulman, 1987), judgment-based teacher
evaluations (Stanley and Popham, 1988), self-evaluation (Montgomery
and HacKeld, 1989; Millman and Darling-Hammond, 1990), parent
involvement (McGreal, 1983), peer evaluation (ERS Staff Report, 1988),
horizontal coaching (Gitlin and Smyth, 1989), and university-teacher
2. Defensible teacher evaluations must be based, in part at least, on the
growth that teachers bring about in students. Therefore, an evaluator must
also be attentive to what students become, not merely what teachers do.
3. Teacher evaluation processes are more appropriate and valuable when they
take account of the context in which teaching occurs (Shulman, 1987).
These include such matters as the characteristics of the learners and
aspects of the community, language, and culture.
4. Rather than relying on the "annual" formal visit, many visits are
required for a better understanding of a teacher's performance
(Stein, 1992). By making frequent informal visits to classrooms,
claim Gray, McLaughlin, and Blazer (1992), administrators can
reinforce and praise good teaching, Bather data regarding
curriculum implementation, and head off instructional problems
before they become critical.
5. There is a professional and, often times a legal, obligation to
improve inservice education to assist teachers (Wood & Lease,
1987). Marginal teachers must be identified and assisted. Teacher
evaluation should be part of staff development programs with the
intention of enhancing performance (Montgamery & Hadfield,
1989; Dagley & Orso, 1991) because it is capable of
a) providing information for determining the extent
of knowledge and skills gained during staff
b) judging the degree of maintenance of the acquired
skills and knowledge;
c) providing a basis for teachers' and administrators'
career planning and professional development;
d) helping to identify staff development needs.
It should not be an ancillary service; it should be part of a larger
strategy for school improvement. Ideally, according to Wood dk
Lease (1987), a school's instructional program should begin with
staff development followed by evaluation. Teacher evaluation
should also foster the self-development of each teacher (Appendix
6. Training for both evaluators and teachers is crucial McLaughlin R
Pfeifer, 1988) because evaluates, as well as evaluators, should
know how to use evaluation instruments to acquire useful
objective data, to interpret results, and to use those results to
advantage (Hickcox et al., 1988).
It is noteworthy that this provision is under-emphasized in school
systems. At best it is represented in sporadic inservice training for
administrators; at worst it allows no orientation for teachers or
administrators, probably on the assumption that both parties will
"learn the ropes" as they grapple with the evaluation process year by
7. Evaluation processes and criteria are developed with the rights of the
teacher and the nature of the professional in mind. These imply
involvement in the development of procedures, knowledge of criteria,
right to second opinion, and opportunity to share viewpoints and
8. A clear distinction is made between tenured and non-tenured teachers
and teachers placed on growth or remediation tracks.
9. Perhaps most important of all, evaluation is clearly and obviously of
high priority in the school system (Conley, 1987) as evidenced by a
clear articulation of board philosophy of evaluation and budgeted
financial support. Although improving instruction sometimes requires
removing a teacher, more commonly teachers will become better
instructors if boards expend resources to help them improve.
Therefore, evaluation procedures should be taken seriously and
supported. Some possibilities are to:
1. Train both evaluators and teachers in all aspects of teacher
2. Hire substitute teachers to free teachers for post-evaluation
conferences to be held during school hours and to permit them to
visit each others' classrooms.
3. Hire substitute teachers to enable in-school administrators
to visit classrooms.
Table of Contents
To determine what constitutes an effective teacher evaluation policy, one
must relate principles of effective teacher evaluation measures to effective policy
development. First and foremost, teacher evaluation at its best is guided by
principles of good policy. Effective policy has a statement of purpose which is
usually derived from the philosophy of the school division and guidelines that
allow the implementors the opportunity to use their professional judgment from
situation to situation (Walberg, 1982). The length of the written text and the
language used are also important features of effective policy. Policy, according to
Walberg (1982), should be free of technical language of a kind teachers use in the
course of their professional work.
An evaluation policy should also contain a repeal of any prior policies
and procedures and a statement of how it will be applied as well as identify the
individuals to be evaluated and the personnel who will be doing the evaluating
(Frels et al., 1986).
Effective policy development, according to Walberg (1982), is
comprehensive, participatory, and long range; open to phased
implementation, internally consistent with its goals; and
indicative of the commitment of time and resources that it
requires for success. (p. 359)
Teachers, principals, and directors, as well as students, parents, and community
members, should be intimately involved in the policy making and implementing
processes (Sergiovanni, Burlingham, Coombs, & Thurston, 1980). Hickcox et al.
(1988) lucidly espouse the importance of evaluatee involvement in policy
development by suggesting:
An appraisal system developed jointly between supervisors
and subordinates has a better chance of incorporating diverse
but relevant points of view than a system developed by top
management alone. The greater the opportunity for participation
by parties affected by a decision, the greater the potential for
acceptability of the decision. (p. 66)
Policies that might alarm the community, warns Orlosky, McLeary,
Shapiro, Sc Webb (1984), must be introduced thoughtfully only after sufficient
preparation in terms of informing or, better yet, involving the community
because, if no one complies with a new policy, it has accomplished little.
Provision should be made for any person or group in the school community to
initiate review of a policy (Caldwell and Spinks, 1988). It is recommended that a
policy be developed to facilitate suggestions for change. Such a policy would
ensure that a working party, comprised of experts and stockholders, is appointed
to explore an issue and prepare at least three viable options. Holmes, Leithwood,
& Musella, (1989) write that policy makers must realize that efforts and outcomes
will vary from setting to setting and that "the effective school of this year may
not be so effective next year" (p. 124). Finally, Walberg (1982) maintains that
"the policy must be accompanied by the technical assistance and resources
necessary to support its implementation" (p. 338).
What follows in the next two sections are recommendations for further
research and practice that the author, through his study and literature review,
concluded were areas which need to be addressed.
Table of Contents
1. The duplication of this study in other school divisions would offer a
broader perspective of congruence among policy-in-intent,
policy-of-implementation, and policy-in-experience.
2. The replication of this style of study, that would explore
congruence of policy-in-intent, policy-in-implementation, and
policy-in-experience of other crucial policies, would lead to a better
understanding of the effect of the degree of congruence on schools
and school systems.
3. Research in the area of policy making would help
bring to light the relationship between policy
formulation and collaborative policy making.
4. An exploration of the effect of training evaluators and evaluates on
the success of teacher evaluation would shed light on the
importance of such an initiative.
5. Whether or not gender plays a part of teacher evaluation treatment
would seem vital given the emerging significance of equity in
6. Studies focusing on the relationship that exists
between staff development activities and teacher
evaluation results would enhance both practices.
7. Research in the area of teacher evaluation practices and job
satisfaction for evaluators and evaluates would yield useful
information about teacher evaluation focus.
8. A comprehensive study of the relationship between teacher
evaluation practices and teacher accountability may help to provide
a clearer picture of this timely concern.
Table of Contents
9. School divisions should examine their educational goals, management
style, conception of teaching, and community values and adopt a teacher
evaluation system compatible with them. It should not adopt an evaluation
system simply because that system works in other contexts.
10. School divisions should grant evaluators sufficient time,
unburdened by competing administrative demands, for evaluation activities. This may mean, for
example, providing a substitute teacher on a mandated
11. School divisions should regularly assess the quality of
evaluation, including individual and collective evaluator
competence. The assessments should provide feedback to
individual evaluators and input into the continuing evaluator
12. School divisions should train evaluators in observation and
evaluation techniques, including reporting, diagnosis, and clinical
supervision skills, particularly when it adopts a new teacher
evaluation process. Inservice should be provided for teachers so that
they are cognizant of the purpose(s) and practices of teacher
13. School divisions should examine their existing teacher
evaluation systems to see which, if any, purpose(s) they serve
well. If a division changes its purpose(s), it should change the
process of evaluation.
14. School divisions must allocate resources commensurate with
the number of teachers to be evaluated and the importance
and visibility of evaluation outcomes.
15. School divisions should involve teachers in the assistance of
their peers, particularly beginning teachers, teachers nearing
retirement, and those in need of special assistance.
16. School divisions should involve teacher organizations, such
as local and provincial teachers' associations, in the design
and oversight of teacher evaluation to ensure its legitimacy,
fairness, and effectiveness.
17. School divisions should hold teachers accountable to
standards of practice that compel then to make appropriate
instructional decisions on behalf of their students.
18. Self-development should be encouraged and facilitated by school
division teacher evaluation
19. School divisions should ensure that evaluates have the right to appeal their
20. Different approaches to teacher evaluation may have to be used for different
stages of individual career cycles, for different levels of jobs in the
hierarchy, and for different levels of experience within a system
21. Teacher evaluation should be closely aligned with staff development.
However, individual school and teacher concerns must continue to be
22. School divisions should make a concerted effort to assist marginal teachers
and initiate a legitimate process to deal with incompetent teachers.
23. School divisions should adopt a policy that states how policy is to be
formulated and how and how often policy is to be reviewed and
Table of Contents
There is tension between the two major competing paradigms of teacher
evaluation based largely upon a silent struggle between ideological forces that
support surveillance, hierarchy, and bureaucracy, and the contesting forces of
reflection, collegiality, and collectively (Gitlin R Smyth, 1989). The dilemma
faced by policy makers and implementors is whether or not the emphasis in
teacher evaluation should be placed on cultivation or weeding. A weeding
approach would see an evaluator "focus upon the presumed deficits of
individuals" (Gitlin dk Smyth, 1989, p. 162) while ignoring their potential for
growth. Conversely, a cultivation approach would emphasize the overall
development of teachers by encouraging them to "open their hearts, souls, and
minds to one another, thinking critically and actively planning improvements to
their teaching" (Glickznaa, 1990, p. 162).
In the school divisions involved of the Saw (1994) study,
policy makers, according to their written policies, seemed to prefer to
concentrate an accountability (72.3º/o) as opposed to teacher improvement
efforts (43.6%). Since incompetent performance is very much the
exception rather than the rule, energy ought to be expended in protecting
teachers' self-esteem and enhancing professional development.
According to Rooney (1993), "support and encouragement have
much more effect than criticism however thinly veiled under the guise of
supervision" (p. 44). This is not to suggest that the incidence of
incompetence is to be ignored. It is a crucial area for policy because of the
implications for the reputation of the profession and, more importantly, the
education of children and the well-being of society. Respondents in this
study clearly indicated their desire for this distressing concern to be
addressed. Teacher unions must become more involved in teacher
evaluations by working closely with administrators in devising and
monitoring intensive assistance programs for teachers experiencing
instructional difficulties. Adversarial relations between management and
unions should give way to what is best for students.
Follow-up interviews in this study clearly indicated that the preferred
approach for teacher evaluation was to utilize a system of peer assistance (Appendix
E). This would help to overcome the sort of isolation, uncertainty, and loneliness that
characterizes a great deal of teaching (Walsh, 1987). Peers, according to McGreal
(1983), can be used in instructional improvement efforts - observation and input by
one or more teachers to another teacher for the specific purpose of assisting that
teacher in improving instruction. You can learn more about teaching by watching
peers teach than you can by having someone observe you and write an evaluation
(DePasquale, Jr., 1990). This method of evaluation can not take place unless there is
a willingness to provide resources and to assist teachers in reaching their goals
(DePasquale, Jr., 1990) as well as open-mindedness and trust among colleagues
(McGreal, 1983). Gitlin & Smyth (1989) emphasize the importance of encouraging
dialogical relations among teachers because "schools are much more vibrant and
reflective places in which to live and to work" (p. 156) if this support is forthcoming.
Therefore, evaluators of the future will require training to ensure
they are capable of working with teachers in a collaborative,
collegial, and dialogical fashion.
Another recurring theme in the interviews was the
importance of involving evaluates in teacher evaluation policy
formulation and revision. Although this is heavily supported by the
literature, only 6% of the policies analyzed in the Saw (1994) study
stated that a collaborative approach was utilized to develop their
policy. Caldwell dk Spinks (198S) recommend that a policy be
developed to facilitate suggestions for change and that policy making
should be "all-over-at-once" rather than "top-down" or "bottom-up"
thereby releasing the energy in the system rather than keeping it
harnessed. Educators should take every opportunity to engage in
dialogue, regardless of their place in the hierarchy.
Table of Contents
Back to: Instruction