Teacher Competency Evaluation
Teacher Competency Evaluation refers to the systematic procedures that attempt to present a balanced and comprehensive assessment of how teachers perform in their classrooms. Particular areas of interest include how teachers communicate with students with diverse cultural backgrounds and learning styles and how teachers maximize educational relationships with other teachers, administrators, and parents of their students. The importance of Teacher Competency Evaluation has grown in importance in the late 20th and early 21st centuries as schools are faced with increasing calls for accountability, but controversies abound in schools as to how best teacher competency should be evaluated. In spite of these widespread controversies, there is universal agreement as to the fact that teachers contribute to student learning more than any other aspect of school, thus confirming the importance of discovering effective ways to judge teacher performance.
Keywords Artifact; Behavioral Observation Scale (BOS); Behaviorally-Anchored Rating Scale (BARS); Competency; Critical Incident; Debriefing Interview; Formative Evaluation; Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC); National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS); PRAXIS; Scoring Rubric; Summative Evaluation
Teacher Education: Teacher Competency Evaluation
The issue of how to fairly and comprehensively evaluate teacher competency is exceedingly complex for numerous reasons. As Kenneth Peterson observed, good teacher evaluation is difficult to do because there are many short-term costs and only long-term payoffs (Peterson, 2000). At first glance, evaluating teacher competency would appear to only entail three steps:
• Determine the standards that a teacher would have to meet to teach at an acceptable level.
• Determine the range of knowledge that a teacher needs to marshal in order to teacher effectively.
• Assess whether a teach has this body of knowledge and demonstrates how to operationalize it.
The problems with this approach are so numerous that a large body of educational literature solely centers upon the problematic nature of this view of evaluating teacher competency.
Minimal Classroom Competency
For examples, The United States is not united when it comes to a common agreement regarding the requirement for teacher licensing; a fact that has long been known to teachers seeking to practice in a state other than the one in which they received their license. There are literally fifty different state definitions of teacher competency for beginning teachers as to what determines their minimal classroom competency. Competency refers to the ability of a qualified individual to perform an activity, task or job situation (Spector & la Teja, 2001). Minimal competency would qualify that definition by attaching it to the lowest acceptable expectations for performance determined by the employer. This is interestingly revealed in examining the differences among states when requiring the successful completion of a standardized test to assess a teacher-candidate's competencies in subject matter and pedagogical knowledge. While the majority of states require passing the PRAXIS exam created by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a number of states, including those with large populations of teacher-candidates like California and New York, have created their own standardized tests in lieu of PRAXIS (Stronge, 2006). An alternative voluntary evaluation system for teachers with three or more years of experience has also been established by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). In an attempt to try to create a national consensus regarding teacher evaluation across the country, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) was created in 1987.
Differences in Evaluator Interpretation
When evaluating teacher competency after teachers begin working, the definitions concerning their desirable rather than minimal, performance level multiply exponentially across regions. Among school districts in the same state, school administrators and faculty assigned evaluative roles will commonly differ in their interpretations of state standards for teachers. Finally, the means commonly used to evaluate teacher competency - interviewing teachers and observing repeatedly their classroom performance - are means open to a variety of various interpretations of the part of evaluators.
As a starting point for probing the reasons for the wide divergence of professional opinion concerning teacher evaluation, questions pertaining to teacher observation offer a useful starting point. Clearly, teachers need to be observed by assigned evaluators while they work with students in order for a full picture of teacher competency to emerge. One question is: how often? The number of observations of a teacher in action will differ depending on whether a new teacher or experienced teacher is being evaluated. A novice teacher might be observed more often than an experienced teacher.
Although not often mentioned in educational literature, the manner in which the observer conducts him or herself during class can very much color the outcome. For example, an evaluator may bring a notebook or legal pad in order to take notes. Yet the sight of an observer furiously and constantly writing notes throughout a teacher observation could throw a reasonably confident observed educator into self-doubt, negatively impacting teaching performance. Some observers have used tape recorders that might have a similarly unsettling effect. If the observer shows a non-verbal sign of disinterest in classroom proceedings (e.g. glimpsing at a watch or room clock; staring out a window), such seemingly trivial gestures may be interpreted by the observed teacher that he or she failed to make the grade during the observation.
Observations are classified as "formative" or "summative." A formative evaluation is used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a teacher so that specific suggestions for improved performance can be tried. A summative evaluation is used as information to determine the teacher's employment status (e.g. a pay raise or tenure; or dismissal or probationary status). The issue of how many formative evaluations should ideally be conducted before a summative evaluation is conducted is controversial, since it is impossible to establish an objective number of teacher observations as ideal. The timing of formative evaluations as to when they occur during the school year is also worth considering. The scheduling of a formative evaluation the week before a major school holiday could be interpreted as an unfair event since students are universally perceived as less attentive to teachers immediately before a holiday.
Who Does the Observing?
The most common evaluator is a school principal, a choice often criticized by teachers who cite the fact that principals are least in contact with students and their learning needs, and so the least able to assess how teachers are reaching them. Other observers may be peer educators - other teachers. Some teachers also question the utility and fairness of being evaluated by their peers, since prejudicial emotions like envy, or judgments based upon subtle sexism and/or racism, or major differences in philosophy, might negatively color evaluations. On the other hand, some principals object to peer observations in schools marked by strong teacher unionism on the grounds that a peer evaluator will look the other way at teacher inadequacies when a job might be on the line because of a summative evaluation (Lieberman 1998).
A typical framework for evaluating teacher competency entails each observation framed by an interview before and after the observation. Observations can be announced ahead of time, or can be surprise visits by an evaluator to a teacher's classroom; the former being more common. The interview prior to observation will often focus on asking the teacher being evaluated what strengths and weaknesses he or she currently perceives in the classroom. A conscientious evaluator will carefully note these with commentary and re-introduce relevant ones as topics during the interview following classroom observation. Whether or not the teacher being evaluated is a novice or an experienced educator, it is perceived as vital that the evaluator present herself or himself as a potential coach, or critical friend (Whitford & Jones, 2000) rather than judge (although that role of coach seems difficult to maintain when a summative evaluation is in process). The evaluator should offer specific suggestions for enhancing teacher performance that are inviting intellectually...
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