Useful work has been done on
various teacher evaluation topics describing the features of different models of teacher
supervision (Freeman 1990, Gebhard 1990); the application of clinical supervision
procedures (Stoller 1996); the use of portfolios as evaluation tools (Bastidas 1997, Brown
and Wolfe-Quintero 1997 and Johnson 96); and the value of self-evaluation checklists (Blue
and Grundy 1996; Rea-Dickins and Germaine 1990). Each of these aspects of teacher
evaluation is, of course, very relevant to the working out of a modern evaluations.
However, what seems lacking in the development of the field at present is:
1. a clear
statement of the set of attitudes which will underpin a progressive system attuned to
teachers developmental needs;
2. specific practical guidelines regarding the basis on which teachers should be
3. explicit recommendations on how the relationship between supervisor and teacher can
be managed successfully; and
4. guidance regarding the introduction and/or development of a revised evaluation
While each of these areas will discussed in this paper, my intention is not to put
forward a blueprint for some universally applicable evaluation system.
The apparent reluctance to consider teacher evaluation at the level of practical
implementation can be largely attributed to the conflicting discourses and practices which
threaten to undermine any evaluation system developed for an ELT program. On the one hand,
there is an awareness that the now familiar model of teachers as reflective
practitioners (Bardett 1990) should be promoted via the institutions
evaluation procedures. This reflective model of teacher development requires the setting
up of pedagogic environments (and by extension evaluation environments) in which teachers
are given every encouragement to try out alternative classroom activities and strategies,
assess the impact of these initiatives and reflect on the relationship between their own
work and wider educational goals and issues. The aim of such practice is, as Wallace
(1991) stresses, to develop describers capacity for independent inquiry and
self-development as professional language teachers. An important dimension of reflective
practice is action research. This involves teachers identifying issues and problems
relevant to their own classes, experimenting with new or alternative approaches and
collecting data relevant to their area of interest. Naturally, any evaluation system
established in the context of such an agenda for teacher development and what Bartlett
(1990) terms "critical enquiry," would need to be dynamically responsive to
teachers approaches to curriculum implementation and emerging areas of professional
interest, both inside and outside the classroom.
However, such a developmentally attuned system would be seen by some to be seriously at
odds with a more traditional approach to teacher evaluation built around the cornerstone
of formal assessment via observation of teachers classroom performance at prescribed
intervals during the academic year. Observations, as influentially described by Goldhammer
(1969), are intended to be collaborative ventures directed towards an analysis of data
from the classroom that would relate to a teachers needs and interests. Above all
else, the observation process should be highly sensitive to the teachers frame of
reference and stage of development as a practising teacher. Unfortunately,
Goldhammers (1980) concept of "teacher-initiated" observation and
conferencing has been rudely abandoned by many language teaching institutions in recent
Too often, observations rituals are designed to ensure that the teachers
classroom behaviors, methods and modes of interaction with students conform to a fixed,
arbitrary concept of what constitutes good language teaching (though the actual criteria
by which quality teaching are assessed may not be made fully clear to the teacher via an
observation schedule or specific criteria for judging competent teaching). Observations
generally tend to reflect the observers or ELT institutions frame of
reference, and fail to take into account the teachers ideas about the teaching and
learning processes, classroom experience, current classroom concerns and particular
interests in ELT.
The reality of this evaluation climate will be familiar to readers in different
institutions all over the world, as will its negative impact on teachers
professional lives. It is a sad fact that procedures for observation of classroom teaching
are all too often viewed by teachers as having more to do with enforcing accepted practice
and the authority of superiors rather than encouraging teachers at different career
stages to develop professionally as reflective practitioners. In fact, classroom
observation is very often viewed in traumatic examination-like terms by trained teachers
in very many institutions because of the perceived linkage between performance during the
observation and the offer of contract renewal. As a result, their planning, range of
activities, methodology, use of materials and even classroom management procedures may not
be typical of their normal performance, or reflect their preferred teaching style and
beliefs. Instead, teachers will try to plan a lesson which will give evidence of following
methods and classroom management techniques that they believe to be most likely to conform
to the observers (and institutions) concept of the ideal lesson. The lack of
reality about such rituals can be farcical as the students struggle to help out the
teacher while trying to cope with unfamiliar tasks, materials, switches of activity and
Clearly, then, there is a conflict between the two approaches to teacher evaluation
outlined above. And these two discourses are reflected in the contrasting roles that
supervisors of teams of teachers in major programs around the world are called upon to
play as, on the one hand, facilitators of professional development, and, on the other
hand, assessors of the quality of teachers work. What I hope to show in this
article, is that these two roles, and the discourses which they spring from, do not need
to be constructed so oppositionally and problematically as represented above. In fact, a
properly worked out system will establish a connection between the developmental and
teacher appropriate dimensions of teacher evaluation that can actually support the work of
professionally committed English language teachers.
Multiple data sources
If we review the work which has been done in recent years on analyzing approaches to
language program evaluation (see, Lynn 1996 and Alderson and Beretta 1992), what is
striking is the shift away from evaluations which measure success and make recommendations
on the basis of quantitative data (for example, course pass rates) related to a
programs own objectives. Instead, we notice a trend towards gathering data about the
process of curriculum implementation from different users perspectives: teachers;
students; testing experts, course coordinators; teacher trainers, outside experts etc. The
data is collected using a variety of instruments and processes: student questionnaires;
teacher questionnaires; interviews with teachers; samples of students work; teacher
diaries; learner diaries; audio tape recordings of lessons; video recordings of lessons;
classroom observation reports; interviews with coordinators; interviews with program
administrators; careful analysis of teaching materials and curriculum/syllabus documents;
reports of testing experts etc.
Such process evaluation methods have important implications for teacher evaluation,
pointing to the desirability of accumulating information about a teachers classroom
and other involvements from as many sources as possible. They bring seriously into
question the wisdom of evaluating teachers solely on the evidence of infrequent
observations when the opportunity exists to gather data about the full range of a
teachers program involvement and professional development activities. The actual
list of potential data sources which can be used in the teacher evaluation process will
reflect the aims of the program, the experience level of its staff, the quality of
management expertise and the time devoted to evaluation in relation to other projects. In
the program with which I am currently involved the English Program of the
University General requirement Unit, United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain the
list of data considered to be appropriate to the process of evaluation includes the items in Figure 1.
The cornerstone of the data collection process is the action plan in which the teacher
succinctly indicates his or her areas of interest and the specific actions planned to
achieve those objectives. For example, a teacher might identify one of his/her testing
objectives as building rapport with students. Actions planned in relation to this
objective might include: meeting on an individual basis with students, researching their
previous academic record, giving individualised feedback more often in class; attempting
to gain some knowledge of the students first language. Other actions would relate to
other areas identified, e.g., keeping abreast of current developments in ELT, improving
administrative efficiency, developing a more student centered learning environment.
The vital point is that teachers involvement in the recording of professional
activities encourages a higher level of professional engagement. It also raises their
awareness of the importance attached by the institution to the different aspects of their
professional life: areas of classroom teaching interest; action research projects;
curriculum development activities, student support work; running and/or taking part in
professional ELT workshops; involvement with professional groups and organizations etc.
And as a result, formal observations become less threatening because the teacher realizes
that they represent only one (albeit a vitally important one) of many sources of evidence
about the quality of his/her work and contribution to the professional life and standards
of the language teaching institution.
A culture of teacher-driven evaluation linked to professional development can be more
deeply grounded within an institution by encouraging teachers to maintain, as Bastidas
(1997) and Brown and Wolfe Quintero (1997) have recommended, a portfolio or professional
development folder. This folder is maintained by teachers in order to build up evidence
and records of their plans, activities, products and achievements related to the different
aspects of their professional work and development. This folder is maintained by the
teacher and will contain the types of records which are listed in Figure I . Introduction
of this type of recording is a key element in establishing a teacher-based evaluation
It is suggested that the combination of a list of possible data source and a discussion
of the feasibility of introducing a portfolio dimension into an evaluation system could be
vital events in the phasing in of up-to-date evaluation procedures. Professional workshops
within an institution will, however, need to succeed in making teachers aware of the
benefits of adopting a more active role in the whole evaluation process. Otherwise, there
is a danger that the idea of data recording will be seen as simply increasing the
teachers workload and therefore be negatively received. Committed teachers will,
however, be quick to see how increased involvement in a program will raise their status,
support their professional development and ensure that their contributions are more likely
to be recognized.
An initial workshop task that is usually successful with experienced teachers is to
brainstorm all the possible data sources for evaluating teachers. Later tasks can be
concerned with specifying relevant data, writing guidelines for the contents of portfolios
and producing models of key documents, such as a teachers action plan.
Establishing effective supervisory relations
However, the creation of an educational environment or culture in which evaluation is
not perceived as an obstacle to teacher development requires more than reliance on
expanded data sources and increased teacher involvement in the process. Such innovations
cannot be successful unless the right professional climate is established among a team of
teachers. For that to happen, there must be a fundamental shift of attitudes within an
institution. There needs to be a realignment of the traditional top-down, expert-novice
relationship between a supervisor/director of studies (or whatever the title given in an
institution to the person with prime responsibility for evaluating the quality of
teachers performance) and individual teachers. As Gitlin and Smyth (1989) emphasize,
the supervisor needs to move away from what they term the "dominant" view of
teacher supervision. This view is associated with the supervisor operating as an
"expert," with a mandate to prescribe the features of good teaching and diagnose
at the weaknesses of teachers.
Obviously, this approach is unsuited to the needs of a progressive organization which
is eager to empower trained teachers to become reflective practitioners, capable,
eventually, of independently satisfying the learning needs of their students, developing
their own classroom teaching skills and taking a large degree of responsibility for their
own professional development. Of course, teachers must be accountable for their classroom
work. However, that is a different sort of evaluation requirement to asking teachers who
have proved their basic competence as classroom teachers to repeatedly provide evidence of
mastery of a whole range of basic teaching techniques. This ritual can be unproductive,
even demeaning, and inimical to a more desirable process of supporting teachers
efforts to develop alternative classroom teaching strategies and respond to the immediate
needs of tehir students.
A progressive evaluation system can only be established when there is a climate of
"dialogial relations" (see Gitlin and Smyth 1989:5) between participants. This
system is based on fostering horizontal, rather than top-down interactions between a
supervisor and a team of teachers. As Wallace (1991) and Goldhammer (1980) have both
emphasized, a positive evaluation climate depends on more collaborative and interactive
teacher supervision. Ten features of this more effective style of supervision are given in
Finally, there is a need in all institutions to ensure that an evaluation is attuned to
the teaching culture (the range of teaching behaviours and styles which are generally
agreed to have the best chance of success in relation to the curriculum, the
socio-cultural classroom context, the characteristics of the student population and the
background of the faculty). A transparent and open discussion of key classroom issues and
the features of excellent teaching will create the necessary professional common ground
needed to be able to identify the developmental objectives of the teacher evaluation
process. This can be achieved via the kind of exploitative professional development
workshops which take as their starting point the classroom experiences of the teachers
working in a program. This will ensure there is no danger that the evaluation system will
be based upon the premise of a set of teaching behaviours and classroom features, which
though recommended by experts, may not always be relevant to the actual institutional
context in question.
I would suggest that an evaluation-oriented series of workshops can first examine the
features of excellent practice, and later be directed towards the development of
guidelines and observation schedules which may be needed to monitor the performance of new
teachers on entry to an institutional program.
At the U.A.E. University, such a process was initiated recently via the running of a
workshop in which participants were given a group task of reaching consensus regarding the
ten most essential teacher qualities for someone teaching on the Units English
Program. The participants were asked to draw up a list of key teacher qualities from a
list provided (see Figure 3), or to supply
others which had not been included. At the report-back stage, commonalties in selections
were highlighted and the reasons for different choices were explored.
Identification of agreed core teaching competencies facilitates the later drawing up of
documents such as self-evaluation forms, methodology guidelines and observation schedules
which are essential pillars of a progressive evaluation system. The actual process of
drawing up these documents will, ideally, also take place during professional workshops so
as to ensure that they reflect teachers beliefs, and ensure a vital sense of teacher
investment in the new procedures. Further workshops can be directed towards analyzing
actual classroom data, such as lesson transcripts/extracts, in order to clarify thinking
about alternative strategies for the classroom, and identify the kind of issues which
supervisors and teachers might agree to take as a focus during observations: amount of
teacher talk; student reaction to tasks; error correction techniques; clarity of
instructions and explanations etc.
As already pointed out above, the identification of appropriate issues can be immensely
useful in providing a developmental focus for supervision and/or evaluation of teachers
who have passed beyond an initial probationary period in an institution, and need a more
targeted type of evaluation in order to ensure they develop as reflective, productive
Evaluation systems are often viewed with trepidation in language teaching institutions.
I have indicated in this paper how an evaluation system can be developed in an institution
which will be viewed more favourably by teachers. It was suggested that a number of key
initiatives are required to establish a more progressive evaluation climate. A case was
made for broadening the concept of evaluation to use multiple sources of evidence about a
teachers professional value, so as to counter the negative impact of relying only on
summative observations. The importance of establishing an interactive and facilitatory
professional relationship between a teacher and his/her supervisor was also discussed.
Finally, the importance of establishing a professional development process in order to
introduce new procedures was examined. Hopefully, these ideas and suggestions will be of
practical value to others interested in a more teacher-supportive approach to the
evaluation of teachers.
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