2 Gathering evidence of performance
The important thing to bear in mind is that poor teacher performance is not necessarily related to whether a teacher approaches their teaching or organises their classroom in a different way from others. It is more that their teaching does not result in the progress normally expected of all their students at that time. It might be that the able students or the students from a particular cultural background do well but others do not, for example.
If you are not regularly gathering data on student learning by visiting classrooms or talking with teachers, you may not be aware of this under-performance until the students’ education is severely impaired. For this reason, regular monitoring is necessary and should be a routine part of your work. Through monitoring you will also recognise good performance and recognise the teachers who are performing well.
How might you gather evidence of performance? It is very important that action is taken based on evidence rather than anecdotes or guesses. However, an issue is usually raised from comparison with other teachers and their performance, so it is often necessary to gather evidence on more than one teacher or class.
Evidence-gathering needs to be deliberate and the process is ideally unbiased and balanced. Once you gather some initial data, you should seek out further information to clarify what exactly is going on. This might involve:
- gathering progress data from several classes
- personally observing teaching and learning
- talking to the students about their experiences. However, in this case, great care must be taken not to cast any doubt on the teacher’s ability by your questions and responses to the students’ answers.
It is also important to remember that it might be just one aspect of the teacher’s behaviour; it is not the teacher themselves that is the issue. You are not judging the person, you are judging their teaching behaviour – as explored in Activity 2.
Activity 2: What are you judging?
When looking at teacher competency, it is important to look at the teacher’s professional behaviour, not them as a person. Look at the list below and make a note in your Learning Diary about whether you think each item of evidence is about behaviour or the person:
- Observing a classroom for 20 minutes, noting down the number of different students that the teacher talks to.
- Comments from the students about the way that the teacher dresses.
- A report from a teacher that the teacher in the next door class always arrives ten minutes late for their lesson.
- Observing a classroom for 20 minutes, noting down how many open questions the teacher asks.
- Comments from the students about how they sometimes have different work from each other.
- Comments from parents that the teacher is from a different region.
Some of these are not as clear as they first appear.
- Options 1, 4 and 5 are clearly about the way the teacher behaves.
- Option 2 is inappropriate and is clearly against the person, unless the dress is unmistakably unsuitable. Comments like this should be discouraged.
- Option 3 is similar, but you would need to be aware of potential bias and gather further evidence before acting.
- Option 6 could be blatant intolerance, but it could be that the teacher’s accent is so strong that the students find it difficult to understand. Again, there would need to be further investigation.
Now try Activity 3, which considers how you could gather evidence in your school.
Activity 3: How you could gather evidence in your school
If you were concerned about teaching in your school, think now about how you might gather evidence to understand more about the issue and what might be causing it. Make notes in your Learning Diary about the evidence you could gather and the issues you might have in gathering it.
Clearly, we do not know what evidence you have decided upon. But the issues are likely to be similar:
- Teachers may be suspicious about your motives and unhappy about you entering their classroom.
- Students may act differently because of your presence.
- Parents may have concerns if students report your activity.
As you gather evidence in your school on a more regular basis, it will cause less excitement and concern – but initially, you will have to be reassuring. Gathering evidence from more than one teacher or class reduces the focus of attention for others to some extent. You can also think about involving the teachers by asking them what they would like feedback on as a way of making the process more collaborative.
It is particularly useful to share your concerns with other school leaders to see if they have any useful solutions to the potential problems or different forms of evidence.