In 1896, researcher H.E. Krazt asked 2,400 students in grades 2 through 8 to describe the attributes of an effective teacher. Krazt believed that by identifying the desirable characteristics of a teacher, he could establish a benchmark upon which teachers could be evaluated.
With qualities of “helpfulness” and “physical appearance” topping the list, the results of the study were unclear and subjective. This led to a variety of efforts to more scientifically define the idea of “effective.”
Even today, that definition remains in flux, and the evaluation process has morphed into numerous different assessments and observations. Fortunately, with the advent of new technologies, opportunities abound to broaden the evaluation process and to truly focus on teacher growth. One emerging method is the use of blogs.
Relying on reflection
An effective evaluation system must take into account the complexity of teaching and learning by informing, instructing and improving instructional practices. In an ideal teacher evaluation system, formative evaluation of instructional practices exists to help the teachers examine and understand the impact of their teaching while continually adapting their practice to better meet changing student needs.
Yet a key component missing in most evaluative processes is that of personal reflection. An increasingly effective tool is the use of blogs—an “old” technology serving a new purpose.
Teacher blogs promote ongoing personal reflection that can be shared with and responded to by colleagues and evaluators. This exercise is designed to improve the quality of instruction as teachers reflect on their practices over a period of time.
A new dimension to growth
Teachers increasingly use online portfolios with their students for discussions and evidence of learning. Evaluation blogs serve this same purpose. They can be used to chronicle mutually agreed upon goals and to document evidence of what is taking place to support growth toward those goals. Blog-related activities can include:
Student learning needs
Chronicling student progress
Reflecting on learning
Sharing ideas and articles
Getting feedback from evaluators
Progress toward professional learning goals
Processing concepts from trainings or in-services, and ensuing attempts at implementation
Keys to successful blogging
Administrators should support teachers with PD around blogging that will enable them to use evidence of student learning in a more robust manner. Some points to remember in beginning a blog evaluation system:
Blogs need regular contributions (at least monthly).
A blog should be responded to within 48 to 72 hours.
Agree on two or three goals and the types of evidence to be collected.
Include student performance data on interim assessments as points of discussion and reflection.
Provide training for teachers and evaluators for consistent expectations.
Maximizing modern tools
Organizational change comes slowly, and the blogging process will be similar with iterative changes occurring along the way. Asking teachers to demonstrate their understanding of their role as facilitators of learning is critical to the instructional process for students.
As they have since the days of Krazt, teacher evaluations will change as the profession continues to embrace new technologies.
Infusing blogs into the evaluation process will continue to alter the landscape. Evaluations matter, and blogs are an effective, modern tool teachers can use in an accountability oriented system.
Lisa Gonzales is interim superintendent in the Lakeside Joint School District. Charles Young is superintendent in the Benicia USD. Both are cadre members of California’s TICAL, the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership.