As a Principal, one of my most important responsibilities is the evaluation of instruction. In general, the observation process is quite arbitrary. The feedback a teacher receives really depends on the training a particular administrator has received, District vision, and what books or research have been read.
What I have tried to do is take a little bit of everything I have learned to provide my teachers with the best feedback possible in order to promote professional growth and increase student achievement. In my mind there are no perfect lessons and there is always room for improvement no matter how great the teacher is. The trick is being able to effectively identify those areas and engage the teacher in a constructive dialogue that results in improved practice. Here is what I look for:
- Clearly stated objectives as to what the students are expected to learn or do by the conclusion of the lesson.
- Asking open and closed-ended questions during direct instruction in order to check for understanding, engage, and assess. I like to see my teachers randomly call on students so that they don’t get lost during the course of a lesson. An emphasis is also placed on the lecture being only 10-15 minutes if necessary.
- A do-now or anticipatory set that motivates the learner, reviews prior learning, and makes connections to the new content being presented. Students need to find meaning and relevancy in what they are learning or else they will be disengaged.
- Interdisciplinary connections.
- A variety of student-centered learning activities where students are afforded the opportunity to think critically, solve problems, work in cooperative groups, and create manifestations that demonstrate learning is taking place. Students need to be actively involved in the learning process.
- Informal and formal means of assessment in which the students have a clear indication of their performance in relation to expected learning outcomes. Rubrics or scoring guides should accompany any activity that is to be graded.
- The routine use of positive reinforcement to commend and praise students for taking risks, whether they are wrong or right.
- A stimulating learning environment that promotes inquiry with student work proudly displayed. Tied to this are classroom management techniques that afford all students the opportunity to learn.
- Effective technology integration.
- Teacher enthusiasm. If teachers aren’t enthusiastic about the lesson or content then how can they expect their students to be?
- A closure activity that reinforces the objectives of the lesson.
By no means is this list inclusive of all the aspects of effective instruction. However, I do feel that it provides me with a good base to effectively and objectively evaluate my teachers to help them grow professionally. I would love to hear your thoughts.