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Appraising Instruction

February 6, 2015

The purpose of this post is to present a model for the evaluation of instruction including the processes and protocols for the approach that may be used in a learning institution or organization.  This model is developed to be systematic and repeatable as well as provide guidance for supervisors regarding methods and approaches for observation, communication methods for feedback to instructors, and the frequency of observations, appraisals, and communicative exchanges.  I've also included a reflection on how the observation protocol was piloted at a charter school in San Diego, California as well how the model may be presented to an organization’s leadership as it considers adopting it.

 

Purpose and Objectives

Implicit in any appraisal model is the primary need to improve instruction (Grote, 1996).  Although the appraisal model may be used as a tool for evaluation, it is designed as a method for developing teacher skills and performance.  That is, the purpose of this approach as designed is to support and reinforce strengths of educators as well as to identify challenges teachers face in their practices.  To that end, the model promotes goal-oriented development, continual self-assessment, and a climate of shared responsibility between the teacher and supervisor.

 

Planning and Reporting

This model is formulated to be implemented each year based on a July 1 to June 30 timeline.  The institution’s local governance board, in collaboration with any teacher associations or unions should first establish a date by which all teachers formally create and submit an Annual Work Plan (Lantham & Wexley, 1994).  However, the plan should be submitted no later than the end of October.  This Annual Work Plan should:

 

  • Support the mission, goals, and priorities of the local educational agency

  • Promote personal professional development through performance objectives

 

The Annual Work Plan acts as the primary document that each educator uses to outline an action plan for improving instructional practices and state key activities designed for achieving curricular and instructional goals.  A key activity is a high leverage event, project, or effort closely tied to the priorities established by the local educational agency or as a result of a previous appraisal objective not yet attained.  Key activities may have both short-term and long term outcomes.  This document becomes the source document used in appraising the teacher’s yearly performance.  The educators’ overall performance on the Annual Work Plan is assessed and summarized by his supervisor in an Annual Appraisal Summary.

 

The Annual Appraisal Summary is the supervisor’s assessment of the teacher’s performance for the year and is completed each year in June.  The summary assesses the teacher’s performance on developmental and operational objectives identified.  A developmental objective is a measurable objective that reflects the development of new and creative approaches pursued by the instructor.  An operational objective is a measurable objective that reflects tangible improvements applied to existing and ongoing practices that implement the local educational agencies priorities or directives posed to the instructor through other appraisals.  Additionally, the educators’ personal performance objectives will also be appraised using the summary.  These objectives should be agreed on by the supervisor and teachers as they represent areas of focus for teachers’ professional development and growth.

 

The implementation of the plan is coupled with a coaching cycle.  The coaching conferences are to be scheduled on an individual basis and are opportunities for informal assessment of progress being made by the teacher in relation to the Annual Work Plan.  Teachers are expected to submit a mid-year progress and summary report as well as an end-of-year progress and summary report to their supervisors.  The mid-year report should be submitted between December and January and the end-of-year report should be submitted between May and June.

 

Appraisal Domains and Features

Appraisal Domains are the categories that each instructor and his supervisor will use to create individualized appraisal rubrics.   In order to ensure that the features of appraisals are individualized to meet the goals and needs of each instructor as well as to establish institution-wide targets, these domains will establish the criteria for distinguished performance.  These domains may be revised annually by a joint committee of school administrators and teachers before the beginning of each school year.  The domains, created by the Union County College Corner Joint School District in Indiana (UCCC appraisal of teacher performance:  A handbook of procedures and policies, 2009), are:

 

  • Planning and Preparation

  • The Classroom Environment

  • Instruction

  • Professional Responsibilities

 

Each domain includes features and definitions for the features from which teachers and their supervisors may select in order to generate an observation rubric specifically for individual teachers.  The domains and their definitions may be found in Appendix A.  At least one feature from each domain must be included in the devised rubric for each teacher.  However, the selection process should be primarily guided by the Annual Work Plan as approved by the supervisor.  The rubric metric should be based on a 5-point system with a score of five defined by the feature being highly evident during observation, a score of three defined by the feature being evident during observation and a score of 1 defined as the feature not being evident during observation.  A score of zero would be assigned to the feature if, for a stated reason, the feature being observed is not applicable during the actual observation period.

 

Coaching Cycle

As discussed, the development of the Annual Work Plan to be submitted by each teacher to their supervisor will require at least one consultation meeting wherein the supervisor and the teacher engage in a collegial conversation about the goals and key activities outline in the Annual Work Plan by the supervisor.  This consultation, which should occur no later than October, is an opportunity for supervisors to convey their expectations of the teacher and to ensure that the presented plans are commensurate with the known strengths and challenges faced by the teacher and that the plan meets the curricular goals of the local educational agency.  At least two observation periods should be scheduled throughout the academic school year in addition to the coaching meetings.  The first observation period should be calendared between October and December and the second observation period should be calendared between January and May. Each observation period should be preceded with a pre-observation conference and concluded with a post-observation conference. 

 

Observation

Each observation should last at least 30 minutes.  It should be preceded by a 15-minute pre-observation discussion and a 15-minute post-observation discussion.  During the pre-observation discussion, the individualized rubric should be reviewed briefly but the primary focus of the pre-observation conference should be to calibrate the observer’s understanding of the learning objectives the lesson provides for the students and how these objectives are aligned with local or state education standards.   

 

The post-observation feedback discussion should center on what the teacher’s intent was throughout the lesson (Danielson, 2007).  That is, the discussion should not be couched in context of how things went according to plan but what the plan was and the evidence that may be cited to demonstrate that students acquired the lessons objectives.  The rubric should be used only to guide the post-observation discussion and will not be made available to the instructor.  The data collected using the rubric may be used by the supervisor in compiling the Annual Appraisal Summary.

 

Reflection

This model has been developed as a result of the findings of a similar model having been piloted in January of 2011.  An experienced educator (25 yrs. plus) was observed at an independent study charter school in San Diego, California, conducting a writing seminar for a group of eight high school students enrolled in the independent study academy.  The observation period, which lasted 46 minutes, was preceded by a pre-observation conference and followed up by a post-observation conference in accordance with a Supervisory Observation Plan which was developed for the pilot. 

 

The observation plan was guided by the use of a modified rubric.  The rubric, based on the work of Short, Echevarria, and Vogt (2007), required five features.  Although the model and the observation method were appropriate for the given context of this observation, a few adjustments could have made the post-observation conference more useful to both the teacher and the supervisor.  Namely, it was determined that the pre-observation conference should have focused on the particular students’ needs and the teacher’s rationale for her instructional design as opposed to a review of the agenda and the lesson elements the teacher expected to engage the students with.   Additionally, although the rubric used was helpful in focusing the wide-lens approach, the rubric should have been devised in consultation with the teacher given that the instructional setting was so unconventional. 

 

The nuances of the elements required in an independent study context may have made the rubric more pointed to the specific conventions of the context.  The outcomes of the pilot observation fortified the importance of strong relationships between supervisor and teacher developed in relation to effective supervision of instruction and curriculum.  The more interaction a supervisor has with a teacher, the more meaningful the supervisory relationship may be. 

 

It is for these reasons that the appraisal model presented in this composition includes the following features:

 

  • The individualization of observation rubrics

  • At least seven meetings during an academic school year including an initial planning consultation, four pre and post observation conferences, a mid-year progress and end-of-year progress coaching consolation

  • A specific focus to both the pre-observation and post-observation conferences

 

Benefits

The benefits of this model can be pointed out to organizational leaders as they consider it for adoption.  Because of its individualized methodology, the model will prove attractive to teacher associations and groups inasmuch as the model does not represent a one size fits all approach to instructional evaluation.  As the model’s approach acknowledges the differences and variance which may be a staple of classes and student needs, the model allows for customization which targets improvement needs and supports the individual needs of instructors in a system-wide manner.  The creation and submission of an Annual Work Plan and an Annual Summary Appraisal create a systemic approach to evaluation which can easily be replicated and sustained throughout an organization.

 

Further, because the model calls for more interaction between supervisor and teacher, organizational leaders may find the model appealing inasmuch as it mandates several classroom observations by supervisors—an event that often is lacking in frequency, particularly in secondary settings (Lantham & Wexley, 1994).  This increased interaction between supervisor and teacher may also support positive outcomes and prevent teacher performance from running off track.  Because the supervisor will more intimately be involved with curricular matters, he may better provide feedback and guidance to teachers as they work to afford the best education possible to their students.

 

References

Danielson, C. (2007). Enhancing professional practice:  A framework for teaching (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

Grote, D. (1996). The complete guide to performance appraisal. New York: AMACOM.

 

Lantham, G. P. & Wexley, K. N. (1994). Increasing productivity through performance appraisal (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

 

Short, D., Echevarria, J., & Vogt, M. (2007). Making content comprehensible:  The SIOP model (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

 

UCCC appraisal of teacher performance:  A handbook of procedures and policies. Unpublished manuscript. (2009).

 

 

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