Rubrics are a wonderful tool, to a point, and very quickly they become burdensome. They serve their purpose of providing both the teacher and the student, or the observer and the observed, a common language, but attempting to use the whole rubric every day becomes too much to handle. As essential as it is for students to unpack a task or teachers to analyze a standard we must also breakdown a rubric into classroom application.
No matter what you think of a teacher evaluation rubric (or any rubric) it is better to have one than not. If there isn’t a rubric than whatever the observer decides after the fact goes. It is their opinion alone. They decided what is good and what is bad. You must please the person and not the assignment. Having a rubric provides a buffer both parties can point to and defend their position. It also helps the observed know in advance the skills they must demonstrate. We will look at common rubrics used and strategies for highly effective assessment practices.
Looking back as a principal, I now imagine teachers anxiously awaiting their post-observation conference and not knowing what I thought. I made all decisions about performance. I realize now I held teachers to a different standard. I expected them to set clear expectations with students on every task and yet I probably didn’t set clear expectations for them. They had to get to know me first before they could predict my feedback.
When we adopted the Danielson Framework for Teaching we practiced with teachers first. We took small sections of the rubric, conducted short observations, and invited teachers in for practice feedback. We let them know that as administrators we were learning the rubric too and that we were trying to improve our own practice.
Students needs are the same. Everyone needs something to guide their process so if they can succeed and provide the teacher, or observer, with exactly what they want. It doesn’t always have to be a rubric, but there has to be criteria for success.
The assessment portion of teacher evaluation rubrics all speak to the same ideas. They emphasize different aspects of practice, but fundamental strategies persist throughout all rubrics.
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4 Teacher Evaluation Rubrics
Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching 2013 – Teachscape
The Danielson Framework guides teachers towards three important ideas: students understand the assessment, they self-assess, and they receive quality feedback.
The best advice when you are using the Danielson framework is to decide early on in a unit or lesson planning how you will assess learning and make sure you inform your students. Don’t get too hung up on the part about students contributing to the assessment criteria. Quality tasks that students engage in will naturally yield that result as students work more independently towards high quality work.
Rubrics for students are often promoted as an ideal tool here because they are easier to use throughout an entire unit in the variety of forms required by the rubric.
There is a lot of flexibility within Danielson. During any individual lesson it is critical to ask strategic questions to assess student understanding. Vital to success with this rubric is that act of course correcting when the teacher determines there is a student misconception or misunderstanding.
Kim Marshall’s Teacher Evaluation Rubric
Kim Marshall takes a very similar approach to Danielson, but goes farther and is more specific on what it should look like. Forefront in the Marshall rubric is that the assessment criteria is visible in the room and that work of all levels is posted. Ideally, all posted materials guide student work during instruction. Students engage with it to make their work better and the teacher references it during instruction. The self-assessment and feedback are still included, but he also is very specific in having a diagnostic exam.
They key with assessment in the Kim Marshall rubric is to make it visible. It should feel as though students are not only engaged in the task of completing an assignment, but analyzing it according to the criteria as they go along with what is available in the room. The evidence of the this process should be in posters, charts, and boards around the room.
Framework for Teaching – ASCD
The big ideas in the ASCD rubric version of the Framework for Teaching nearly identical to the first teachscape version. We go back to the idea that students are aware. Wherein it was much more important in Kim Marshall’s rubric to have visual evidence the ASCD version allows more flexibility by having the evidence come from students.
There is still a strong emphasis on teacher feedback and student self-assessment. The same advice for the Danielson rubric applies here. Even though the rubric uses the word diagnostic it is not the same context as the Marshall rubric. Here it is more aligned with checking for understanding as in the Danielson Rubric.
Silver Strong Thoughtful Classroom Teacher Effectiveness Framework
The Silver Strong rubric is quite extensive. There are a lot of boxes to check off and a lot of strategies to employ. Even in this dense rubric though the underlying commonalities with the other rubrics are there. The first three boxes are about assessment design. The next three boxes are about engaging students in the task worth completing. Box 7 connects right back to what is in all rubrics at that is evidence students understand what is expected.
The last box feels like an add on in this section. It doesn’t flow from the other strategies as well, but differentiated assessment tasks is the last part of this rubric. The concept of differentiating tasks and tailoring them to students needs is an important part of assessment, and is in every rubric. But here, it is tacked on.
If you are using this rubric your emphasis is on the design of the task and student engagement in the task. Silver Strong is very clear that the assessment must be relevant, real-world, and worth doing. During observation, the classroom environment and student’s demonstrating their thinking provide the evidence.
There is a slight variation in this rubric that is worth mentioning. Teacher feedback is listed after student self-assessment. In every other rubric teacher feedback came first. I don’t think this is trivial to Silver Strong. This is intentional. It emphasizes that the tools to engage in self-assessment, i.e. strong task worth doing and clear criteria, come first and the teacher’s role is to reinforce that process with feedback.
Build a Strong Foundation with Your Assessments
I wrote about the difficulty in using standardized test data to drive instruction, but I also highlighted the benefit in seeing how the State assesses a standard. Designing instruction starts with understanding a standard, skill, or problem, and creating an assessment around it.
Three actions must then happen to receive a highly effective rating in assessment. First, communicate to students how they can succeed. Second, provide them with meaningful feedback throughout the process. Finally, supply the tools and the environment for them to monitor their own progress.
These actions must build over the course of the school year. Evidence of good instruction must come from students. We can think we set clear expectations, but if the students don’t understand then we didn’t set clear expectations at all. We can think we gave them the tools to succeed, but if they don’t use them then we didn’t provide the right tool. We can think be provide meaningful feedback, but if it they don’t use it to improve, then it wasn’t that meaningful.
Remember to look for your evidence in what your students do rather than what you think you planned.
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