Teacher Peer Assessment
Teacher peer assessment is a common practice for performance appraisal of teachers in the public schools. Teacher peer evaluation is conducted by a peer or colleague to assess or evaluate the professional performance, competence, and the instructional quality of a practicing teacher. Teacher peer assessment follows an expertise-oriented model, making use of teachers as expert judges of student instruction. Peer assessment is typically implemented district-wide under a school-system's site-based management program. Among the common components of peer assessment are a pre-assessment conference, an in-class formal observation of teaching and a post-assessment conference.
Keywords Competency-Based Assessment; Continuous-Progress Improvement; Evaluation Instrument; Expertise-Oriented Model; Formative Assessment; Heuristic Device; Peer Assessment; Peer Coaching; Peer Evaluators; Performance Appraisal; Personal Construct Theory; Post-Assessment Conference; Summative Assessment; Teacher Evaluation; Tuckman Teacher Feedback Form (TTFF)
Teacher Education: Teacher Peer Assessment
Teacher peer assessment or teacher peer evaluation is one means of assessing a teacher's instructional quality, competence, performance, effectiveness and/or proficiency. As a system, process or practice, teacher peer assessment is dynamic, innovative and flexible. Teacher peer assessment is an alternative to traditional performance assessments/evaluations and is a component of a comprehensive evaluation process that uses multiple sources of data. There is growing use of teacher peer assessment in U. S. public schools (Edwards, 1986; Grossnickle & Cutter, 1984; Peiperl, 1999). The assessment, evaluation or appraisal of teachers and teaching by peers is an expertise-oriented model that makes use of expert judges-other teachers or colleagues-to make judgments regarding what constitutes expert performance (Lattuca, 2005).
A teacher peer-assessment system typically serves many different purposes. Broadly speaking, there are dual main purposes of teacher peer assessment:
• An administrative or summative function
• A developmental or formative function.
The most important and positive purpose of teacher peer-assessment is the continuous-progress improvement of instructional practice. Teaching is, in essence, no different than any profession which develops performance standards for the preparation, practice, licensing and continuing peer evaluation for accountability and public assurance (Case, Lanier, & Miskel, 1986; Davis, Kumtepe, & Aydeniz, 2007; Mertler & Petersen, 1997; Milanowski, 2005; Sullivan, 1995).
As a general process, teacher peer assessment/evaluation is necessary as a critical component of educational practice which can greatly impact educational-reform efforts. Teacher peer assessment is an indispensable part of teacher evaluation, but it is only one part. In addition, other assessments and evaluations are made by administrators, principals, department chairs and students (Davis, Kumtepe, & Aydeniz, 2007; Schneider, 1975).
A major contributor to the concept of teacher peer evaluation was B. W. Tuckman, who applied the psychology of personal constructs to teaching. He developed the Tuckman Teacher Feedback Form (TTFF), a measurement device which can be used in determining teacher behaviors during observations and evaluations. Tuckman designed the TTFF and a series of five related propositions (Table 1) based on the American psychologist George A. Kelly's (1955) psychology of personal constructs and postulates. Kelly's classic work, The Psychology of Personal Constructs, considered "the bible of personal construct theory" and "personal construct psychology," was reissued in 1992. The TTFF used a series of 28 adjectives, later expanded to 65, paired with its approximate opposite. Each pair of adjectives represents a personal construct that can be used to construe teacher behavior. The TTFF can be used by a peer teacher, a trained observer, a supervisor or a student to describe teacher behavior over a time period of about 45 minutes. Tuckman's series of five propositions based on Kelly's postulates used in the TTFF are as follows:
• The teacher relates to the environment by means of personal constructs used for processing incoming information.
• These personal constructs mediate between information the teacher receives and behaviors that he/she emits.
• The kinds of personal constructs the teacher uses to construe his/her environment will also be the ones used by an observer to construe the teacher classroom behavior.
• The constructs are organized into more stable and meaningful systems or clusters of constructs.
• The relative predominance of construct systems will reflect the characteristics of the situation, the disposition of the teacher and the previous history of the teacher (Tuckman, 1971; 1976).
A teacher peer-assessment system is typically implemented district-wide under a system's school-based management plan and is based on the district's teacher-assessment policies. Thus, although school-level discretion may be allowed in some areas of decision-making, the decisions concerning the form and extent of peer assessment are made at the school district level and are subject to the approval of central-office administrators (Hanson, 1991; Hanson, 1992; Pfeifer, 1987).
Because a peer-assessment system may influence district office/school relations, principal/teacher relations and teacher/teacher relations, a supportive superintendent and a principal who is an advocate at individual schools is essential to the success of the peer-assessment program. Getting teacher involvement is beneficial in securing teacher commitment to the program and maximizes teacher-observation time and the sources of expertise within a district (Hanson, 1991; Pfeifer, 1987).
Teacher peer evaluators are trained and carefully selected colleagues who are used in the process of evaluation to assess various aspects of professional competence and teaching performance. Sometimes only experienced teachers are used to observe and assess their peers. Professional observers such as these have a good sense of what teaching behaviors are characteristic of an exemplary teacher. They are experts who can articulate the features of expert performance and make judgments about such evaluative issues as classroom management and the professional content and quality of material. Individual peer evaluators or members of evaluation teams can implement peer evaluations in a broad range of ways, including single-session or multiple-round assessments (Barnberger, 2007; Hanson, 1992; Heneman & Milanowski, 2003; Lattuca, 2005; Norcini, 2003; Pfeifer, 1978; Sullivan, 1995).
A peer (or peers) of the teacher may be a part of an assessment committee that also includes evaluators and reviewers at different responsibility levels. A division director or department chair may compile the information and provide it to the principal of the school.
The methodology and procedures of the peer-assessment process are typically involved and comprehensive. It may be based on performance standards such as those of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The peer assessment normally follows a detailed, process-oriented schedule and is on-going throughout the year (Downs, 2006; Hoover, 1994; Shinkfield, 1994).
Teacher peer assessment includes as a common component a formal, in-class observation(s) of teaching conducted by peer observers. These are generally one of two different types:
• In a 'cluster approach,' teachers observe and evaluate peers who are teaching the same subject matter.
• In a 'total curriculum approach,' teachers observe and evaluate peers who are teaching in other subject-matter areas (Hanson, 1992; Samalonis, 1969; Yan, 2005).
Some schools record teachers' presentations during peer reviews and evaluations or make use of closed-circuit television. If a videotape exists and is available, it may be made a part of the official report (Adelman, 1979; Hoover, 1994; Shinkfield, 1994).
In addition to bringing peers together for a pre-assessment conference, they may also be brought together after the observation of performance for a post-assessment conference, interview or peer-to-peer discussion component. Such a meeting of peer colleagues and evaluators can be a positive experience in that it provides an opportunity for teachers to reflect on their own performance and to incorporate formative feedback in the peer-assessment process. The teacher peers can consider whether students achieved learning objectives and how the quality of teaching can be improved (Gueldenzoph & May, 2002; Schneider, 1975; Turner, 1978; Yan, 2005).
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