Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Teacher Effectiveness is more than test results.

Malcolm Bellamy defines "performance" in answering his question "What is teacher performance?".
He is right to question the use of performance as a term and the use of student test results to determine how effective that performance was. 
A group of teachers tackled the question of teacher effectiveness some time ago and we came up with a different slant to the question. We asked "What are the characteristics of an effective teacher?" and listed these - for the purpose of making clear what the expectations were. Additionally, we defined a Learning and Teaching policy which should be followed as part of these characteristics.
The point is that these are behaviours, explicit behaviours, which we can identify, learn about and improve. Not global test results which can be so misleading (as Bellamy correctly points out).
Here is the list, bowdlerised:
An Effective Teacher at this school is CHARACTERISED by the following description:
  1. Preparation,  Classroom, and Teaching: the classroom space and resources are appropriately organised to facilitate learning.  Work is planned which follows the established school curriculum.  Lessons have structure and purpose, a variety of appropriate modes of teaching is used (in line with the school Learning and Teaching principles) showing awareness of individual student needs. The teacher is knowledgeable in the subject area.  S/he understands and is responsive to the school expectations vis-a-vis student language learning and development (in line with the school Language Policy).
  2. Pupil Assessment and Records: the teacher assesses regularly, uses results formatively and keeps an up-to-date record of achievement and progress.  The teacher provides an appropriate response to all student work and completes reporting processes accurately and punctually.
  3. Enthusiasm and Relationships: the teacher treats children with respect as individuals and conveys enthusiasm to the students.  The teacher provides variety and interest in lessons and motivates and encourages the students to learn.
  4. Class Discipline: the teacher shows control of class, knows and supports school policy and implements general school routine.  The teacher gives importance to punctuality and can judge when and how to use rewards and sanctions effectively.
  5. Pastoral Work: the teacher emits an open and caring attitude that makes him/her approachable to children.  The teacher is willing to give time to listen to children’s problems and offers individual children support in dealing with them.
  6. Communication and Working Relationships: the teacher has good communication skills and is able to maintain a good working relationship with all members of the school community, especially when giving or receiving constructive criticism. The teacher is a reliable colleague and team member who carries out section and departmental responsibilities when required.  There is a tolerance towards ideas different from their own and a determination to assist in the smooth running of the whole school.  The teacher communicates with parents and participates in parent conferences meeting reasonable demands for further individual parent appointments.
  7. Change and improvement: the teacher contributes to and supports school initiatives, is receptive to new ideas and willing to provide some of their own when possible.  The teacher works towards keeping up to date and participates willingly in the professional improvement management system.  The teacher works towards functioning in both English and Spanish, as well as becoming IT literate.
  8. School and Community Support: the teacher participates in the extra curricular programme, is supportive of school community events, and presents a positive image of the school.

Part 1 above refers to Learning and Teaching principles - and these are the principles (each is described much more fully by supporting statements which can be used as indicators, but not published here):
Principle One: The learning environment is prepared and organised so as to support effective learning and teaching and be conducive to different learning and teaching styles.
Principle Two: Students are given the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and the attitudes to become globally aware, life long learners.
Principle Three: The curriculum is planned and delivered effectively through a variety of classroom activities.
Principle Four: Teaching and Learning activities are planned and delivered in a way that reflects the importance of language in facilitating effective learning across and within each curriculum area. 
Principle Five: Effective assessment plays a significant role in the learning process and is an important tool for feedback, learning and curriculum planning.

An important point is that these characteristics of an effective teacher and learning and teaching principles were home-grown. Each school has to go through that process so as to represent the local situation and, even more importantly, to have credibility and currency within the institution. 
Better than just test score use? I think so.... 

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