The most essential function of a school administrator is monitoring effective teaching, but it is the hardest skill to teach. Effective teaching is different depending on the classroom. So, what does it look like to an administrator?
Effective teaching is active teaching. Not only is the teacher active, but so are the students. The classroom experience drives student engagement and determines student success. The teacher must also clearly identify objectives and model appropriate classroom interaction. While interacting with students the teacher must be positive, encouraging, and redirect inappropriate student behaviors. How students react to teachers is as important as the information being presented in class.
Future administrators need experience observing master teachers and struggling teachers. They must also practice effective note taking. While this sounds simple, scripting teacher and student behavior is especially challenging during the context of a class. The best tools in the administrator’s toolbox are scripting sheets. Each scripting sheet should address a specific skill or observable behavior.
Some questions you’ll expect to address in your scripting sheets are:
- Did the teacher plan effectively and set clear objectives?
- Was the subject material appropriate for the lesson?
- Were the students well managed and were high standards of behavior insisted upon?
- Were the students fully engaged throughout the lesson?
- Is homework used effectively to reinforce and extend learning?
It is impossible to see everything all of the time, so these tools help administrators manage their observation time. Performing a variety of skill assessments across a period of time, and multiple class visits, give the administrator a quality snapshot of teaching behaviors.
With observation techniques and practice, administrators can master this difficult task. Each state has specific assessments for identifying student skills. In my education program, I ask our students that teach outside of the program to provide information from the state in which they currently teach (or plan to be certified). Together, we identify key observable skills in accordance with any state mandates.
Should administrators draw attention while observing a class?
Administrators should be visible on campus. The more often they visit classrooms the more they will get a “full picture” of what is normal in a classroom. If an administrator is visible, students will learn to accept the administrator’s presence and it won’t be disruptive. Administrator interaction with students will depend on the current classroom activity. Teachers often tell the students to keep working if an administrator comes into the room. Quite honestly, the goal is to be so visible that students and teachers are used to you being there, which results in a better picture of daily classroom life.
How should the administrator communicate feedback to the teacher after a class is observed?
The administrator meets with teachers regularly to discuss observations and to provide the teacher with written feedback. The forms will be kept by the administrator and used as a part of the formal evaluation process. Observations are used to monitor teachers’ strengths and to identify potential areas of professional development for the entire staff. These notes can also be used for remediation or to provide support when recognizing teacher excellence.
Ultimately, the main purpose of evaluating effective teaching and providing consistent feedback is to create an engaging classroom experience for students and to enhance their learning outcomes.
By Dr. Amy Burkman
Director of M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision, American Public University