Assessment of Teachers (Preview)

Part 1: Intro & Objectives

It used to be okay to “close your door and teach!” Not anymore. More and more often, teachers are being observed and assessed as part of an administrative annual review. Mentors should help new teachers understand the process for teacher assessment in your district or school. Mentors can also help new teachers create a professional development plan for themselves by going through a process of goal-setting, resource gathering, data collecting, and self-evaluating.

In addition, as a mentor, you might be asked to assess a new teacher. While this role is not recommended for a mentor, you might have to provide this as part of your mentoring duty. Knowing this, you can provide new teachers with helpful assessments of their development. Assessments of teachers should be constructive and helpful for improving instruction. Adult learning theory, also called andragogy, can provide a useful framework for making assessment of teachers a fruitful experience.

This lesson will support mentors’ understanding of adult learning. Participants will:

  • Become familiar with the principles of adult learning
  • Examine standards for teaching performance
  • Familiarize themselves with helping new teachers create professional development plans
  • Learn how to assess new teachers’ knowledge base and repertoire of teaching strategies.

Part 2: Real World Case

As a mentor, you may have to assess a new teacher’s lesson through a class observation. This can create an awkward mentoring relationship because the coaching cycle that we recommend is not meant to be an evaluative tool.

Nonetheless, you might want to consider how to embed helpful assessment techniques into your own teaching observations. Watch this video to see how one teacher did this.

What would you do differently or the same?

After you watch the video, consider:

  • How was this alike or different from the coaching cycle recommended in the lesson on “Coaching Language and Techniques”?
  • What would you do differently if you were observing Tim’s lesson?
  • What were the goals for the observation? Were they stated? How did those goals develop?
  • If you had to collect data on Tim’s lesson, what data would you collect?
  • How might Valerie provide feedback to Tim?
  • How might Valerie help Tim move from a lesson-by-lesson focus to a more comprehensive professional development plan to guide his long term professional learning?

Valerie has been asked to evaluate Tim’s teaching. She and Tim discuss the lesson prior to the observation. Knowing that she wants Tim to do well, Valerie recommends several strategies. Tim accepts the recommendations and piggy-backs on those to think of more strategies.

Then, during the lesson, Tim uses a reciprocal teaching approach they discussed. Valerie stands on the other side of the room writing down notes.

Part 3: Building Knowledge

Due to copyright law, several readings cannot be hosted on this site. However, we encourage you to ask for assistance locating materials from your library media specialist. Many library services are freely available to educators.

Danielson’s Framework for Teaching

Danielson highlights her Framework for Teaching which is a research-based set of instructional components that mentors can use to help guide new teacher learning. This assessment tool can be used by mentors to engage beginning teachers in conversation about their practice. Danielson incorporates videos in which she explains her Framework here. It’s an interesting and captivating resource that gives specific advice about how to guide new teachers to self-evaluate. This will be very helpful for the “Give it a Try!” activity in this lesson.

Danielson, Charlotte. (2009) A framework for learning to teach. Educational Leadership. Vol #66.

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NOTE: Required reading

The Uniqueness of Adult Learning

In this article, Knowles discusses his theory of Andragogy (teaching adults) and emphasizes specific assumptions research tells us about adult learners. While Knowles theory changed a bit over the years, the essential elements remained intact. The most important points are that adult learners:

  1. Adults are often self-directed learners. They seek knowledge or, if knowledge is presented to them, they need to know why it is important and relevant. Knowing this, a facilitator of adult learning can help adults organize their own goals for learning and help adults understand how new concepts might connect to their goals.
  1. Adults are experienced. They have plenty of formal and informal learning experienced and bring that to any new learning situation. Adults—especially experts—are sometimes resistant to learning new concepts or skills simply because their knowledge and skills are so deeply learned. Also, adults’ experiences need to be taken into account when new learning is presented. Knowing this, a facilitator of adult learning can help adults make explicit their prior experiences and help adults map those experiences to new learning.
  1. Adults can be responsible for self-directing their learning. Many adults like to be involved in planning their learning, including goal-setting and evaluating their own learning. Knowing this, a facilitator of adult learning can help to organize a goal-oriented plan that the adult can be responsible for.
  1. Adults, like learners of any age, appreciate direct relevance between what they’re learning and what they need to improve their everyday interactions. The more adults see a connection between what’s being learned and what will help them be more successful as professionals. Knowing this, a facilitator of adult learning can demonstrate the immediate value of what’s being learned.
  1. Adult learners usually respond to problem-centered learning. In other words, adults benefit from learning that is in response to mistakes or issues that arise. Knowing this, a facilitator of adult learning can help adults identify issues or problems and act as a guide to problem-solving.
  1. Adults are often motivated because of internal motivation. Adults seek learning to solve their problems and feed their interests. Knowing this, a facilitator of adult learning can act as a resource and organizer rather than a lecturer.

Knowles, Malcolm (1973). The Adult Learner: A neglected species. Gulf Publishing: Houston.

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What You Need to Know About Adult Learning and Teacher Development

Studies about adult learning development center around two themes. The first area of study looks at how adults develop their thinking processes, concept information and ego development. For example, as adults, they generally reveal an improvement in their ability to relate new information to old and to make comparisons between themselves and others. The second area focuses on transitions through the life cycle and their impact on adults as they move through them. For example, adults generally move thorough a life span that begins with initial feelings of omnipotence, gradually shifts to stages of greater reflection and reordering of reality, and finally moves to consolidation and acceptance of life.

Glickman (1990) tells us that young adults (20-35) are usually characterized by limited experiences, simple standards of reasoning about concepts, egocentricity, and dependence on authority during a time of unlimited aspirations and feelings of power. The middle-aged adult (35-55) has acquired a vast array of experiences, has developed the ability to draw relationships between self and others, and possesses an awareness of his or her strengths and weaknesses. This stage includes a time of reexamination of one’s abilities and a revision of priorities. Finally, the older adult (55 and older) has had numerous experiences, can understand more easily the situations of others, and can make decisions that take into account more of the total situation. At this time in life, the older adult accepts him or herself and focuses on those activities that are most important.

Glickman (1990) provides us with an instructive discussion about the impact of conceptual development and transitions of teachers as it relates to teacher development. He contends that, similar to the general adult population, the majority of teachers appear to be operating at relatively moderate to low stages of conceptual development. This means that thought is viewed as absolute and concrete with a high dependence on authority. This would be acceptable if teaching was a simple activity and required a limited need for decision making. However, we know a teacher faces more than 100 students of varying backgrounds and ability levels and must make hundreds of decisions on a daily basis. “Concrete, rigid thinking on the part of the teacher cannot possibly improve instruction…Teacher improvement can only come from abstract, multi-informational thought that can generate new responses toward new situations” (p. 54).

So what does all this mean as far as mentoring a novice? It means that part of the mentoring process is designing the teaching experience so that it fosters ways to improve thinking by asking them to think “abstractly and act autonomously.” It does not mean making the teaching situation less complex by disregarding differences among students, by establishing routines and instructional practices that remain the same day after day and year after year, and by omitting time to reflect on practice to explore more ways for teaching students (Glickman, 1990). Thinking improves when teachers interact with one another, when they experiment with novel teaching strategies, when they involve themselves in peer coaching at work, and when they assess and revise their actions. Schools traditionally have not been places where teachers have been supported in ways to improve their thinking, according to Glickman.

We know novices are concerned about survival. We understand this perspective because of their place in the life cycle. As a rule, young teachers have limited experiences to identify with and want very much to be successful. We can help to reduce fears and failures and to increase their feelings of security by sequencing their experiences from simple to more complex, giving timely feedback, and probing their thought processes to ensure the development of reflective thinking skills.

Denmark ,V. & Podsen, I. (2002) Promoting collaborative learning. Coaching and mentoring first year and student teachers (pp. 64-66). Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education

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The Professional Teaching Standards

Originally created in 2004 for California schools, these standards are used throughout the nation by districts and states. They lay out expectations for six areas of professional development that will endure across a teacher’s career. This two-page document summarizes the guiding questions that teachers can ask themselves as they consider their own professional development plan.

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Elizabeth Wilkins

Visit Expert’s Website

Elizabeth Wilkins, Ph.D., is a Professor at Northern Illinois University. Her research focuses on teacher induction and mentoring. She wrote the New Mentor Workbook (published by Kappa Delta Pi).

Elizabeth Wilkins also shares her perspective on how mentors can guide beginning teacher growth focused on student achievement.

Principles of Adult Learning

One important consideration as you think through assessment of teachers is adult learning theory. Why adult learning theory? Well, assessment of teachers is supposed to be helpful and informative, right? Adult learning theory provides a framework for how to use instructional assessment. View the presentation on Adult Learning. How do you think the principles of adult learning translates to working with new teachers?
Download Principles of Adult Learning

Lending a Nurturing Ear

One of the most helpful things a mentor can do is to move a new teacher toward a professional goal. This video shows how Gwen, an experienced mentor, helps a new teacher begin to focus her anxious energy into a constructive professional goal.

ACTIVITY 1: Practice Assessment

After viewing the Real World Case of Tim and Valerie, use the Framework for Teachingto assess the teacher’s performance level in the area of Student Engagement. Elements you should consider include:

  • Representation of content is appropriate for learners,
  • Activities and assignments are cognitively engaging,
  • Grouping of students is productive,
  • Instructional materials and resources support instructional goals,
  • Structure and pacing are clear and coherent

ACTIVITY 2: Planning for Professional Learning

Consider guiding new teachers through the process of planning their own professional learning. Here’s a “thinksheet” to guide this work: Download Professional Learning Plan and Reflections

Part 4: Review & Reflect

Think back to your initial responses to the Real World Case.

  • After working through this module, do you still agree with your initial thoughts?
  • Has your perspective shifted in any way? If so, what aspects of your responses would you change?
  • What do you currently know about adult learning?
  • Considering Tim as an adult learner, how could Valerie approach mentoring differently?
  • What could she do that would maximize his learning?
  • What are some of the strategies that you can use when assessing new teachers’ instruction?

Part 5: Glossary


The adult learning process, which is more experience-based, problem-centered, participative, and collaborative.

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