From time to time I will write shorter posts like this one to enable us to take a quick, sharp look at some important issue. Today we consider teacher evaluation which is a priority for administrators.
Formal evaluation of teachers is generally an unwieldy and time consuming process. It usually takes the form of some kind of clinical supervision with scheduled pre-observation and post-observation sessions built around the classroom observation itself. These basic three phases of the evaluation take a lot of time and demand the presence of an evaluation team. Formal evaluations are therefore done in cycles which tend to be fairly infrequent. Although they are highly important, administrators cannot rely totally on them to get a full understanding of the quality of teaching in the school.
Teaching and learning are the everyday business of a school. Everything must be done to quantify and improve these two activities on an ongoing basis. We are talking about in-house professional training for teachers which will result In higher attainment levels for students.
Principals and department heads must make the time on a regular basis to visit individual teachers in their classrooms and observe their teaching in an informal way. This is different from the scheduled formal evaluations which will still continue their course.
These informal evaluation sessions can be carried out by one person at a time. Namely, the principal, deputy principal or the relevant head of department. The evaluation visits may be announced beforehand or they may be totally unannounced. In fact, some of them should always be unexpected. The administrator does not necessarily have to observe a complete lesson. He or she may only observe 15 or 20 minutes of a lesson and then move on to another classroom. The aim should be to cover all classrooms about twice in a three week period and this process should be continuous.
This tool gives principals a very clear picture of the state of teaching in the school and the strengths and weaknesses of each teacher. The weaknesses can then be addressed and eliminated. Very soon after each partial observation, (the same day if possible), the administrator has a one on one session with each teacher seen and gives each one feedback on the quality of the lesson. The strengths and weaknesses are discussed and the teacher is shown ways to improve subsequent lessons. This is coaching at its best.
These informal sessions will stimulate professional discourse, improve teaching and learning, and foster good relations between administration and staff. The return visits to each classroom allow administrators to measure progress in each case.
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