Over five decades as a teacher, central office administrator, principal, leadership coach, and research reader, Kim Marshall has honed a system for supervising, coaching, and evaluating teachers. Here are the key elements:
- Short, frequent, unannounced classroom visits—at least ten a year for each teacher—replacing traditional formal observations;
- A humble, curious, low-tech approach to visits: observing carefully, looking for learning outcomes, jotting a few notes, chatting with kids using simple questions like, “What are you working on?”;
- A face-to-face conversation shortly after each visit in which the teacher can explain context, choices, and the bigger picture;
- Hearing this, a supervisor’s decision on what’s appropriate praise and one “leverage point”;
- A brief narrative summary sent afterward, perhaps approximately 1,000 characters long;
- Administrator drop-ins on teacher team meetings to monitor the all-important process of planning curriculum units and looking together at student work for insights on what’s working and what’s not; and
- The use of an evaluation rubric just three times each year: in September, the teacher self-assesses and sets two to three goals; in January, the teacher and supervisor compare scores and discuss any disagreements; at the end of the school year, this comparison/discussion process is repeated and the evaluation is finalized, signed, and put in the teacher’s file.
This approach takes about the same number of educator hours as traditional evaluations, but is vastly more authentic and effective at understanding and improving teaching and learning.
The goal is meeting the three essential needs of every front-line professional, which are, according to Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s Thanks for the Feedback: appreciation, continuous improvement, and knowing where they stand.