Which are the Basic Criteria for Evaluating Teachers' Work? When engaging in teacher evaluation, educational authorities should establish a set of transparent criteria in order to arrive at sound judgments concerning teachers’ performance. The evaluation criteria can take the form of performance standards or exemplar quality statements. These assessment criteria can be used as a valid benchmark for determining the strengths and weaknesses of teachers’ educational work.
By Dimitris Nikolaidis, B.A. in English Language and Literature
Command of subject content
First of all, evaluation should take into consideration teachers’ command of the content of their discipline. Content expertise is the most obvious link to a teacher’s educational and professional background. Accomplished teachers display extensive knowledge of their subject content. Specifically, they not only know the subject matter they intend their students to learn but are also aware of the misconceptions their students bring to the classroom. In other words, teachers should demonstrate understanding of the discipline’s dominant structure which includes key concepts and skills as well as peripheral components or strands.
Apart from being sufficiently aware of the content of their discipline, teachers should also reflect familiarity with a wide range of pedagogical approaches. Teachers’ pedagogical competence is depicted in the ways they interact with learners as well as in the methods of managing the relations among their students. Highly qualified teachers create a climate of emotional safety and rapport by promoting respectful and productive classroom interactions. They also use routines to provide a positive, learner-centred environment that is supportive of all students. Moreover, they encourage students to undertake an active role in monitoring their own behaviour while teachers’ supervision is subtle and preventive. Skilled teachers regard positive classroom climate not as an end in itself but as a prerequisite to high levels of engagement in learning. For this reason, inclusive pedagogical approaches constitute a basic performance standard of an evaluation system.
Effective instructional practices
An additional performance standard upon which evaluation should be based is instructional practices. Effective instruction requires the incorporation of appropriate educational resources and the thoughtful preparation of lesson plans which contain cognitively engaging learning activities. Having taken into consideration the specific needs of each learner distinguished teachers exhibit flexibility by incorporating differentiated activities and diverse educational material. The quality of teaching practices can be reinforced through the provision of clear guidance, the pacing of the lesson as well as the orderly sequence of the lesson tasks.
Additionally, effective teachers are clear about what they intend to accomplish through their instruction and they keep these goals in mind when designing their lesson plans. Stimulating instruction provides students with metacognitive strategies to use in regulating and enhancing their learning. It also offers them structured opportunities to practice independent learning strategies. Instructional skills are necessary not only for effective course development but also for students’ assessment and the provision of purposeful feedback. Skilled teachers assess learners’ progress regularly and at the same time they provide students with timely and supportive feedback. From all the above, it becomes evident that the instructional strategies a teacher selects can have an enormous impact on students’ learning experience.
Another highly valued performance standard is teachers’ professionalism. Expert teachers demonstrate professionalism in service both to their students and to the wider school community. Teachers’ communication with their students should be characterized by honesty, integrity and confidentiality. Teachers’ catering for students may sometimes extend beyond classroom boundaries. For example, a teacher can encourage students’ parents to become part of the educational process by conferring with them about students’ progress. Teachers’ responsibilities may also occasionally include decision-making or participation in activities of the wider professional community. Committed teachers contribute to the overall mission of professional growth that results in enhanced student learning. Their relationship with colleagues is characterized by mutual support and collaboration, including the sharing of educational strategies as well as the planning of joint initiatives.
Continuing professional development (CPD)
Last but not least, one of the hallmarks of distinguished teachers is to continue to learn throughout their career. The significance of continuing professional development (CPD, hereafter) cannot be underestimated in today’s world of extreme specialization. The rationale behind CPD lies on the assumption that the quality of teaching practices depends to a considerable extent on the quality of teachers’ ongoing professional development. Keeping up with a professional field’s knowledge is a legitimate part of a teacher’s responsibilities. For example, participating to teacher organizations, reading professional journals or attending educational conferences is only a small sample of CPD activities that enable teachers to refine their instructional strategies. For all the above reasons, teachers’ commitment to CPD emerges as one of the most important assessment criteria in the field of teacher evaluation.
In conclusion, evaluation criteria constitute an extremely important component of the teacher evaluation process. The stability, uniformity and transparency of the performance standards can safeguard the validity and the reliability of the evaluation procedure. For this reason, teachers need to have a clear knowledge and understanding of the standards against which they will be evaluated by educational authorities.•