With more and more schools turning to Charlotte Danielson’s framework, districts are requesting that principals train their staff in understanding her rubrics. The difference between the “proficient” and the “distinguished” columns is the presence of teacher-centered versus student-centered instruction. While this concept is clearly not new, her analysis and blueprint is greatly needed.
In years past, teachers anxiously awaited the semi-yearly to yearly observations by their assistant principals or principals. Teachers often expressed that it was similar to driving in a car and approaching a traffic light. What part of the lesson received a red light for failure, a yellow light of caution, or a green light for success? Did they squeak through the yellow light, resulting in an officer pulling them over with a “got-ya” ticket? Well, with a new approach of infusing life coaching skills into the educational arena, hopefully this old type of teacher evaluation will become archived as ancient history.
In the past decade, schools hired literacy and math coaches for elementary schools to support their teachers. The idea of utilizing coaching skills within education proved to be successful. Our last book, Teachers as Classroom Coaches brought new coaching techniques to the classroom for all grades. K-12. As the tide is turning towards a coaching model, districts are realizing that coaching teachers provides better results than traditionally evaluating teachers.
So, what is the difference between traditional evaluation and a reflective coaching model? It’s respecting the thought processes of teachers. It is the belief that they have the ability to analyze their own instruction and design objectives and pathways of growth that can be assessed. But in order to achieve this goal, principals need to be trained in educational coaching. Then they can pose the right questions that provoke teachers to analyze their own instruction in a non-threatening manner. Nothing is more valuable than a person generating his or her own analysis and reaching an “a-ha moment”. If we want student-centered instruction, then why wouldn’t we want teacher-centered evaluation?
In our first book, we outlined many of the coaching techniques and used the classroom setting to bring them to life. Now we review those techniques and introduce you to several new techniques that principals may use during teacher evaluation sessions or walk-throughs. If we want “everyone on board”, then it is important to respect the different perspectives of the administrators and the classroom teachers, while still using many of the same coaching strategies. Why would these models and strategies be used only by literacy coaches and teachers, but not administrators? It doesn’t make sense.
So the time has come. And nothing is more powerful to drive student-centered instruction than the techniques used during teacher evaluation. If teachers know that they are being evaluated towards a goal, clearly outlined on a rubric, then they will modify their techniques to reach the highest level of proficiency. If this technique of negotiable contracting and using rubrics in classroom has clearly worked in the classroom, then why wouldn’t it work for teacher evaluations?