An ideal teacher evaluation provides both a good sense of the current performance of a given educator and a clear indication of ways in which improvement could be achieved. Effective teacher evaluation programs are typically based on a combination of self-evaluation, observation, student evaluation, and the analysis of student results and achievement. Each of these methods has specific strengths and weaknesses, but a hybrid approach can present a reasonably clear picture of teacher performance.
Evaluation by observers is a common form of teacher evaluation. In some cases, school principals or colleagues perform these evaluations and in others they are performed by outside specialists. This type of evaluation can produce a detached expert analysis of a teacher’s performance in the classroom, but is not without problems. Observers who have professional or personal ties to the teachers being observed are not always in a position to produce objective evaluations. Other observers lack practical experience in the classroom and cannot effectively judge the skill of teachers.
The efficacy of outside observation as a form of teacher evaluation can also be compromised by the use of short observation windows. In some cases, observations may last for only a single class period or day and may not produce an accurate assessment of a teacher’s ability. Other classes or teachers may respond unfavorably to the presence of an outside evaluator, and this, too, may skew results.
Self-evaluation allows teachers to list their own strengths and weaknesses. The efficacy of this style of evaluation in identifying problems with individual instructors is limited. Self-evaluations can prove very useful in spotting larger systemic problems with facilities or in conducting curriculum evaluation, however, as experienced teachers are able to identify these issues.
Student evaluations can be used to gauge the ability of teachers to form productive learning relationships with their students. This type of teacher evaluation is commonly used at the university level and may be the only type of evaluation to which faculty are subject on a regular basis. Students are not always best able to determine their own educational needs, however.
Performance evaluation comprises a large portion of many new teacher evaluation strategies. This type of evaluation focuses on the performance of students on examinations as a way to determine the efficacy of instruction. Such evaluations are less apt to be swayed by personal opinion, but some feel that reliance of this sort of evaluation leads educators to focus on teaching test-taking rather than teaching skills and knowledge more generally.
Ideally, these and other types of teacher evaluation can be combined to counter the deficiencies inherent in any one style of evaluation. Self-evaluation can be used to highlight problems beyond a teacher’s control. Other evaluation techniques can then be combined to produce a balanced assessment of a given teacher’s performance under the constraints imposed by a particular educational environment.