November 20, 2019

Observing Students… Assessing Teachers

I am busy preparing for a presentation I will be doing in July at the High Schools That Work Conference in Nashville, TN

Here is the workshop descriptor:

What can the principal do to make teacher evaluation an opportunity for teacher growth?

Teacher observation and evaluation conferences take a large amount of a principal’s leadership time. This investment of leaders’ energies should produce increases in student achievement. In this session you will examine elements to question and consider with teachers:

• What are indicators of student achievement?

• How do examples of student work indicate learning and teaching?

• What to look for when observing students in classrooms?

• How do teacher actions/choices/behaviors impact student actions/choices/behaviors?

Teacher evaluation conferences should provide input for the building of teacher growth plans and the design of professional learning opportunities for individuals and staffs. Key elements of growth plans will be presented.

As I considered key points for administrators to explore in the workshop, I settled on a backward process: What is the student achievement you seek, what do students need to do for that achievement to occur, how can the teacher get the needed student behaviors? After the assessment of the teacher, what staff development, coaching and professional learning community activities would support the development of critical teacher skill sets?

Exploring that thinking, I am revisiting how critical it is for classroom observers to be focused on students in order to assess the quality of the teacher’s instruction. Most weeks I spend some time observing in classrooms with principals and then debriefing those conversations. At times I note that principals miss students’ behaviors that are indicators of needed teacher modifications. Often the principal and I note that teachers miss the indicators from students that modification is needed. Observation is too focused on the teaching tasks and missing the learning tasks.

Consider the indicators in the following rubric from Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.

Note that the distinguished level requires observing what students are doing more than what the teacher is doing. Instructional leaders need the ability to conference and coach teachers to create the connections between teacher actions and student responses.

Questioning and Discussion Techniques

Elements: Quality of questions, Discussion techniques, Student participation



I am realizing that a key coaching/training role is identifying the changes in teacher behavior that are needed to move from proficient to distinguished. The teacher, in addition to learning the teacher behaviors, needs to learn how to study student responses to teacher choices. Advances in teacher evaluation will require a deep skill set for instructional leaders to connect teacher and student behaviors with achievement and the ability to guide teachers in the continuous learning process.

 

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