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What Is a Teaching Evaluation?

Judith Smith Sullivan
Judith Smith Sullivan

A teaching evaluation is an assessment of the teacher's skills in the classroom or as a teacher in general. Typically, a supervisor, such as the head of the department, dean, or principal conducts the teaching evaluation. These evaluations are common during student teaching and during the first three years of teaching. They may also occur as part of a teacher's yearly review.

Teaching evaluations are usually based on a predetermined set of criteria and an observation of one or more class periods. Typically, the person who conducts the evaluation does not interact with the teacher or students during the evaluation but watches and take notes. Usually the teacher will receive the evaluation within a matter of hours or days and have a chance to discuss the results with the person conducting the evaluation.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The evaluation addresses academic structure, delivery methods, lesson plan organization and preparedness, as well as other criteria. The evaluation paperwork may be very detailed, listing categories and scales of one to ten or one to five for assessment. It can also be a brief outline, allowing the evaluator to make notes and comments as the class progresses.

A student teacher, or a teacher-in-training, will receive three or four teaching evaluations throughout the course of a semester. First-, second-, and third-year teachers also receive regular evaluations. Both are geared to help the teacher improve, and usually an extensive discussion session is held afterward so that the student teacher and supervisor can address concerns immediately. The person evaluating may be the head teacher, a college or university official, or the principal.

A teaching evaluation can also be a more general assessment. In this case, both classroom observation and assessments in other areas are taken into consideration. For instance, a teacher may receive one or two classroom evaluations, have lesson plans reviewed, and be required to submit other paperwork.

General teaching evaluations cover the topics of a class teaching evaluation, but also deal with issues like ethics, interaction with teachers, staff, and parents, and overall competency. It is similar to the yearly review that most employees receive. The goal is to help the employee to identify strengths and and to address weaknesses.

Yearly teaching evaluations are typically conducted by the head of the department or school principal. Only in the case of a teacher who is performing very poorly will higher officials conduct the evaluation. These may be regional superintendents, curriculum designers, or educational consultants. The exception is when a teacher is being considered for an award for excellence in teaching. In these cases multiple teaching evaluations may be conducted and considered along with the recommendation from students, supervisors, or parents.

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