Thursday, February 25, 2021

How Should We Evaluate High School Teaching Records?

Mark Guzdial posted several articles about evaluating the teaching records of undergraduate faculty. (Links below) They really got me thinking. Now evaluating secondary school (high school) and university teaching is pretty different. Class sizes are the most obvious difference especially in large universities. First and second year computer science courses in universities can have hundreds of students. One can’t teach 600 students the same way one teaches 20. University faculty also have different supports which often include teaching assistants to manage labs, help with grading, and other assistance.

So the question becomes, how to you evaluate the teaching record of a high school CS teacher? Some obvious things to look at as student evaluations, and student results on standardized tests like the AP CS exams. I’m not a fan of either of those. I had a class of highly capable students one year who just decided they would blow off the AP exam for a variety of reasons. They told me they did it. being evaluated on that year’s test results would have been a big mistake. I think most teachers would agree that there are things far outside a classroom teacher’s control that impact test results. COVID-19 anyone?

Student evaluations are also unreliable. Male teachers tend to be rated higher than females' teachers.  Fun and/or  easy teachers get evaluated higher than “hard” teachers whose rigor helps students learn more. And generally, students are not that good at evaluating teachers.

I think that peers and administrators at the high school level have a better idea of what a good teacher is/does than university faculty so I would give weight to peer/admin evaluations. Of course, being able to watch a teacher teach would be ideal. The time I did interview for a university faculty job teaching two classes was part of the process. I think that is very helpful.

I would also like to see what a teacher does to improve their practice. What are they doing for professional development? Are they taking workshops? Attending conferences? Online conferences are making that more affordable and practical? Do they read – articles, blogs, etc.? I have maintained membership in SIGCE for years to get access to research on how to teach and found that very helpful for my professional growth.CSTA has been great as well opening up chapter meetings, the annual conference, the publications, and general community building.  I would ask what things they have learned from others and added to their practice.

Importantly, what does a teacher do now differently from when they started teaching? There is a difference between one year of teaching ten times and ten years of teaching.

I should add that I want to know how they are growing their content knowledge over time as well. But pedagogy improvement is really critical. Teaching the way we were taught years ago is probably not the best way to teach.

Live long learning is something teachers should model so I want to see (read) how a teacher candidate does that.

What else should one look for in evaluating a teacher’s record?

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