Is Billy Bloggs your best teacher? You know him, his class is always orderly, the students are on task whenever you walk past, his kids line up quietly before the lesson, he never sends any students to the office, there are never any parental complaints, he cooks the staff breakfast on break up day and never rocks the boat?
Or is it Joe Doe who is passionate about teaching, works long hours, is loved by his students but outspoken at staff meetings and complains often about the lack of resources?
What are the factors that should be considered when deciding who the best teachers are AND more importantly how do we build these factors in all teachers!
- Ability to connect with and engage students
- Planning and developing learning experiences that cater for student’s needs
- Management of the learning environment
- Organisational skills
- Ability to explain things clearly and in a variety of ways
- Expertise and knowledge of the subject
- What the students actually learnt
- Contribution as a team member
- Sense of humour
- Ability to effectively communicate with parents
Increased teacher accountability and moves to performance pay make measuring teacher effectiveness more topical than ever before. However I’d argue that clarity about what makes teachers effective is even more important. Being clear about what makes a difference to student learning enables us to build every teachers capacity.
Debate about how to measure teacher effectiveness is raging in the United States. Student outcomes have been touted but offer a simplistic measure that doesn’t acknowledge the backgrounds of the students. It’s not surprising that good students from good families in ‘green, leafy’ suburbs generally achieve good results, some may say in spite of their teachers.
Value added measures were then advocated to recognize ‘distance travelled’ by students. However again this is too simplistic as the standardized tests didn’t cover all years or all outcomes. It is impossible to fairly allocate credit where it is due.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned research known as the MET Project (Measures of Effective Teaching). In their initial report in 2010 (Learning about Teaching), the MET Project team found that a well-designed student perception survey can provide reliable feedback on aspects of teaching practice that are predictive of student learning.
This is an area that I believe has great potential for increasing teacher effectiveness. In my pilot programs I have utilised the SurveyMyClass instrument so that teachers receive feedback from their students at the end of each term.
The MET Project report in 2012 (Gathering Feedback for Teaching), presented similar results for classroom observations as reliable predictors of student learning. They also found that an accurate observation rating requires two or more lessons, each scored by a different certified observer. With each analysis they reported that they have better understood the particular contribution that each measure makes to a complete picture of effective teaching and how those measures should be implemented to provide teachers with accurate and meaningful feedback.
Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching
Culminating Findings from the MET Project’s Three-Year Study
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2013
Teaching and learning are complex! It therefore isn’t surprising that no single measure will acknowledge the multi-faceted profession of teaching. Multiple sources are therefore needed.
I believe that increasing teacher effectiveness should focus on how engaged the students are, how much time the students are in the ‘learning zone’ (appropriately challenged) and how much the students’ actually learnt (the value-added). I therefore believe that at least three aspects are needed when considering teacher effectiveness.
- Lesson observations based on agreed criteria of good teaching
- Student input from an appropriate student or parent survey and
- Student learning outcomes and value-added
The 2013 report from the MET Project states, “Estimates of teachers’ effectiveness are more stable from year to year when they combine classroom observations, student surveys, and measures of student achievement gains than when they are based solely on the latter.”