Rethinking Teacher Evaluations and PD
We often think of professional development and evaluations as something to be checked off. Evaluations mostly consist of a list of skills or competencies that are observed by an administrator once or twice a year. They are then evaluated on some type of scale that returns the summative assessment of your performance or value that year. They are rarely discussed in a way that leads to real growth of the teacher. Professional development is often a list of workshops or activities you passively attend and is assessed simply by number of hours attended.
I would like to see professional development and evaluations combined into a professional growth plan. Initially the school would outline their vision for their learning environments. The school I work at has done this with two documents. One is the Oakridge Classroom Environment and the second is the Portrait of an Oakridge Teacher. With this knowledge teachers would meet with a critical friend and identify one or two strengths they will capitalize on this year and two to four areas they would like to improve upon over the year. They would then take this to their administrator and agree upon a growth plan.
As a leadership team and community we would then create resources centered around each of these tenets that would provide guidance on how to improve in these areas. These resources would be stored on a professional growth area of our faculty portal as well as published on our leadership and training blogs so others outside our organization could benefit as well. These resources will be broken down into different learning styles as we know teachers, like our students, prefer different strategies in learning. The first would be simply a link to a resource and a short description of how it could help reach learning goals. The second would include screencasts of step-by-step instructions of creating a lesson. This second option would be a great place for those teachers who have identified this as a strength to serve as trainer as well. They could make their own screencasts that would bring more authenticity and collaboration to the project. The third would involve the ability to meet with one of our specialist for a tutoring time to discuss the tool and learning objectives.
The next question becomes how do we encourage teachers to use these resources. I believe part of the professional growth plan could include “badges” or completion criteria. Throughout the year teachers would be working on creating resources to be shared on their strengths to earn a badge. Then they would follow a process that includes learning a new tool or pedagogy that would address one of the areas they hope to improve upon. That process would include writing a lesson plan, carrying out that lesson and finally reflecting on the learning goals achieved. A great long term goal would be creating lesson studies as described in this article from KQED news.
I believe implementing a professional growth plan like the one described above would be a significant shift in the culture of collaboration, creativity and critical thinking in teacher assessment.