Recruitment & Retention Opinion

Recommendations for Developing Teacher Evaluation Systems

By Justin Baeder — November 20, 2011 4 min read
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Guest post from Rod McCloy & Andrea Sinclair

In this blog entry, we provide some of our recommendations for developing teacher evaluation systems. These recommendations rest on the performance theory (Campbell, McCloy, Oppler, & Sager, 1993) presented in our previous two posts (“Performance or Effectiveness? A Critical Distinction for Teacher Evaluation”, “Ramifications of the Performance/Effectiveness Distinction for Teacher Evaluation”) and its differentiation between performance and effectiveness.

Our recommendations for developing teacher evaluation systems then are as follows:

1. Develop appropriate performance measures, keeping multidimensionality (multiple distinguishable components of teaching) in mind. Performance measures should focus on those behaviors teachers are hired to do and do well. Also, teacher performance is complex. We need to look for these various dimensions of performance rather than settling for an “overall performance” measure.

2. Maintain the performance/effectiveness distinction. This distinction is essential and not just an exercise in semantics. Performance drives effectiveness, but effectiveness regards the results of that performance; they are not the same thing. Keeping these concepts distinct allows us to learn about both; confounding them prohibits us from learning about either one.

3. Focus teacher evaluation on performance rather than effectiveness. This means that evaluators will focus on behaviors under each teacher’s control, thus facilitating the identification of appropriate developmental interventions for improving teacher behaviors and greatly improving the perceived fairness and usefulness of the evaluation system.

4. Consider teaching to be not just one job but possibly several jobs. Teachers in different settings (e.g., a low-performing school with poorly motivated, low-achieving students vs. a high-performing school with highly motivated, high-achieving students) will likely need to enact different strategies and engage in different behaviors to be effective. Therefore, the “teacher” occupation might be profitably viewed as comprising several jobs, each with its own set of performance dimensions that likely differ across contexts/settings. It seems to be explicit in teacher training that the job of a primary school teacher differs in meaningful ways from that of a secondary or post-secondary school teacher. It might be just as useful to consider the possibility that the various environmental settings in which teachers find themselves mandate different sets of work behaviors that should be measured and perhaps even different means by which teachers can be maximally effective.

Measuring teacher performance is challenging. Many important behaviors are likely difficult to observe and even more difficult to accurately measure. Nevertheless, industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists know how to define and measure performance in jobs where behaviors can be difficult to observe (e.g., managers). Perhaps we can work together to improve the evaluation process for one of society’s most critical professions.

Dr. Rodney A. McCloy is a Principal Staff Scientist for the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO). With more than 20 years of experience conducting and directing personnel research, he serves as an in-house technical expert and a mentor to junior staff. His assessment and testing experience has spanned both cognitive and non-cognitive domains and has involved several large-scale assessment programs (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, National Assessment of Educational Progress, General Aptitude Test Battery). He has served as adjunct faculty at both The George Washington University and George Mason University. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). He received his Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1990.

Dr. Andrea L. Sinclair is a Senior Scientist in HumRRO‘s Validity Investigations for Education and the Workplace (VIEW) Program. She conducts research in education, government, military, and private sector settings with a particular focus on performance measurement and program evaluation. She regularly develops performance measurement instruments, surveys, and observation and interview protocols for use in schools. In addition, she regularly advises clients on the validity and reliability of their assessment systems and on the development of competency models. She received her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Virginia Tech in 2003.

Campbell, J.P., McCloy, R.A., Oppler, S.H., & Sager, C.E. (1993). A theory of performance. In N. Schmitt & W. Borman (Eds.), Personnel selection in organizations (pp. 35-70). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

The opinions expressed in On Performance are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.