The purpose of this chapter is to present the literature concerning the impact of teacher evaluation on professional learning in various learning institutions in the U.S. The literature review will include a critical examination of how the evaluation of teachers can either negatively or positively have an impact on professional learning in academic institutions (Kelly, 2006). Intrinsic and extrinsic factors influencing teacher evaluation and professional learning will also be examined. The literature review will provide a detailed description of research both supporting and criticizing the use of teacher evaluation in learning institutions. Despite the fact that some researchers suggested that the use of teacher evaluation in professional learning is beneficial to all stakeholders, other researchers have criticized the use of teacher evaluation in professional learning, and still others claim they are a threat to the teachers (Peterson, 2000).
To better understand the constructs of teacher evaluation and professional learning, a thorough review of the literature was conducted. The review was accomplished by exhaustive searches of the following electronic databases: APA databases, EBCSO HOST, E Journals Database, SOCIndex, Academic Search Alumni Edition Data Base, HEALTH SOURCE: nursing/academic edition database, and the U.S. Census. Key words utilized in the search included: teacher evaluation, instructional coaching and evaluation on teachers’ skills. The review of this literature supports evaluation of professional development, perceptions and satisfaction of actual learning, the teachers’ reactions, format, content and the implementation of new skills and knowledge (Kelly, 2006). The chapter will progress from a presentation of the history of teacher evaluation, methods of evaluation, the impact of evaluation on professional learning, and an evaluation of professional development and learning. After an extensive review of this information a summary of the literature will follow.
History of Teacher Evaluation
As described by Donard Medley, Homer Coker, and Robert Soar (1984), formal teacher evaluation dates back from 1980. The history can be divided into three periods which actually overlap. The first period can be referred to as the search of the great teachers’ period; the second period as the inferring teacher quality from the student learning, and the third period is referred to as examining the teaching performance. In the twenty first century, teacher evaluation appears to be taking a new turn of a disequilibrium phase, whereby evaluating teaching is done in a professional behavior.
Investigations on teacher evaluation conducted during the 1970’s and 1980’s were based on the features of effective staff development, while emphasizing on attitude related to evaluation and ignoring the actual practices. As a result, many learning institutions established extensive teacher development and evaluation projects which would be shown to increase the achievement of teacher as observed by Danielson, C., & McGreal, L. T. (2000). Results obtained from such studies were then used in the development of efficient teacher evaluation and professional learning policies, which are still currently available, but are not frequently used. This is because some evaluation characteristics impact positively to the student achievement gain while in other studies; it impacts negatively (Danielson & Mcgreal, 2000). For teacher evaluation and professional development or learning to be successful, evaluation processes should be driven by the data obtained on the gap between the actual performance of students and the goals of learning.
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Other reform goals are to expand various practices which enhance teacher evaluation. Professional development, learning, and teacher evaluation promotion occurs at various conferences, workshops, or with the aid of other long-term consultants. Teacher evaluation in order to promote professional learning is considered is one of the core areas that need education reform. Indeed, most of the academic learning institutions have found that lack of a well designed teacher evaluation and professional learning policies makes it hard for them to educate their learners towards high standards. Currently reform in the nation’s learning institutions centers on expanding various conceptions of schooling, learning, and teaching.
Methods of Teacher Evaluation
The evaluation of teachers is often a very comprehensive process because it comprises of various actions and activities which relate to specific goals and which are at most times interconnected. Some researchers maintain that teachers who are professionally trained normally deal with very complex issues, ought to be evaluated through the development of their standards and measuring the degree at which they can competently be able to solve their professional issues or problems as they may arise. According to Ribas (2005), evaluation methods and tools should therefore specifically focus on teaching as their profession and not as individuals to ensure that professional learning is achieved in learning institutions. Several evaluation methods are used, including informal classroom observations, lesson plan evaluation, faculty interactions, students performance ratings, administer interactions, self-reflection exercise, and other formal and information observations (Marshall, 2009)
Whereas a formative evaluation process is one that is used in the modification or improvement of a professional learning program, a summative evaluation process is meant for the determination of the overall effectiveness of the teacher evaluation and professional learning programs. The purpose of a summative evaluation, on the other hand is meant to assess student outcomes, organizational changes and educator practices (Danielson & McGreal, 2000).
To ensure that the teacher evaluation process is effective, some maintain it is crucial that people who are tasked with conducting the teacher evaluation take into consideration the needs and aspirations of all the stakeholders who are involved in ensuring that professional learning is achieved in both early, tertiary and institutions of higher learning throughout the country (Danielson & McGreal, 2000). Their responsiveness and involvement in the evaluation process should therefore be considered to make this process a success. The evaluation of teachers in most circumstances involves the preparation of the whole process, observation of the scenario, collection of data, reporting of data, and then a follow-up or explanation of the results. The collection of data will at most times involve formal observations which are thereafter followed by both pre- and post conferences (Hoover, Nolan & Nolan, 2010).
Formal versus informal methods
Informal evaluation methods mainly consist of evaluation exercises aimed at shaping, or improving teacher’s performance these were mainly done through examining teachers directly during the teaching sessions (Gray, 1982). Formal methods involve collecting data relating to teachers behavior, organizing this data before evaluating it for presentation through conferences with the evaluated teachers. According to Tucker & Stronge (2003), the frequent use of formal observations in the evaluation of teachers in various learning institutions does not imply that they are preferable to informal observations. Researchers have established that the use of unannounced visits in learning institutions yields a more successful evaluation as compared in situations where announced visits were considered (Tucker & Stronge, 2003).
There are various limitations to the use of formal observations as an evaluation tool to gauge the teachers. Often, the use of formal observation as a method of assessment reveals little detailed information concerning the breadth and depth of the content covered in class, and only provides minimal information regarding the coherence of the curriculum. Moreover, formal observations provide only limited information on the variety and quality of teaching materials employed by the teachers, especially as related to professional learning. In order to assess a teacher’s experience of professional learning, then it is necessary that the evaluation techniques involve feedback obtained by students and the teachers themselves. As a result, some researchers suggested the relevancy of informal observations and the consideration of learners and the classroom content as a whole in the evaluation process (Tucker & Stronge 2003).
Successful evaluation methods
Marshall (2009) recommends that teacher evaluation in learning institutions should form the basis of a small but crucial part of the bigger strategy of improving professional learning and school improvement in general. This will ensure that there is development of staff with regard to teachers even before the process of evaluation takes place. In order to do this, the process of evaluating teachers in various categories of learning institutions should be dialogical instead of being hierarchical. Dialogical methods include posing a problem and involving teachers and students in a learning and collaborative process to help them understand the process and act on reality (Peterson, 2000). Dialogical methods may be preferable as the division of labor in learning institutions forms the basis of what is to be taught to the learners and reflects the content of how things should be taught.
Various models concerning the evaluation of teachers have been in existence since the inception of teacher evaluation. These models according to McGreal (1983) have been grouped into four major categories, including goal setting, common law, naturalistic or artistic.
In goal setting model, all teachers participate in annual goal setting. The set goals aim at achieving both school and district goals. Goals are clearly and specifically stated with indicators of attainment which precisely shows how goal achievement can be determined. The common law model uses a common teacher evaluation policy across the specified region. This policy is common in all schools and to all teachers according to McGreal (1983), The naturalistic model involves carefully evaluating diverse perspectives until they arrive at a perspective. The artistic method approaches teacher evaluation by first defining teaching as an art. With this definition, the teacher’s role is considered to be inspiration, therefore, individuality and creativity are considered to be the paramount traits for quality teacher performance (McGreal, 1983).
Johnson et al. (2004) surveyed teachers at the Indiana Department of Education and identified various effective models or strategies. They revealed that coaching and other follow up procedures may augment professional teacher development. It was also ascertained that processes that were school based and collaborative, while at the same time be embedded in the daily lives of the instructors or teachers, promoted continuous growth. Finally the researchers recommended that evaluation processes meant for achievement of professional learning must focus on the learning of students (Johnson, et al, 2004).
Gray (1982) maintained that issues related to successful evaluation should be considered and addressed by all implementers of teacher evaluation in order to ensure that teachers are treated as professionals. Although, there are several methods available for evaluation, it is unclear which methods are associated with the greatest increases in professional learning and student outcomes. Additional research needs to be conducted on this topic, especially for the teacher’s point of view.
The Purpose of Teacher Evaluation
There are six agreed upon purposes of teacher evaluation in learning institutions: (1) teacher evaluation aims at improving instruction through the fostering of peer support and self development; (2) the process of teacher evaluation procedures makes activities related to staff development to be easily identified; (3) a proper designed and well functioning process of teacher evaluation presents a good communication channel or link between the school system and the teachers in general; (4) personnel decisions (e.g. transfer of teachers, tenure, retention, demotion, dismissals) can be best handled through effective and efficient processes of evaluation; (5) the process of selection can easily be validated through the use of teacher evaluation and therefore leads to professional learning; and (6) the process of teacher evaluation aims at protecting the learners against incompetent teachers by bringing on board structured assistance for the instructors or teachers that are marginalized (Johnson, Johnson & Westkott, 2004).
Many learning institutions struggle to tackle significant learning gaps as well as to discover ways to advance the value of education for all students. Teacher evaluation plays a significant function in teacher induction and selection. However evaluation does not appear to improve learning for higher-ranking teachers. In many learning institutions evaluations are chaotic and framed by principals, rather than by any specific evaluation instrument or student learning requirement. Teacher evaluation systems preferably ought to promote progress in both teaching practice and professional advancement opportunities. Evaluations may offer an inaccurate analysis of teacher results, particularly with regard to standards-based instruction. According to Peterson (2000) there are several conditions which compromise the ability of an evaluation to improve teaching practice:
Drawbacks in supervisors competence
Insufficient time for making observation as well as feedback
Inadequate administrator acceptance as well as understanding
Constricted conceptions of teaching
Insufficient clarity concerning the evaluation criteria
Classroom observations which are subject to preferences of the evaluator
Conflicts which exist between roles of the assessor as instructional leader as well as the staff supervisor
Principals being short of content-specific information, leading to evaluation feedback which focuses on broad behaviors, for instance, delivery, compared to content-specific pedagogy
Some researchers suggest that creators of evaluations be apprised of these limitations, and explore utilizing evaluation data about teachers to update whole-school advance efforts (Senge, 2007). That is aiming professional advancement to teachers as well as focusing on system changes as well as capacity building Senge (2007).
Evaluation is useful if significant data is collected since this is what determines whether the evaluation was detailed. Insufficient data on teacher evaluation and professional learning implies that the evaluation is not satisfactory. To solve this issue teacher evaluation ought to be detailed so that efficient data is collected (Lachat, 2001). Finally, the identification of marginal teachers or instructors must be done through the utilization of a number of indicators because there has been no proven or clear cut measures or standards through which incompetence can be judged. Marginal teachers, when found, should therefore be carefully entered into an intensive assistance program which will ensure that professional learning is achieved in learning institutions.
A main reason for conducting teacher evaluations is to improve and safeguard the quality of instructions presented by teachers to the students and by doing so ensuring professional learning (Johnson, Johnson & Westkott, 2004). Professional learning is defined as a reflective activity purposely designed to improve an individual’s understanding, knowledge, attributes, and skills. In order to foster professional learning in institutions of learning, it is important that the teachers and supervisors collaborate and work together peacefully. This will ensure that the classroom instructional practices are enhanced and improved for the benefit of all the stakeholders (Peterson, 2000).
When conducting evaluations to facilitate professional learning, some researchers maintain that the people tasked with the responsibility of evaluating teachers become aware of the pedagogy, the subject matters and the classroom features of the people they are going to evaluate, the teacher according to Stronge & Tucker (2005). These researchers also suggest that evaluators intending to promote professional learning should take into consideration the reality that excellent and experienced teachers are in a good position to deliver pedagogical performances which educational research and theory can neither predict nor explain. To be able to fully accommodate and comprehend the process of teacher evaluation and the effects it has on professional learning it is important to understand the various methods and tools used in evaluation of teachers with a view of achieving professional learning in learning institutions. The utilization of different tools in the evaluation of teachers ensures that the teachers who are involved in imparting knowledge and relevant skills to learners are able to do so in a professional manner so as to ensure that professional learning is achieved in learning institutions (Kelly, 2006).
Some researchers purport that the teachers, who happen to be the innovators and risk takers of their profession, should be encouraged rather than stifled through the process of evaluation to ensure that professional learning in various types of learning institutions is achieved. Any attempts meant for defining the standards the teachers use during teaching and any intent to make them operational should therefore become beyond the judgment of the stakeholders and academic experts involved in achieving professional learning in academic institution (Kelly, 2006)
As a consequence, researchers are calling for updated methods of evaluations that reflect a more enlightened perspective of teaching which will empower and inspire the teachers. New forms of collaboration, collegiality, and mentoring in the review process may facilitate teacher’s designing of their classroom programs, syllabus development, lesson plan creation, and even in the creation of their curricula. The establishment of a profession of teaching through which the teachers will be presented with a chance for continued learning will make it easier for them to inspire greater achievement for the learners especially for those that education to them is not only their pathway to success but a way through which they can survive (Kelly, 2006).
The Impact of Teacher Evaluation on Professional Learning
Some maintain that teacher evaluations impact professional learning (Hoover, L. A., Nolan, J., Nolan, J. Jnr., 2010 ).
Negative Impact Findings
Learning institutions all over the country have struggled to address learning gaps which exist across classrooms, and suggest that quality teaching may be the panacea. Although most agree that quality teaching is requisite, some researchers maintain that teacher evaluations are not necessary for professional learning or academic success (Johnson, et al., 2004; Kelly & Maslow), According to Kelley and Maslow (2004), the process of teacher evaluation has rarely been shown to advance professional learning in senior teachers. These researchers purport that the lack of impact of evaluation on learning is a consequence of the haphazard design of the evaluations and reliance of the cognitive lens of the administrators, rather than through specific evaluation instruments and the learning needs of students.
Maslow and Kelley assessed an evaluation and feedback process in 7 medium to large sized diverse high schools, and placed special emphasis on how teacher evaluation feedback might foster improvements in the practice of teaching. The purpose of the research was to identify viable improvements in evaluation systems and to reduce or reinforce inequitable distribution of competent and excellent teachers across learners with varying academic capabilities. The researchers focused on how the schools used teacher evaluation to fundamentally reframe reform or refine the practice of teaching at both on individual and organizational grounds (Peterson, 2000).
During the research, Maslow and Kelley interviewed various stakeholders, including administrators, department chairs, evaluators, as well as teachers; and collected information regarding the diversity of the schools, their performance, structure, and the teacher evaluation system as a whole. The researchers further grouped the teacher evaluation process according to levels of economic and racial diversity and geographic locations (e.g. rural, suburban), and rural schools with minimum racial and socio economic diversity were compared with suburban schools with and without racial diversity.
The results indicated that across all the schools, the process of teacher evaluation, as it related to augmenting professional learning in academic institutions provided limited direct feedback that could be used in the advancement of teacher learning. Instead, it was ascertained that the process of teacher evaluation was used in the establishment of structured opportunities for teacher learning, professional conversation, feedback and provision of data that focused on the professional development opportunities for the instructors or teachers in general.
The results also revealed that teacher feedback and teacher evaluation varied dramatically across the seven schools that were examined. Whereas some learning institutions ignored evaluation processes, others addressed the relevant educational challenges that were posed by the dynamic and diverse accountability contexts. The length to which such evaluation procedures and processes provided positive feedback for the instructors learning beyond the period of probation was noted as salient by the researchers.
The authors concurred that teacher learning, on a universal basis, did not happen for the teachers who were experienced via the feedback that was got using the teacher evaluation process. It was also ascertained that the teacher evaluation system did not at all present a sense of accountability. It was ascertained, during the research that systematic teacher evaluation and the subsequent evaluation of the data from the research in one of the schools in the case study, that for the process of teacher evaluation and professional learning to be successful, then meaningful data should be availed or collected. The teachers reported that the major source for any professional learning was attributed to the district or school development. However, it was also noted that in diverse, large, and urban learning institutions, the process of teacher evaluation was mainly based on the problems that teachers experienced instead of focusing on professional learning.
Ideally, good teacher evaluation systems should be ones that foster positive improvements in both teaching practice and professional development chances. The research indicates however, that teacher evaluations have been shown to present an inaccurate depiction of the performance of teachers (Johnson, et al., 2004). Some of the conditions that have been known to compromise the process of teacher evaluation and hindered the enhancement of professional learning in academic institutions have been revealed (Johnson, et al., 2004).
Limitations of evaluators
According to Johnson et al (2004) teacher evaluation has been hindered by the limitations of the people involved in the evaluation process. It has been established that formal classroom observations can be biased by the evaluators’ preferences (Johnson et al, 2004). Additional limitations such as an absence of clarity regarding the evaluation procedure and narrow conceptions of teaching methods have also been shown to negatively affect professional learning among the evaluated. Given these limitations, the process of evaluation may therefore be unable to positively impact teachers and the practice of teaching, especially for the teachers who are experienced. Experienced teachers differ from novice teachers in that they are more likely to require professional development that upholds the experience, knowledge, and intuitive judgment that they have acquired during their career period.
Differential effects of evaluation on experienced teachers.
Lack of understanding by teachers
Teacher evaluation processes have further been hampered by lack of acceptance and understanding among the teachers and the administrators.
Teachers’ perception towards evaluation
It is important to communicate and explain the evaluation process and its significance to the teachers. Studies have shown that where teachers are fully aware that evaluation is a meaningful way to professionally acknowledge teachers’ professional capability and judge the instructional delivery methods. It is also important to explain to the teachers that they are the center of the evaluation process that is aimed at being the climax of discussion regarding teaching, which places the teacher at the pivot point of the process. Non-informed teachers perceive evaluation process as a gateway for external judgment of behavioral characteristics (Kelly, 2006). From these researches, it is important to note that there was no particular findings regarding teachers’ perception on evaluation process. Further research is necessary to really establish how individual teachers react to the evaluation process.
Evaluation of Professional Development and Learning
Effective teacher evaluation is critical and it is at the core of educational reform discussions all over the world. The impact of this evaluation process on the achievement of professional learning among the students or learners needs to be clearly assessed; however, there is a paucity of empirical evidence that seeks to document the effects of evaluation on professional development. Any efforts aimed at augmenting professional learning via teacher evaluation should therefore be accompanied by an effective plan for determination of its effectiveness, in order to improve the quality of the teacher evaluation and professional learning process.
Teacher evaluation and professional learning is more powerful when such a process focuses on the both the results and means while essentially focusing on student achievement or results instead of on how the learners have reacted towards their experiences in learning (Johnson et all, 2010). Kelly (2006) maintains that a powerful teacher evaluation and professional learning policy should focus on the whole process as well as its parts, while at the same time being inclusive of the comprehensive program and not just other isolated parts of staff development. It should also be highly related to a comprehensive planning process and the evaluation procedures designed during the program planning phase and not later.
Teacher evaluation, as a process in itself is important because teachers, regardless of how poor or good they currently are, all can experience improvement over time. Although some teachers may continually approach their potential and improve over time, other teachers may continue to experience few improvements during the early years in their employment. For these teachers evaluation may prove to be extremely valuable. Furthermore, research indicates that teachers who are shown to improve over time are those who obtain information concerning their teaching and strive to improve on some aspects every time they are engaged in teaching (Kelly, 2006).
Another purpose of evaluation is to document the quality of one individual teacher as compared to other teachers. This process can only happen through the teacher evaluation process. The results of the evaluation can create psychological and mental satisfaction among all the stakeholders concerned. Institutions of learning which have realized the urgent need of reform in their current evaluation practices and implemented changes to content, pedagogy and teaching for achievement of professional learning have experienced increased professional development outcomes as a results (Hoover et all, 2010). Frequently the successes were achieved by bringing on board a series of experts and consults for a period of time in order for them to make observations, coach, and demonstrate ways in which technology can be integrated into the learning programs, evaluation, and curriculum in order for professional learning to occur. Some schools have developed effective early childhood programs, peer coaching and literacy strategies (Danielson & McGreal, 2000). The application of these evaluation processes in such learning institutions therefore led to not only improvement of writing and reading among the learners, but also increased the involvement of all the concerned stakeholders.
The literature on teacher evaluation reveals that the benefits obtained from teacher evaluation that focuses on professional learning actually outweighs the demerits of not conducting such a process. Researchers conclude that the processes of teacher evaluation in various parts of the world and learning institutions improved the students’ learning capabilities and enhanced the performance of teachers (Ribas, 2005).
Although some research indicates that formal teacher evaluation processes have only a short term impact on the teachers’ or instructors practice (Marshall, 2009), other researchers find more lasting effects (Stronge & tucker, 2005). A good system of teacher evaluation should therefore be one that accomplishes two objectives, promoting professional learning and ensuring that there is quality teaching. Researchers also purport that teacher’s perceptions about the evaluation process are important and should be considered when creating or reforming the evaluation process (gray 1982). Although research is beginning to accumulate on the salience of teachers’ perceptions in the evaluation process, additional empirical evidence may be helpful. The purpose of the current investigation is to add to the literature on this topic.