A New Lens on Teaching

When your supervisor points out a flaw in the way you do your job, you probably try hard to receive the criticism constructively and use it as a prompt to do better. But despite your admirable maturity, you’re human, and you may also feel defensive, or resentful, depending on your relationship with your boss. Or you may just feel confused — what she flagged may have gone unnoticed by you, or may not feel like a relevant indicator of your abilities.

All performance reviews are vulnerable to this kind of disconnect, but when it comes to classroom observations as a measure of teacher effectiveness, the stakes can feel particularly high. Classroom observations are not new, but they have been largely perfunctory in recent years, with more than 98 percent of teachers receiving the same “satisfactory” rating. A number of states are trying to restore integrity to the evaluation process (for instance, training and certifying supervisors on a formal rubric and encouraging supervisors to differentiate more meaningfully). But implementation has been uneven for a number of reasons, including inadequate training of supervisors, supervisors who lack content knowledge outside of their own subject, and the difficulty of finding time to do all the required observations.

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