How to Improve Teacher Development and Evaluation

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have heightened the need for a new direction in professional development in the field of education. The rapid shift to remote education left many teachers without the training, experience or tools needed to maintain continuity in academic progress through the transition. In addition, traditional models for evaluating teacher performance are less applicable or effective in the virtual environment.

Therefore, educational leaders must learn how to advance teacher development efforts and efficacious evaluation practices.

What Makes Teacher Development So Important?

The pandemic highlighted the need for increased educational technology (ed tech) integration. Such technologies play an important role in maintaining continuity in learning as classrooms shift from remote to in-person to hybrid settings.

Unfortunately, many learners have long been underserved by traditional educational methods and pedagogy. As student populations become more culturally, linguistically and academically diverse, curricula, instruction and content must expand and change with the times. Lessons and materials must better represent the experiences and backgrounds of diverse populations and better serve their educational needs.

All of these challenges for modern education are motivating educators to improve and evolve teaching practices. But teachers cannot effectively implement new practices, curricula, technology and educational methods without appropriate training, practice, evaluation and feedback. Professional development, ongoing feedback and authentic assessment of progress for teachers are all essential for improving student learning and adapting to changing educational environments.

What Can I Do to Improve Teacher Development?

As an educational leader, you will be called on to take charge of professional development in your school. An important aspect of the process is to make training both informative and applicable to new views of best practice. Teachers need firsthand experience in the tools and the methodologies presented.

For example, a training program on student-led, inquiry-based learning should use models that involve these methods. Have teachers collaborate with one another to research, design, execute and participate in inquiry-based lessons, followed by reflection, self- and peer-evaluation. This experiential learning of instruction that teachers themselves will deliver deepens their learning and advances applied skills while fostering a supportive culture of continuous improvement.

However, teacher development should not stop at the end of a training session. Continuous improvement means ongoing development. Teachers know better than anyone: Skills and knowledge are developed progressively, through scaffolding, practice, feedback and further instruction.

For instance, the Cobb County School District has instituted a highly effective technology integration program. The district established a 28-member team of instructional technology integration specialists. This team hosts an intensive summer tech conference for educators, as well as ongoing collaborative development opportunities, discussion forums, resources and further one-on-one training for teachers in the classroom. This comprehensive approach to technology-integration training takes teacher development and turns it into practical application and continuous improvement.

What About Modernizing Teacher Evaluation?

Observing and scoring teachers on rote performance metrics and student achievement data may illuminate areas for improvement and satisfy educational mandates for regular evaluation. But punitive evaluation methods do not give administrators a dynamic representation of the holistic quality of student learning and experience. Nor do compliance-based evaluations help teachers understand how they can improve and grow, and how their growth relates to their students’ development.

Modern takes on evaluation models focus more on consistent and regular qualitative feedback, reflection and collaboration. Research conducted by Matthew A. Kraft at Brown University found that instructional coaching can also be especially impactful in promoting formative growth.

Hence, educational leaders like Howard University Middle School principal Kathryn Procope are combining observation, coaching and ongoing feedback to create a growth-oriented evaluation process. Denver’s public school teachers are observed by administrators, teacher leaders and peers, creating a collaborative environment of formative feedback. Other districts seek feedback from students and parents to develop a more complete picture of teacher performance in terms of student experience and growth.

Along with shining a light on longstanding inequities in traditional educational models, the pandemic is driving a sea change in educational reform. Educators are unearthing opportunities to update outdated and stagnant pedagogy, curricula and instructional methods. Continuous improvement, professional development and formative evaluation are becoming central to educational leadership efforts. These initiatives will shape the future of resilient education and student learning amidst tumultuous times.

Fitchburg State University’s online Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Management emphasizes the key role school leadership plays in teacher development and effective evaluation processes. The degree program’s focus on areas like professional development, continuous improvement and instructional leadership will help educators make a positive difference in teaching practices and student learning in their schools.

Moreover, focusing your own professional development on these studies will help you implement effective teacher development programs. Demonstrating your commitment to your own development sets an important example for the educational community you lead.

Learn more about Fitchburg State University’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Management (Non-Licensure) online program.


Edutopia: Planning for Better Professional Development in an Uncertain Future

Education Week: Education Department Developing Vouchers for Teacher Professional Development

Edutopia: 5 Ways to Improve Teacher Evaluation Systems

Harvard University: The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence

American Federation of Teachers: Teacher Development and Evaluation 20 School Districts to Watch in 2020

Cobbcast: Cobb Instructional Technology Team: Transforming Classrooms and Preparing Students for the Future

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