Expectations should reflect excellence in the classroom, not minimally acceptable performance. - The Widget Report, 2009
As a teacher, how often has your teaching been observed at school? And, if it was, did you learn anything constructive from it?
Teachers generally fear, dislike, tolerate, downplay, or feel dismissive about teacher evaluation programmes in schools. By and large, these programmes have a history, not only of lacklustre participation but also of generating poor returns in terms of improving teaching, boosting productivity or enhancing teacher morale.
To understand why teachers have such a lukewarm attitude towards the whole idea of constructive evaluation, take a look at the following true stories :
A 53-year old English teacher was recently observed by her school principal. The only comment he made about her teaching was to write “teacher has been observed” at the bottom of the lesson plan in her teaching record book. No discussion was ever held.
After a 26-year old teacher was observed by a very demanding superior, the first thing she was told was this - “I don’t know what they taught you at your teacher training college!” The newly-qualified teacher was then instructed to list down several ways the lesson could have been taught better. “The evaluator behaved like a ‘Miss-Know-It-All’ but did not highlight any of my positive teaching points,” said the young teacher bitterly.
A Physics teacher with 21 years of service was told by the school’s senior assistant that he was scheduled to be observed later in the day. The senior assistant then entered the class and observed the teacher for 10 minutes. He told the teacher that since he was an experienced teacher, there was no cause for concern as he would give him a good appraisal.
A Pendidikan Moral (Moral Studies) teacher was observed by the head of the subject panel .
The panel head had observed the teacher in class for about 15 minutes and had noted that the students were active and noisy.
Before the teacher could act on her young charges, the panel head gave the teacher and her students a ticking-off before summarising the important points of the lesson on the board!
A newly-posted Science teacher expressed her willingness for her teaching to be observed at any time so she could learn and improve. Upon hearing this comment, a senior teacher turned to her saying that it was typical of someone so new to be enthusiastic. She added that she would improve her teaching style and methods over time.
In America, an organisation called The New Teacher Project (TNTP) identified in a 2009 project* the words most commonly associated with design flaws in evaluation programmes. They are “infrequent, unfocused, undifferentiated, unhelpful and inconsequential”.
Farah*, an English teacher with 23 years experience, told me that she was hardly ever evaluated.
Farah’s idea of a serious evaluation inlcuded a preparatory pre-observation discussion of expectations; an objective, non-intrusive observation session and a post-observation discussion designed to allow an evaluator to know her strengths and come up with concrete suggestions to address her weaknesses.
Meanwhile, Wong* who is a Chemistry teacher with 27 years experience revealed that he was observed twice by federal inspectors when he applied for the post of Guru Cemerlang (Excellent Teacher).
“However on both occasions, they left without letting him know as to how he fared. Wong an ordinaryteacher finally made it to the DG48 pay scale through time-based promotions.
After having heard similar stories, Liana* who teaches Bahasa Malaysia to Form One classes, vowed she wouldn’t allow this to happen to her.
So, when an officer from the District Education Office arrived one day at her school and told her politely that he would like to observe her teaching, Liana* agreed but quickly intercepted him after the class was over and asked him directly for his comments on her teaching.
Fortunately for Liana, he was amiable and quick to oblige. He highlighted all her strengths which included her confidence, the good rapport she had with her students and the clear explanation she had given of the subject content. On the down-side, he explained that she could afford to use simpler words to match the lower expectations set out in the Form One syllabus, which she said was an “eye-opener” for her.“But,” Liana explained that she welcomed the constructive comments.Rusmiati*, her colleague, agreed readily. She herself was once observed teaching Pendidikan Seni (Art) by an officer from the state education department.
“It was all very sudden,” explained Rusmiati. “I had just walked into my class-room and there he was, waiting to observe me. Although he made me nervous, I quickly rose to the challenge.”
In Rusmiati’s case, the the officer asked her whether she had attended any in-house training before she was made to teach the subject. (Rusmiati is a Mathematics teacher).
There are many teachers like Rusmiati who are assigned to teach filler subjects such as Pendidikan Moral, Pendidikan Jasmani (Physical Education) and Pendidikan Sivik (Civics) which they are not formally trained for, but are expected to teach with the help of the syllabus and guide books.
In Rusmiati’s case, the officer said that she had done a good job as her students were enthusiatic and liked her teaching.
However after the officer left, Rusmiati was ticked off by her superior for telling the truth about the absence of training.
“I accepted her rebuke without comment, because she had probably come under fire for it too,” added Rusmiati.
Without the right attitude and approach, teacher evaluation will remain a prickly issue in most schools. In some cases, when no proper evaluation is done or no constructive comments are made, it is a meaningless exercise and in others, the nature of the comments made or the very lack of them can leave a teacher cold.
But, if constructive feedback is consistently given together with constant teacher evaluation, the dividends are enormous, particularly for young teachers.
As researchers Wright, Horn and Sanders put it: “More can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers than by any other single factor.”
We should sit up and listen because these researchers and many others have proven the following : “Nothing schools can do for their students matter more than giving them effective teachers.
A few years with effective teachers can put even the most disadvantaged students on the path to college. But, a few years with ineffective teachers can deal students an academic blow from which they may never recover.
In view of the booming tuition industry and the head hunting that goes on for experienced, effective private tutors, I think students in this country are already reeling from it.
Source: The STAR Education Home Opinion Jul 24, 2011