While there is no such thing as a teacher evaluation tool that is 100% flawless, new teachers can utilize evaluation feedback to improve their instruction and student learning in the classroom.
There are four teacher evaluation models that exist in the American school system. In a Value-Added Model, teachers are evaluated based on how they contribute to the progress of their students. Teacher observations are an evaluation model that has stood the test of time. Charlotte Danielson’s Framework model is used widely, especially in the elementary setting. Lastly, the Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation model can be found mostly in the secondary setting.
All of these models have their pluses and minuses; however, they do hold one common theme. Their purpose is to have teachers reflect on their instructional practices regularly towards continuous improvement.
Collaborate with a Colleague
One of the best ways to reflect on teaching practices is to collaborate with a colleague. A colleague is a great sounding board that can help sort out feedback and provide clarity towards understanding what the evaluator is recommending.
A new teacher should always reach out to a trusted colleague in order to brainstorm and share ideas as to how to best meet the needs of students in the classroom. Consider inviting this trusted colleague into your classroom to provide feedback in a way that is not evaluative in nature. This collaboration can be done in a risk-free environment that could also be used as evidence that the new teacher is focused on improving professionally.
Look for Additional Growth Areas with Potential
There are only so many performance areas that an evaluator can actually capture during observations or through student growth data. It is for this reason that reflective practitioners are constantly seeking additional growth opportunities with the potential to improve student learning.
A new teacher may wonder how the evaluation actually connected with his/her overall teaching, or if the evaluation connected to just the lesson(s) observed. Was there a specific pattern throughout the course of the school year? These are all areas in which a new teacher could dive deeper into collecting additional data towards creating an instructional growth goal that is measurable and attainable.
Gather and Analyze the Data
Once a new teacher has decided upon an area of growth, the next step is to determine how to provide evidence towards attainment of that goal. Options of evidence collection include using formative and summative assessments, recording a video of a lesson, taking pictures of student work that demonstrates the specific area of growth, or anything else a teacher could produce to show that the goal has been achieved.
When a new teacher shows the evaluator that s/he has analyzed the data collected and has drawn conclusions from that data, the evaluator will have faith that the new teacher is reflective and is focused on improving as a practitioner. What more could an evaluator ask for?
Reflect and Determine Next Steps
The final portion of any teacher evaluation model is for the teacher to reflect and determine next steps. Was the goal attained? If so, what will the new teacher be working towards as his/her next area of improvement? If not, what action steps are needed in order to attain the desired outcome?
As the teacher evaluation is cyclical in nature, there really is no end to the quest of becoming the best teacher one can be. There is always room for improvement. Fortunately there is time for new teachers to grow over time. New teachers should begin their careers with goals that are attainable, but not too easily attained. Evaluators respect teachers that are willing to take risks in the classroom to improve student learning.
However, a new teacher would not want to set him/herself up for failure by deciding on a goal that is too lofty. In the end, it is imperative that a new teacher approaches the teacher evaluation as a reflection tool. New teachers should understand that most educators “live” in the proficiency rating. They “dabble” or strive towards the rating of excellent. It may take years of reflection, iteration, and professional development to attain an excellent rating on a summative evaluation.
What is most important in the eyes of the evaluator is that the teacher is a lifelong learner and is never satisfied with the status quo. After all, teaching is a profession just like being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or pilot. Very few would want to hire any of these new-to-the-field professionals if they believed that there was nothing left to be learned.