Evaluation does not improve teacher performance. Teachers improve by growing.
This concept might sound simple, but it is the key principle of Comprehensive Faculty Development, ISM’s framework for how school’s should evaluate and support their teachers.
A growth-focused faculty culture leads to better student outcomes through engagement and innovation. Teachers can focus on creative ways to inspire students when they are not concerned that the administration misunderstands their use of innovative methods.
Meanwhile, an evaluation system that is consistent and provides clearly defined goals without critiquing new approaches in the classroom is vital to retaining great teachers and ensuring trust between faculty and administrators. In the pursuit of achieving teacher-directed growth goals and meaningful faculty evaluations, these two processes must be separated.
Why Do We Evaluate, and What Are the Goals?
ISM has long held that the primary ways to influence student performance, satisfaction, and enthusiasm are through predictability and support.
Teachers must be held to the high professional standards required to create an environment where students feel supported to succeed. The teacher evaluation process focuses on this—creating an ideal environment for students. The good news—these elements are the basic things that teachers do every day!
Meaningful faculty evaluations should be clear about the essential expectations that faculty members must upload to establish accountability.
Evaluations must also be consistent across the entire faculty, regardless of position. Consistency mitigates legal risks to the school that might result from corrective action or termination. Finally, evaluations must allow for engagement in teacher-directed growth as an essential expectation. Growth plans should be teacher-directed, unless the faculty member is not meeting the essential expectations set.
Three Challenges to Effective Evaluations
According to supervisors and administrators, one major barrier to implementing an effective evaluation framework is time. Growth plans require ongoing and meaningful feedback for successful development while evaluation requires attention to essential expectations and communication. Each aspect must be thorough.
Also problematic are the many evaluation systems that administrators try to use. Schools will often switch from one system to another in an effort to increase efficiency or improve results. This leads to teachers becoming familiar with one process, and then having to adjust and learn a new process without clear reasons for the change. It can be frustrating for all involved.
These shifting standards and practices erode trust between faculty and administration. Without predictability, trust cannot be maintained. Even the best teachers can grow tired, regardless of their success with students and popularity with parents, when they feel the target continues to move when it comes to job performance. This is never good—a cynical and negative teacher can easily cause a toxic faculty culture to develop.
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An Evaluation Process That’s Separate From a Growth Framework
ISM separates evaluation from growth, eliminating many of the challenges and issues that other approaches present.
Our evaluation process does not entail complex rubrics or time-consuming notation and reporting. Instead, it has simple expectations for “meeting” or “not meeting,” rather than a scale or scoring system. If a faculty member is not meeting expectations, a plan is created to address the problem.
What Do We Achieve by Separating Growth From Evaluation?
Separating growth from the evaluation process addresses the shortfalls inherent in trying to accomplish both, providing numerous benefits.
First, these separate processes give teachers the freedom to take risks and pursue innovative approaches to learning and student engagement, without fearing how those new approaches will be evaluated.
Observation has often become synonymous with evaluation, where, in fact, observation is part of the growth process. If teachers understand that contracts are not classroom-evaluation dependent, trust between faculty and administrators is built and maintained. Providing meaningful feedback for teacher-directed growth maintains support for the teachers who are in turn supporting their students to be more engaged.
Supervisors who were previously in charge of growth and evaluation can allow growth to be overseen by Department Chairs, Academic Deans, and peers, who can all act as coaches.
Growth goals and evaluations can each be given the time, attention, and resources necessary to be most effective.
By including engagement as an essential expectation in a growth plan, supervisors can be advised by coaches on whether the teacher is meeting that expectation by implementing those plans. Allowing time and space for innovative teaching methods while allowing human resources to handle essential expectations saves time and supports teacher-directed growth goals and student performance.
Finally, separating these processes also serves to personalize growth plans. Department Heads and Academic Deans are specifically qualified to work with individuals. Their feedback is more valid and effective. The existing close relationship between these coaches and teachers ensures a stronger foundation of trust, giving them the freedom to practice new research-based learning approaches for the benefit of students.
What is in the best interest of faculty performance is in the best interest of the students.
Holding faculty accountable with clear expectations and goals keeps good teachers performing at their highest level. Students perform best when teachers are free to take risks to enhance their learning experience. Devoting time and effort to teach growth, unencumbered by the separate details of evaluation, guarantees that teachers will provide maximum support for their students.
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