Formal evaluation or appraisal of teachers is a vital process through which administrators monitor their instructional skills and improve their effectiveness as teachers. This is normally a formative process that seeks to enhance the professional growth and development of the teachers and build capacity. This is one way to improve teaching and learning in schools since effective teachers are key to student learning. Administrators are also evaluated from time to time in order to sharpen their management and leadership skills.
While the formal, clinical evaluation mentioned above is very important, it has two drawbacks. First of all, it is too cumbersome, since for each teacher there are cycles of pre-observation and post-observation meetings sandwiching the lesson observation itself, and there is a need for an observation team. That process takes too much time per teacher. Secondly, this formal type of teacher evaluation occurs too infrequently, especially when it is applied to experienced teachers. Many experienced teachers are not even evaluated on a yearly basis.
It can therefore be argued that schools do not do enough, on a regular basis, to evaluate all teachers and thereby improve education systematically. “More can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers than by any other single factor. ” This statement is attributed to Wright, Horn and Sanders (1997).
Like some other educators, I believe that this problem of inadequate evaluation can be solved by the addition of teacher self-appraisal, introspection and self-reflection. This approach would give regular feedback on each class to each teacher and promote professional growth and development. They would be in a better position to tailor teaching to students’ needs.
In this paradigm teachers also see themselves as learners. They reflect on their work at the end of each lesson, evaluate it and look for ways to improve the next lesson. They Plan, Implement, and Evaluate everything they do (PIE). They assume responsibility for their own professional growth and their students’ progress. They develop the knowledge and competencies to modify their teaching practices and techniques in order to make each successive lesson better than the one before it. They ask themselves what worked and what did not work in each lesson, and why, and they consolidate their strengths while eliminating their weaknesses. Reflection shapes practice.
Teachers can enlist peer support on an informal level as well. They can invite colleagues to observe some of their lessons and give them feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. This stimulates professional discourse and practice in the school and enhances the academic culture. Teaching and student learning will flourish in this environment.
Once teachers get involved in this kind of self-evaluation and introspection, many of them will seek to keep their knowledge and teaching and learning strategies up to date. Schools will then be well on their way towards becoming true learning communities.