LEARNING CURVE ANJALI HAZARI

How should teacher performance for the academic year be judged?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 June, 2015, 6:11am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 June, 2015, 6:11am

The exam season is finally over and my students have been evaluated internally by me and externally via different exam boards. My school administrators are now busy ending the academic year evaluating my performance along with that of my colleagues. So how should teacher performance for the academic year be judged?

Research shows a strong correlation between teacher effectiveness and student achievement. And I am extremely proud of the excellent results my students get both at the IGCSE and IB examinations simply because I invest a lot of effort in preparing them well for these external examinations.

However, there is a small voice in my head that refuses to be silenced. Several of my students undertake private or group tutorial sessions in biology after school. That makes me question whether their exam achievement is a reflection of my performance, or their tutors, or, perhaps, it is a joint effort? And indeed, if I was an effective educator why would my students feel the need to take tuition in the first place?

The Education Bureau mandates that teachers should be evaluated on performance and not personality and should focus on three specific areas of teaching and teaching-related duties, non-teaching duties and professional and personal competence.

The EB also recognises that the appraisal system applicable to one school may not be so for another. And before establishing the teacher appraisal system, schools should understand their culture, their educational goals and the needs of various parties (the school, teachers and students) before deciding on the methods and criteria for appraisal.

What this means is that I could be considered an effective teacher in one school but, perhaps, not in another.

A recipient of the 2012 Millman Award from the Consortium for Research on Educational Accountability and Teacher Evaluation in recognition of his work in the field of teacher and administrator evaluation, James H. Stronge, the heritage professor of education in the educational policy, planning, and leadership area at the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, and also president of an educational consulting company that specialises in teacher and leader effectiveness, sheds some light on this complex but necessary process that schools even address with different jargon.

Teacher appraisal, teacher evaluation, performance management?

"Ultimately, what I aim for is not teacher evaluation; it's teacher effectiveness. I think of evaluation merely as the means, but effectiveness is the goal. If one teacher improves her or his performance, then an entire group of children will be better for the effort."

Classroom observations have the potential to improve instruction

Having authored, co-authored, or edited 23 books and more than 150 articles on performance evaluation systems, Stronge finds, "Too frequently evaluation has been a useless event: nothing changes."

I evaluated my students on their knowledge, understanding of biology concepts, handling information and problem solving as well as experimental skills and investigations.

Stronge considers student achievement to be just one of the criteria that measure my effectiveness as a teacher. Professional knowledge, instructional planning and delivery, assessment of student learning, the learning environment and professionalism are other standards against which my effectiveness should be evaluated. However, being in a position of continually evaluating our students, teachers especially can be touchy with being evaluated.

And several other questions come to mind, such as: Should a veteran teacher like myself be excluded from the evaluation process? And who should judge my performance?

Research by Mark Shevlin and associates suggests that student ratings do not wholly reflect actual teaching effectiveness. Hence, Stronge suggests that evidence be collected via multiple data sources throughout the evaluation cycle that include a documentation log, student surveys, measures of student progress and observations.

High-quality classroom observations have the potential to improve instruction. Research also shows that teachers are more effective at raising student achievement during the school year when they are being evaluated than previously.

I take solace in the words of Albert Einstein: "Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts!"

Anjali A. Hazari teaches IB and IGCSE biology at the French International School