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My Criteria for Evaluation of Teachers

The profession of a teacher has been one of the most important and responsible ones in the history of mankind. A lot is changing in course of time, but the essence of a teacher’s vocation remains the same. He has to guide a person through the early stages of life and help children and teenagers form a strong personality and understand different unwritten laws of society . Below I will present the main criteria of teachers’ evaluation from my point of view .

First of all, teacher has to possess extensive knowledge in the field of his competence. It is of high importance for him to be able to explain every nuance of his subject and answer all the possible questions. Thus, the main criterion is profound knowledge of subject.

Besides, a teacher has to have rich background information and be able to properly apply it, i.e. to present the information to his pupils, but not to show students that they are inferior as in comparison to him .

Teacher has to be very interested in the subject he/she is teaching, as without interest in the corresponding field, he won’t be able to engage his students into active participation in class and won’t interest students in this subject. It is clear that without vivid favor of what one does, it is impossible to work productively and achieve great results .

He or she has to be fair and should always try to understand each and every student, which is why basic psychological knowledge is vital. Each of the students has different personality and it is important to know how to approach each kind of character, how not to offend him/her and control assignments’ performance in the best way.

On balance, a teacher has to be an energetic, professional, open-minded and nice individual without any prejudiced views. It is a pity that as of today there are not so many such teachers in our society . I strongly believe that formulation of our children’s world perception is not the kind of expense economy is appropriate in.

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Professional Teacher Evaluation Essay (Critical Writing)


Every classroom and school needs a professional teacher who is well educated and qualified to perform their job. School systems recruit, prepare, and retain instructors who are best to teach. However, the education system in the US has equity and social justice concerns. Teacher evaluation is a critical process that addresses these concerns.

It is a component that many believe is design to improve the quality of education in the US. But in practice, systematic evaluation of teachers has been a problem. Policy makers and officials in the education sector have proposed that student test scores in mathematics and reading make up the largest component of teacher evaluation. This means that the scores students get in their standardized tests should also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher in doing his or her job. This paper seeks to determine how fair and just it is to base a significant proportion of teacher evaluation on student test scores.

There are good reasons to evaluate teachers based on student test scores. But the idea may not have any relationship with student achievement, which is the underlying objective of schools systems and education systems. Despite going through an entire learning process, student’s test scores may not reach a desired level. This is a good reason to consider changing the current system of teacher evaluation. It is also a good reason to dismiss teachers for their contribution to poor performance of students.

The law can suggest that teachers be dismissed if the test scores of their students do not reach the minimum level. But there is little evidence to suggest that the teachers who will replace those terminated will be more effective in improving student’s achievement. There is also no evidence to suggest that the teachers who are terminated are actually the poorest in their job. Another concern is whether teachers will be motivated to perform based on the results of their student’s test scores or anything monetary (Ball and Youdell).

Student test scores are good in providing information used to judge the performance and effectiveness of teachers in providing instruction and in delivery of pedagogy. However, they cannot entirely be used as a performance measure for teachers. They should be a part of the whole evaluation criteria for teachers’ performance. But the extent in which they should be used forms the basis of this debate.

Elements, circumstances, policies, and practices that impact student test scores

There is a lot involved in the learning process of students. Education is considered to be both a complex and a cumulative process, and there are numerous factors that influence learning. The school condition has an apparent impact on learning. The environment outside school and the learning experiences at home have a significant influence on the overall learning outcome of a student.

The community, summer programs, the internet, and peers are among other factors identified to influence learning. All these factors play out in the overall output of a student’s standardized test scores (Banks 67). Therefore, the overall achievement of a student cannot be solely attributed to one teacher but to a combination of all these factors including the role that teachers play in influencing learning.

Throughout their education process, students have also passed through a number of teachers. Prior teachers have an influence in the outcome of the scores. The learning experiences in earlier grades have a lasting effect on student’s learning in their later grade levels. Similarly, whatever a student learns from his or her English teacher influences what they learn in history or any other subject taught in English where students are required to write essays. The case is the same for mathematics because it greatly influences student performance in other subjects that require numerical skills.

The classroom and school conditions vary and are not similar in all schools. Some classrooms have a student to teacher ratio that is unmanageable while others have manageable student to teacher ratio. Some schools have professional counselors tasked to address issues of delinquency and undesired behaviors among students while other schools do not have such services.

Other schools have more resources and are well equipped than others. At home, there is also a variation in resources which significantly influences students learning outcome. Some parents are able to pay for private tutoring and homework help for their children while others do not see the need for such services. All these are factors that influence test scores and therefore have to be considered in determining the fairness of using students test scores to evaluate teachers’ performances.

Inequality in the education system

According to Schwalbe (23), in his book ‘ Rigging the Game’ there is a problem of inequality in the American society. This problem cuts across various sectors of the society and the education system is not spared. There is inequality in the opportunities to learn what needs to be learnt in terms of content, skills, and abilities.

In efforts to ensure equality in terms of resources, most educationists and policy makers often leave out the most important thing, instruction of content to learners (Schwalbe 23). A wide volume of literature have identified that inequality in the education system in America is deeply entrenched in the delivery of pedagogy. This partly involves coverage of instructional content especially in key subject areas such as mathematics and reading.

The inequality witnessed in America’s education system plays a role in the low student achievement particularly of learners from low social economic background. The under privileged learners are disadvantaged from accessing quality education and receiving the right instructional content to build their knowledge base and skills in line with the country’s economy (Newman 45). This is also a critical factor to consider when deciding whether student’s test scores should compose 50% of teacher evaluation.

Influence of members from different social groups

Newman in the book, ‘ The Missing Class’ , talks about the less privileged people living America thus asserting Schwalbe’s main point that there is a great sense of inequality in America’s social structures including education. The challenges that the underprivileged children and learners face should not be ignored when considering making it a law that teachers’ evaluation should greatly be based on the outcome of student’s test scores.

The ‘missing class’ parents also throw a spanner into this debate since they are more likely to fail to provide the ideal home learning environment for their children. This will play out in how they perform in their test scores. Quite a number of children from the ‘Missing Class’ do not normally perform well in school and thus affecting the overall performance of a class. These students are also impacted by their neighborhood and the places they live because they are most likely to interact with others of the same state.

Works Cited

Ball, S. J. and D. Youdell. “Hidden privatisation in public education.” NUT Education Review (2009): 21(2), 73-83. Print.

Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives . Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons., 2007. Print.

Newman, Katherine S. The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America . Boston: Beacon Press, 2007. Print.

Schwalbe, Michael. Rigging the Game: How Inequality is Reproduced in Everyday Life . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

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"Professional Teacher Evaluation." IvyPanda , 3 May 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/professional-teachers-evaluation/.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Professional Teacher Evaluation'. 3 May.

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1. IvyPanda . "Professional Teacher Evaluation." May 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/professional-teachers-evaluation/.


IvyPanda . "Professional Teacher Evaluation." May 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/professional-teachers-evaluation/.

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Teacher Evaluations, Essay Example

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[Q1a] Formative and Summative assessments are part of the balanced assessment system in the classroom. Summative Assessments are issued in a periodic manner in order to inform the students what they know and do not know in specific subject areas. These are generally used as part of the grading process. Formative Assessments are more part of the instructional process and focus upon what is learnt from the classroom instruction process. The objective is to inform both the teacher and student on specific learning points and thereby allowing for improvements to be made. As such formative assessment is an intervention process and an integral part of the teaching process. (Ehringhaus, M. 2012).

[Q1b] In K3 training the Formative assessments are much more concerned with that of transferable learning. Here the process becomes much more transparent and focuses upon critical information components that are shared with the students. The learners take on a more responsible action for their learning requirements. This integrates freely with classroom teaching practices and enhances the sharing and negotiating skills between teacher and pupil. It involves provision of feedback to the pupils and effective questioning of them in order to determine their level of understanding. The concept of peer reviews is encouraged allowing students to input to the work of fellow pupils. The process increases the communications between teacher and pupil and helps in cementing relationships and improving the learning process. (Partnership Management Board, 2012).

With Birth-PK Learning the process needs to be much more informal and needs to be much more geared towards nurturing and maturing as opposed to that of the more formal evaluative process, more applicable to K12 learners.

[Q1c] With pre-school and primary children it is important to use less formal evaluation methods because the children are still in a nurturing stage where they require the teacher to help them develop cognitive skills in a less structured way. For example this is much more a question of playtime, getting the children to work together, focused learning opportunities and allowing the children the freedom of experimentation. The younger the child, the more difficult it is to resort to formal testing because of the emotional state of the child. At this stage more parental involvement is required using the primary caregiver as added re-enforcement to the learning and teaching process. In some ways the position is reversed here and it is the program of learning that should be evaluated in terms of how well it is meeting the childrens needs. At this stage the programme should be modified in order to ensure that these needs are both catered for and delivered in order to address developmental needs. (NIEER, 2012).

[Q1d] Diagnostic evaluation normally takes place at the beginning of the school year before teaching commences. It is often used as a pre-requisite to determine the existing skills of the pupils before they start lessons. It enables the teacher to determine the characteristics of the pupils and how well they will cope towards different methods of instruction. The evaluation process may also examine where students have specific learning difficulties and a preliminary assessment of the cause of these. This approach may also use standard achievement tests i.e. teacher designed tests that include the use of checklists, observations and results compared to that of expected ‘norm’ or average results scores. This can also illustrate to the teacher those pupils that are likely to excel and those that may required added or special attention.

[Q1e] The following types of assessment strategies might be adopted for teaching in the K-3 and Birth PK classrooms:

  • Reflections – Get the students to consider their actions or thoughts in terms of something that they have read, wrote about, or derived from a personal experience. This helps the child to increase metacognitive skills and increase their understanding of the subject matter. This can be very powerful in peer group discussion sessions;
  • Visual display – The concept of a picture speaks 1,000 words. The use of lists, pictures, charts and interpreting data with graphical images helps the childs comprehension abilities and understanding of subject matters. A valuable technique for early learners studying a foreign language
  • Organizers – Getting children to become familiar with the logical ordering and sequencing of things using lists, charts and building blocks
  • Collaboration – The concept of getting students to work in teams or groups in a collaborative fashion and improve their overall communication skills. As they develop these skills they gain more contextual placement of subject matter. (Dodge, J. 2012)

For this learning group one of the best assessment methods is by the use of Exit Cards . These are used by the student as they leave the classroom and comprise either postcards or sticky notes that can be popped into a box. The students have their names on the cards and place their understanding of a particular problem or question that was discussed in the lesson period. This enables the teacher to grab the notes and sort then into specific groups. i.e. those that have mastered the concept, those that partially understand and those that have not understood or grasped the concept of the question. This type of feedback helps the teacher in terms of progression with the class or the need for more instruction on the subject matter.

Response to formative assessments should really pay attention to three specific matters.

  • Using the assessment only as sources of information designed to help both the student and teacher in improving relationships and understanding;
  • Follow-up by impartial high quality constructive feedback mechanism that is designed to facilitate the learning process by useful intervention or corrective instruction;
  • Giving the student the further opportunity to make correction and demonstrate that they have gained mastery of the subject matter. It should never be used purely as a purpose for critique as this erodes student confidence and is destructive by nature.

[Q1f] The names of specific formative / summative assessments are:

  • Criteria and goal setting – Setting clear expectations and goals that the students can work towards and clearly understand. Essentially provides a roadmap of the journey i.e. what is required and how to get there.
  • Observation – Walking around the class to see if they understand and need any help or clarification with any points;
  • Questioning strategies – Asking questions to see if the students understand the lesson. May include the Exit Slip approach, as discussed earlier. Help teachers understand the depth of thought process of students and whether they fully understand the question or subject matter.
  • Self and peer assessment – Helps students in gaining a balanced perspective on the subject matter and facilitates improved understanding.
  • Student record keeping – Helps the students to understand their work and how the grade was determined. (Ehringhaus, C.G. 2012)

Dodge, J. (2012, 1 5). What Are Formative Assessments and Why Should We Use Them? Retrieved from Scholastic: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/what-are-formative-assessments-and-why-should-we-use-them

Ehringhaus, C. G. (2012, 1 5). Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom . Retrieved from Association for Middle Level Education: http://www.amle.org/Publications/WebExclusive/Assessment/tabid/1120/Default.aspx

NIEER. (2012, 1 5). Pre-school policy matters . Retrieved from NIEER: http://nieer.org/resources/policybriefs/7.pdf

Partnership Management Board. (2012, 1 5). KS3 Assessment for Learning . Retrieved from Northern Ireland Curriculum: http://www.nicurriculum.org.uk/docs/assessment_for_learning/training/AfL-Guidance-KS3.pdf

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Teacher Evaluation - Essay Example

Teacher Evaluation

  • Subject: Miscellaneous
  • Type: Essay
  • Level: College
  • Pages: 4 (1000 words)
  • Downloads: 2
  • Author: magnusrutherfor

Extract of sample "Teacher Evaluation"

There are teachers who don't teach very well according to my evaluation but still students are able to score high grades in their courses. Hence the greatest challenge while teaching is to measure the effectiveness of a teacher. The evaluation process used is quite simple. The process includes the evaluation of the average grade report of the class the teacher is teaching. There is a separate teacher's evaluation form that is filled by each and every student, without their names. I regularly inspect classes and the way teachers are teaching.

All these methods combine to give us a clear picture of how the teacher is teaching and help us to evaluate his or her performance. From my point of view a regular visit of 5 to 10 minutes in a class by a principle is good enough to inspect a teacher but then the principle has to make sure the visit is unannounced, which will give the principle a clear view of what is happening (Danielson & McGreal, 2000). Long observing hours distract the students and teachers both hence short and regular observing periods are most suitable.

Well there are a number of settings, for example a teacher assigns some work to the students and then we observe how is he or she helping the students in completing their work, it shouldn't be overdone like the teacher shouldn't help the student too much or too less. There should be a balance. Then a teacher is observed while giving a lecture to check on the methods that are being used, we prefer interactive lectures that keep the students interest, boring and less interactive sessions are of no help to the teacher and the students both.

These settings are important as being a teacher is not that difficult but handling situations and maintaining the interest of the class in a lecture are two difficult things that a good teacher must learn. We can learn how well the teacher is at maintaining healthy relationships plus a good teacher will always have a scheduled life. An effective teacher would always be motivating people around as that's how he treats the students in his or her class. A teacher should be polite and should listen to each and everyone.

We don't often use conferencing techniques while evaluating a teacher but in some cases where problems are being faced by the students and no possible solution is being derived and the root cause is not being caught, we prefer conferencing. The teacher goes through a brief meeting with the principle and other higher staff members like the vice principle and the coordinator. The primary concern for holding a teacher incompatible to teach in any class is the fact that the students do not understand the core concepts of the course and the overall grades are lower than expected.

After the initial assessment of the teacher we predict an average grade of the class keeping in mind the ability of the students and the past trends. If the grades are higher or lower than expected we conduct an evaluation of the reasons for that and then accordingly change our evaluations about the teacher. If the teacher is performing at a higher level than expected we do promote the teacher in terms of the class and rewards are also given, in case a teacher does not want renewal of contract than a meeting is held where the vice principal the coordinator and the principle talk to the teacher for the reasons of this demand and try to make every possible

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Field experience #5 policy, the changes initiated by michelle rhee, the collaborative group counseling referral process, teacher evaluation process in educate alabama, edu 508 family chapter presentations, servant leadership, charlotte danielson's framework of teaching, what makes professional development effective.

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What is course evaluation?

Some definitions, examples of formative evaluation techniques, using rubrics in summative evaluations (e.g. tests), action research, starting out, web resources, acknowledgement.

In colleges and universities nationwide science faculty are changing how they teach to include more student-active approaches. It is difficult to know how widespread or consequential the changes are, but it appears that funding for course reforms from PKal (Project Kaleidoscope), NSF and others has paid off. Walk into a random college classroom and the science professor will probably be lecturing, but walk into the class next door and it wouldn't be surprising to see students working on open ended questions in groups or engaged in lively discussion, even if the class is large. What you would be seeing are examples of students taking responsibility for their own learning.

Those of us who have taken the leap into student-active teaching are now being urged by our funding sources or workshop leaders to take the next logical step and evaluate our progress. We are being encouraged to ask how do I know whether my changes are working? , or in education language, to do evaluation .

Evaluation of our efforts makes a lot of sense. After all, we are scientists who pose questions that we continually re-examine with data. A problem facing us, though, is the same problem that made changing our views about teaching and learning so difficult in the first place. Most of us have no formal training in pedagogy or theories of cognition and learning, and we have no training in the principles and methods of evaluation either. We are being urged to do something even more foreign to us than experimenting with cooperative groupwork or nontraditional testing.

In my experience most faculty catch on quickly to the concepts and approaches of evaluation if they are given the fundamentals, such as vocabulary definitions, and also specific examples developed and modified by other science teachers. With the basic tools of evaluation I believe most of us can progress quickly towards designing our own evaluation procedures because doing evaluation is in essence like doing science. Evaluators make observations, ask questions, design experiments, get data, and revisit initial questions. Science faculty know how to do this and many enjoy such work.

In this article I will give Ecology 101 readers the same key information about evaluation that I and my colleagues give faculty in our teaching workshops. With this information and these resources I hope that some of you will become interested in asking "how do I know if it's working?" and more confident about how you can find out.

Educators like any other professionals have their own language, and the first hurdle for would-be evaluators is understanding the jargon and concepts of evaluation. I start with "evaluation" vs. "assessment" because this was most confusing to me at first.

Evaluation and Assessment

In my first NSF Division of Undergraduate Education training session, I learned that we evaluate projects or programs and assess student progress (e.g. give them tests). This is similar to the glossary definition of assessment in NSF's evaluation publication (1993): "Assessment is often used as a synonym for evaluation. The term [assessment] is sometimes recommended for restriction to processes that are focused on quantitative and/or testing approaches". To avoid confusion be aware that use of two terms is sometimes reversed. The classic Classroom Assessment Techniques (Angelo and Cross 1993) focuses on ongoing evaluation as a way for teachers ascertain what and how well their students are learning.

Program and Project Evaluation

NSF clearly distinguishes between evaluation of programs (a coordinated collection of projects) and projects (a particular activity; NSF 1993.). This article is about project evaluation.

Formative and Summative Evaluation

Understanding the difference between formative and summative evaluation helped me appreciate what evaluation was really about. Formative evaluation looks at the project (course) all along the way and its purpose is to give ongoing diagnosis and feedback so that professors can change their teaching if needed. Summative evaluation is what we are all familiar with when we give students tests. Or, as evaluator Bob Stake, said: "When the cook tastes the soup, that's formative; when the guest taste the soup, that's summative" (ibid.).

Angelo and Cross (1993) give a good overview of formative evaluation with their 7 basic assumptions of classroom assessment: 1) quality of student learning is directly related to quality of teaching, 2) the first step in getting useful feedback about course goals is to make these goals explicit, 3) students need focused feedback early and often, and they should be taught how to assess their own learning, 4) the most effective assessment addresses problem-directed questions that faculty ask themselves, 5) course assessment is an intellectual challenge and therefore motivating for faculty, 6) assessment does not require special training, 7) collaboration with colleagues and students improves learning and is satisfying.

A website that also nicely explains formative and summative evaluation has been developed by Doug Eder, a biologist at Southern Illinois University ( www.siue.edu/assessment/ , click on "classroom assessment techniques"). Doug emphasizes that formative evaluation is non-judgmental partly because the focus in on learning as influenced by many factors such as teaching approaches, student's background knowledge, and student motivation. Final assessments (grades) are usually private and anonymous, and the full weight of a grade is placed on the student alone who therefore identifies with them, for better or for worse. The following table modified from Eder's website details the difference between formative assessment and summative assessment (graded tests).

A good way to begin to understand the process of course evaluation is to simply look at a range of ways that science professors do it. The following is a list of approaches from Eder's site plus Angelo and Cross (1993).

Evaluating Student Knowledge:

Minute Paper — popular because it is a quick diagnostic that helps students reflect on the class and gives the teacher immediate feedback. Questions for a minute paper at the end of a session might be "What was the main point of today's class?", What points were most confusing?", "What points were most interesting?". Faculty who use this come up with their own ways to collect the responses efficiently (e.g. students pick up index cards on the way in and drop them in boxes in the back of the room on the way out). Even with large classes a professor can quickly scan through the cards to get the overall response to the questions. An important point with all formative evaluations is that faculty should bring common or interesting student responses to the next class because students will be much more likely to take this evaluation seriously if they see that the professor respects what they have to say. Minute papers can be used often or infrequently.

Muddiest Point — a modification of the minute paper that allows students to describe ideas or concepts that are most unclear to them.

Transfer and Apply — a way for students to learn how to apply what they have learned to new situations. Application is one of the more difficult critical thinking skills (along with analysis and comparison) that students need to practice. In this evaluation students are asked to list ideas or strategies from the class and then apply them to other situations.

Student Self-evaluation: Groupwork Evaluation by Students

Student-active learning usually involves students working collaboratively in groups on questions or projects in and out of class. In the workshops I've attended or led "groupwork" is second only to "coverage" as a controversial and difficult aspect course reform. In this short article I will only describe one way for students to evaluate how well their group is doing. This example illustrates how and why students, as well as teachers, do formative evaluation.

Most of us have very mixed feelings about asking students to evaluate their own and their colleague's performance and effectiveness in groups. I have only done this a few times and the results were fuzzy, probably because I did not prepare the students well enough. If you want to try this you can use one of the forms available on the web (see sites below) or make up your own. In this assessment students are asked to rank their responses to questions like: "How many group members participate actively in your group most of the time?", "How effectively did your group accomplish this task?", "How would you judge your own effectiveness in this group?" or address open ended questions about uneven participation or how the group could work better together. An important aspect of this evaluation is that it helps students be more reflective about group process and what can be done to improve it. Another critical point is that the teacher must allow class time for discussion of the purpose and ethics of this evaluation.

Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness

Reciprocal Classroom Interview — a formal technique in which two colleagues who know and trust each other interview students in each other's courses. This requires a fair amount of time and includes a meeting before the selected class to outline the focus and questions, another debriefing after class, clear explanation to the students about the purpose of the evaluation (e.g. that it is anonymous and private) and enough classtime.

Educators frequently talk about rubrics, but most faculty have never heard of them. A rubric is a formal way to explicitly tell your students how you are going to grade or otherwise evaluate them on a test, paper, oral presentation, poster. When I first read about rubrics I immediately understood their utility and (again) how my ignorance about education has impacted my teaching. How could I expect my undergraduates to write good primary papers if I didn't tell them in real detail what I meant by "put your question or hypothesis in context", "compare your results with others'", or "describe your findings in the results section, interpret them in the discussion"?

Writing good rubrics may be one of the most important things you can do for your students and to improve your teaching. Creating the rubric clarifies your thinking about what you consider essential for your students to know and be able to do. For example, faculty in workshops often list "improving critical thinking skills" as an important course goal, but they do not explicitly explain, discuss, or practice what they mean by "critical thinking" in their particular course. Writing a rubric that operationally defines critical thinking helps faculty restructure their teaching to focus more directly on this sophisticated aspect of learning.

Eder's site contains a good example of a rubric for assessment and evaluation of student writing. Listed are aspects he uses in grading such as "uses disciplinary facts correctly" and "provides adequate supporting arguments with reasons, evidence, and examples". These are ranked from excellent to poor. I prefer to develop my own rubrics and I often do this with students because they become much more invested in the goals as a result. Some of these class discussions about good and poor development of arguments, data description, and the like have been invaluable to my students' understanding of these higher level skills.

Action research is a type of formative investigative evaluation done by teachers on their own classes and institutions. According to Elliot (1991) action research is "the study of a social situation with a view to improving the quality of action within it". Essential aspects of this research are that it is reflective, useful, focused on pragmatic issues or questions (that you can do something about), and structured. Action research has stimulated K-12 teachers in particular to professionalize and communicate their reform efforts and has empowered them to change situations in their classrooms and schools.

Action research could also be a powerful tool for college science teachers, but very few do it. Again, components of this research are quite familiar to scientists — focusing and shaping an issue or question plus collecting and reflecting on data. What I have found most foreign about this type of evaluation is that is that the data include fuzzy, qualitative information such as student behavior or interviews. What I have most appreciated is the potential immediate utility of the findings.

As an example from my own teaching, I was especially interested to know whether students in a freshman ecology course recognized the importance of a goal we discussed numerous times over the semester. The objective was for the students to recognize that science is a reiterative process and that messy or unexpected data are not "wrong". To evaluate my student's appreciation of this goal, I asked them to write self evaluations that focused on objectives for the course, and I looked for wording that would indicate their maturity about this aspect process of science.

About half of the students wrote things like "I did learn a valuable lesson that even mistakes made in research are useful..." and "Our experiment ... didn't really work as we wanted it to, but I learned a lot about setting up an experiment, looking for all the variables, and identifying problems". While I was pleased with these comments, I was surprised that more students did not make them. This finding has forced me to think more carefully about how I discuss this aspect of science in the class. Although I thought I was quite explicit, perhaps I was not.

Another example comes from an introductory Oceanography class taught by Richard Yuretich, a geologist at UMass in Amherst, MA. Richard teaches in the most challenging of situations — in a big lecture hall to 300 students who use this course to fulfill a requirement at a state university. Over the past few years Richard has made major changes in this class including cooperative group exams and frequent groupwork in class on open-ended questions (e.g. "think-pair-share"). One way that he has attempted to assess the effect of these changes on student performance is to compare final exam results in 1996 (before the changes) and 1998 (after changes; Yuretich and Leckie 2000). He found that the mean exam score was substantially higher in 1998 and students in the redesigned courses did better on 37 of 38 identical questions. (The topic for question 38 was not covered in 1998). More specifically, fewer students received a "D' or "F" in the second year, indicating that the changes may have helped those with greatest academic difficulty. The questions assessed a range of abilities: recall, calculation, interpretation, and deduction. Additional evidence about improved student attitudes in this class came from end of semester evaluations. Many more students in the reformed class showed interest in oceanography and they acknowledged benefits to them from the new teaching approaches. (For a similar but more thorough study of a large course in biology see Ebert-May et al. 1997).

Reflecting on data like these has been important to Richard. Redesigning this class has been extremely time-consuming. He and I have had many conversations about time investment in teaching vs., research, and so positive feedback that the efforts are really worth it is crucial for him. In addition, he now has evidence that he can show students from their own course when he explains the pedagogical philosophy of the class and talks about how people learn best. Finally, the research provides that bases for further improvements. Written comments from students at the end of the semester emphasized a common problem with groupwork — students who "go along for the ride" and do not participate in discussion. In the future he hopes to use older students as roving monitors in class to help address this issue, and these written comments from students may help him get the extra funds to support this.

If you decide to try doing formative evaluation in a course, start small. Pick an appropriate method for one class session, tell your students what you are up to and why, and then report back to the class, including explaining any adjustments you make.

To learn more about formative evaluation of your own redesigned courses, look through the websites and other resources listed below. Also, I have just completed a commercially produced video (funded by NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education) called How Change Happens: Breaking the Teach As Your Were Taught Cycle in Science and Math that features Richard Yuretich and other faculty from a range of colleges and university settings. How Change Happens follows these teachers into their classroom as they improve their teaching and reflect on their progress, what keeps them going, and how their students have become more reflective, better thinkers. Email me if you would like a free copy of this video. Finally, sign up for the teaching research workshop offered by Diane Ebert-May at the Snowbird 2000 and future ESA meetings.

  • www.wcer.wisc.edu/archive/cl1/flag/
  • Adelman, C. (ed.). 1988. Performance and judgment: Essays on principles and practice in the assessment of college student learning. Office of Educational Research and Improvement Publication OR88-514. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.
  • Altrichter, P., P. Posch, B. Somekh. 1993. Teachers Investigate Their Work: An Introduction to the Methods of Action Research. Routledge, N. Y.
  • Angelo, T. A. (ed.). 1991. Classroom Research; Early Lessons From Success. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • Angelo, T. A., and K. P. Cross. 1993. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, San Fransisco.
  • Banta, T. W., J. P. Lund, K. E. Black, and F. W. Oblander 1996. Assessment in practice: Putting principles to work on college campuses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Cross, K. P., and M. H. Steadman. 1996. Classroom research: Implementing the scholarship of teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Diamond, R. M. 1997. Designing and Assessing Courses and Curricula: A Practical Guide. Jossey-Bass, San Fransisco.
  • Ebert-May, D., C. Brewer and S. Allred. 1997. Innovation in large lecture teaching for active learning. BioScience 47: 601-607.
  • Elliot, J. 1991. Action research for educational change. Milton Keynes and Philadelphia: Open University Press.
  • Hutchings, P., and E. Rueben. (1988/July/August). Faculty voices on assessment: Expanding the conversation. Change, 20(4), 48-55.
  • National Science Foundation. 1993. User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation. J. Frechtling, ed. NSF publication 93-152.


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