As the New Year approaches, and the first four months of this school year come to a close, a wondering arises. Has all the time committed to observation and evaluation resulted in noticeable or measurable change that has benefitted children? If it is too soon to have that answer, what about this one....in what way(s) have the evaluations impacted the teaching faculty? Now is a good time to stop, reflect, and adjust.
Although the documents being used in the observation and evaluation process may be directing attention to a comprehensive review of all teaching responsibilities, few human beings are capable of hitting the target or achieving beyond the target completely. And, as a supervisor, to have a scattered list of improvement targets for the faculty is difficult to manage. Even more challenging is each educator’s psychology about feedback and ratings.
In business, rewards can be found in raises or moving up the corporate ladder. In education, rewards are found in terms like “highly effective.” Neither are effective motivators. According to years of research, Daniel Pink shares how rewards do not motivate people. And if educators consider a good evaluation their reward for a good year of teaching, it isn’t motivating.
As pressures rise with changes in expectations, practices, and regulations, the time spent on observation and evaluation has great value. The focus and the conversation about what is observed is key. Relationships are developed through trusting conversations between the observer and the observed. Here an emphasis on coaching rather than evaluation is essential. Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran, authors of Evocative Coaching:
focus on how coaches can improve our relationships with teachers, so that teachers get motivated and empowered to improve their own performance and quality of life. This happens when coaches:
- Give teachers our full, undivided attention
- Accept and meet teachers where they are right now, without making them wrong
- Ask and trust teachers to take charge of their own learning and growth
- Make sure teachers are talking more than we are
- Enable teachers to appreciate the positive value of their own experiences
- Harness the strengths teachers have to meet challenges and overcome obstacles
- Reframe difficulties and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow
- Invite teachers to discover possibilities and find answers for themselves
- Dialogue with teachers regarding their higher purposes for teaching
- Uncover teachers’ natural impulses to engage with colleagues and students
- Assist teachers to draw up personal blueprints for professional mastery
- Support teachers in brainstorming and trying new ways of doing things
- Maintain an upbeat, energetic, and positive attitude at all times
- Collaborate with teachers to design and conduct appropriate learning experiments
- Enable teachers to build supportive environments and teams
- Use humor to lighten the load, and
- Inspire and challenge teachers to go beyond what they would do alone (p. 18).
The list may seem long, but after studying it with consideration, the question to ask oneself is “During the observation and evaluation process am I engaged in giving, accepting, asking, making sure, enabling, harnessing, reframing, inviting, engaging in dialogue, uncovering, assisting, supporting, maintaining, collaborating, using humor, and inspiring? Am I engaged in a feedback and empowering process or am I evaluating the performance of my teachers? Is it highly individualized or generally routine?”
Observing and evaluating teachers takes an enormous amount of time. The pressure of getting the observations all done, the evaluations written and the feedback session held, all on time is burdensome. It is important though to focus attention on the purpose of having standards of behavior and of reflecting on the distance between what is demonstrated and the standard. The real value is gained through the conversations, building on each teacher’s strengths, and working through the Tschannen-Morans’ 17 steps. Even in the midst of the pressures and frenzy of this year, most teachers and leaders want to grow professionally. Most do want to be passionate about the way they are serving students daily. And, most want their strengths to be acknowledged and they want to be growing always. As a profession, shouldn’t conversations about that contribute to motivation? There is no question the children will benefit from the observation process when it is based upon creating motivated, empowered teachers. Isn’t that worth your time?
Tschannen-Moran, B & M. (2010). Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Converstion at a Time. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 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.