We need to support our teachers, now more than ever! The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of most schools in Latin America and the Caribbean, meant that from one moment to another, teachers had to adapt the educational content and their instructional methods and switch to a remote teaching mode for which they weren’t prepared.
Ministries of Education across the region have made great efforts to design and enable educational content to enable distance learning. They have also implemented different ways to communicate and support teachers during school closures. As some schools begin to reopen, either offering a hybrid education model or in-person classes, it is essential that education systems give teachers the greatest possible support so that they can develop pedagogical practices that are appropriate for each modality (in-person, virtual, or hybrid) and effectively promote learning and the socio-emotional and academic skills of all students.
In our study Testing our teachers, we analyze one of the fundamental instruments to support the professional development of teachers and improve teaching effectiveness: teacher evaluations. While this topic may seem relatively less important or less of a priority in these times of pandemic, an evaluation system that produces valid and reliable information and in which the results are used appropriately, can help teachers develop the skills they require and improve teaching quality.
In fact, we found that one of the 5 keys to a successful teacher evaluation is to effectively use the evaluation results to improve teaching and the composition of the teaching force. The results that emerge from the evaluations can be used to make decisions about employment and teacher training. In education systems in the region that implement regular mandatory annual evaluations, the most common consequences of the evaluations are related to employment decisions, particularly promotions and tenure.
On the other hand, education systems with mandatory evaluations with a frequency of three to five years the most common consequences are related to teacher tenure, promotions, and the possibility of receiving training and promotions (see figure below).
In order for evaluations to have an impact on teaching effectiveness, it is essential that training programs are connected to the needs identified through the evaluation, and that their employment consequences are effectively implemented.
In addition to using the evaluation results to support teacher training needs and improve teaching, the other 4 keys to a successful teacher evaluation that we identified in the study are:
i. Establishing teacher performance standards that define what a teacher should know and know how to do. The evaluations’ design and implementation require clarity regarding what is expected of an excellent teacher, and that what the teacher should know and know how to do is clearly defined. Therefore, it is necessary to have teacher performance standards that set out in detail the characteristics and skills that an excellent teacher must have.
ii. Clearly defining the objectives to be achieved with the implementation of teacher evaluations. Teacher Statues usually define which evaluations are to be carried out and what their objectives are. While some are carried out with the objective of granting promotions or determining tenure, others are carried out with a diagnostic objective or oriented to providing feedback and training. Many countries find it difficult to implement all types of tests and achieve their objectives.
iii. Developing and implementing multiple evaluation instruments that allow producing reliable and valid results on teaching effectiveness. To achieve reliable and valid results the choice of instruments must reveal valuable information regarding teaching practices. Since there is no single instrument that reflects the effectiveness of all dimensions of the teacher’s work, evaluations must be carried out using multiple instruments.
iv. Continuously reviewing the instruments, processes, outcomes and impact of the evaluation, to improve measurement and make better use of results. Research allows to ensure the relevance in the choice of instruments, that the evaluations provide valid and reliable information, and that it is a system that favors improving education quality. Although the lessons learned regarding the instruments are valuable, they mostly come from systems outside the region, so the use and adaptability to the regional context is a pending task.
Learn more about how we can support our teachers in our publication Testing Teachers: Keys to Successful Teacher Evaluation.
What is your country doing to support teachers so that they can develop the skills they need? Share your opinion in the comments section below or on Twitter by mentioning us @BIDEducacion #EnfoqueEducacion.