Session Recap: Measuring Teacher Effectiveness
November 18, 2014 10:00 AM
By Becky Kelleman, Rutgers University
I am not exactly sure when it happened, based on stories from friends and families, I would guess sometime in the past 50 years, Americans began to place the onus of education solely on teachers. By placing the responsibility education solely on teachers, we remove the burden from parents, friends, communities, and anyone else who actively participates in children’s lives. Although we all may not agree to what extent teachers are responsible for educating children, we can agree that some teachers are better than others. Whether it be horror stories from our own educational experience, inspirational stories of how we came to find our way in the world, or substantial amounts of research, teachers make significant contributions to our education. So, the question is, how can we identify good teachers.
In one study, researchers tried to find a way in which to determine teacher effectiveness prior to hire. There has been extensive research in this effort, however, there have been no single indicator found that can consistently predict teacher effectiveness. This study looked at the interaction of potential teachers’ skills and abilities to apply them in the classroom setting. There is a program in Argentina, similar to Teach for America that has an extensive application process. Besides an initial application, participants also need to participate in an intensive summer institute where they undergo additional training and have the opportunity to teach a class. By collecting data, which included surveys from students and principals, classroom observations, students’ grades, and teachers’ reports, researchers took a closer look at interactions to determine any indicators to predict teacher effectiveness.
The findings were somewhat encouraging in that there is a way to determine teacher effectiveness: observing teacher effectiveness in clinical practice can predict teacher effectiveness during the school year. However, at the point of hire, the information collected by participants cannot predict effectiveness during the clinical practice or during the school year. I would be curious to see if self-assessments could be used to predict teacher effectiveness. The researchers indicated they will be continuing this research in hopes of finding a predictor.
Although it is difficult to predict teacher effectiveness at the point of hire, it is much simpler when teachers are in the classroom teaching. Another way in which to measure teacher effectiveness is through student surveys. The research presented evidence to suggest that student surveys are a valid means in which to measure teacher effectiveness. Students have the most contact with teachers and by providing feedback, it not only empowers students, but offers professional development opportunities for teachers. The data collected could be used to provide areas for strength and focus for teachers, and can also connect teachers in mentorship-like programs with teachers that have mastered certain skills. Yet, teachers claim this is not a valid measure of their teaching effectiveness and there is concern that students are not providing reliable feedback. The research shown, that by using several different techniques, overall, student surveys are a very valuable tool in measuring teacher effectiveness.
Finally, teacher effectiveness cannot be measured by test-scores alone. Teacher effectiveness also should include the effects on the development of character skills. Character skills include persistence, attitude, self-control and motivation, which many would say are precursors to success. By looking at teachers’ qualifications and students’ character skills may help to identify high-quality teachers. Ultimately, the study found variations in teaching skills, attitudes regarding the importance of these skills, and the perceptions of ability to influence character skills. These variations among teachers had direct effects in the classroom with how much time students would spend on group work, individualized child-centered activities and social behavior skills.
With growing concern over closing the achievement gap between students of different demographic and socio-economic backgrounds and the demand for increased quality in our education systems, I am confident there will continue to be a demand for more research in this area.