George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teacher Observations

Teacher Observations

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How can the process of observing teachers be streamlined so that it is objective and promotes constructive dialogue between the administrator and teacher? What methods/tools do you find most useful in promoting teacher growth and development?

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Eric Sheninger's picture
Eric Sheninger
Senior Fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education

These are great Jason! Thanks for sharing. I am going to try to present these at my next district Administrator's meeting to see what my superintendent thinks. Have you been evaluated with these?

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

I joined this forum so that I can learn from those across the desk, as it were. An idea that some of my online colleagues and I have been working on is helping administrators design content appropriate rubrics which teachers have been involved in designing. There are so many teachers out there who push back their evaluations, believing them to be summative and not using them formatively. So I wondered if in helping to design the observation sheet that they were being evaluated from during classroom visitations, would more teachers feel less us-vs-them in their attitude?

It's a shame so many teachers feel threatened by their evaluations. But, then again, many members of admin only show up to evaluate, and never use the evaluation to help the growth of the teacher. If teachers had a hand in the sheet the admin was buried in during classroom visitations, would we have more buy-in from those "push-back" teachers?

Some teachers forget they have a Some teachers have certain needs, while others don't have those needs. This concept of differentiated evaluation is one that many teachers are starting to get on-board with more and more. It's a concept that we understand. And some of differentiation is allowing the student to have a hand in the creation of the assessment.

Just a thought. I really appreciate reading this forum.
-Heather WG

Eric Sheninger's picture
Eric Sheninger
Senior Fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education


Excellent thoughts!!! You have given me a great deal to ponder. Do you have some examples that you could send me? If so please email them to I would absolutely love to share some examples with my administrative team and department chairs before addressing the subject with my superintendent. Was there specific professional development provided to develop these rubrics? Education has to be a collaborative process embraced by staff, students, and administrators. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Patrick Larkin's picture
Patrick Larkin
Assistant Superintendent for Learning, Burlington Public Schools (MA)

While I see a need for evaluation from the point of supporting new teachers, I have to say that the process itself is cumbersome and really does not have a huge impact on teaching and learning in my building. I think that research has also shown time and again that most teacher evaluation systems are ineffective.

We started a look2learning walkthrough process this year with the support of as consultant from Solution Tree and I have seen a much deeper level of conversation surrounding teaching and learning than what I have seen in the past. We plan on implementing peer walkthroughs and compiling the data from all of our walks to help staff make more well-informed decisions about areas of focus.

Bonnie's picture
former HS teacher, MEd, Education Administration, mom of 2

I received my MEd in the 90s because our school system was looking into site based management and "teacher empowerment." (Boy, am I showing my age!) Getting my masters was the best and the worst thing that happened to me in education. Best because it helped me understand my own educational philosophy and the way schools could be but I was in a public comprehensive high school where I was stuck with the way things were.

So, given that here's my thoughts. First, in our district APs were chosen to be "guard dogs." Instructional leadership was at best done by department heads (although department heads were chosen because of friendships not instructional leadership and by the principal). The principal I worked under had only 2 years of teaching experience before becoming an AP and the principal. He was an excellent adminstrator for keeping the school running, doing pr in the community, working with the central office, etc. He had an open door for teachers, parents and students. He was beloved by the community.

So, the first step I think is the administrator needs to honestly assess their strengths and weaknesses and have an open talk with faculty about what he/she can bring to the table. (My principal left the observations to the APs and the department heads.)

Second, the tone the principal sets at faculty meetings and will say alot as to how valuable the evaluation process will be perceived by the faculty.

I personally never thought the unannounced visits were valuable. When I was a teacher mentor for beginning teachers, I often asked them what they were struggling with and then tried to find someone in the building that was well known for being good at that aspect of teaching. I tried to get someone in a different deparment to help build community and someone who was a veteran teacher. (Increasingly with NCLB mandates, many teachers feel strangled by the test demands outside their control.)

I don't believe a teacher can teach under any and all circumstances. At my school, the youngest teachers were given some of the most difficult schedules. They tended to be the one that moved, had multiple classes (not only subject but level as well). The stuggling teacher may be a product of assignment not talent.

Now as a parent, I have seen how deadly bad placement of teachers can be to our students. Yet, I haven't seen, in my community, how to better handle parents or students evaluations. One of the most eye opening experiences I've had is being involved as a parent in the educational process. With the rhetoric of "helicopter" parents, in most situations I am only welcome in the school if I want to comply not analyze.

Don't know if this adds any insight but I'd like to know if there are any models out there for more student/parent evaluation input (beyond rate my teacher. com).

B Nevels's picture
B Nevels

What I'm trying this year is to do a pre-conference for the formal observation with my teachers. We discuss each domain's indicators and what these look like in their classroom. I script as we discuss on one side of the paper. I then will go in to do a formal observation. Afterwards, we will convene again to discuss and celebrations or corrective actions.

Mark Sheets's picture

Ed Portham offers training in exactly this area. Best training I have ever received as an administrator.

brahim elouafi's picture
brahim elouafi
teacher of English at a high school Morocco

Hi everybody there,
i've just come acros this very insightful discussung group.I've read prospective ideas here,and as i am a novice mentor,i've only but to express my gratitude to all of you especially Tomm MUrray and his aquation.All i can add for the time being is that teacher observation is a process and a continuum.

Pljimison's picture
Educational Technologist / William Jessup University

Thanks for sharing the rubrics. Love them! :)

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