Teacher Evaluation: Innovation and Growth?

In preparing for my workshop at the ASSAA conference over the last month, my focus has been strictly on thinking about how growth mindsets and effective feedback strategies can be transformative for students.  But the in the back of my mind I was also thinking about teachers, and how I need to apply the lessons I have learned about students to professional growth.

At Graded we have developed a Professional Growth Supervision Plan (PGSP) in collaboration with each of our teachers.  Teachers select goals at the beginning of the year and put together a plan of support to achieve that goal.  In addition, we collectively contribute to a teacher portfolio that includes best practice artifacts and observation notes.  On the whole, there is a rich body of evidence that is developed throughout the year.  Teachers are put on a cycle alternating each year between a formative and summative evaluation process.  Teachers on the summative cycle are evaluated in the following domains.

While the system at Graded works well and the structure seems to make sense, I have started to question whether or not it really stimulates growth.  One problem may be in our language.  If we believe in continuous growth, isn't it somewhat contradictory to split up thy cycle in formative and summative years?  According to Kevin Bartlett, who has launched the Common Ground Collaborative, all student assessment should be formative; all of it focused on continual growth.  Shouldn't we apply the same principle to teachers?

Another problem that I face is not fully embracing a growth mindset in the same way I do when dealing with students.  Applying a growth mindset to the craft of teaching means breaking down the pervasive myth of the "naturally talented" teacher.  I realize in looking at the feedback that I have provided for teachers over the years, that I may have inadvertently promoted fixed and conservative thinking on their part.  While I have stated over and over to teachers that I value risk taking, perhaps my feedback to them has undermined this possibility.

I have also realized, after reading Grant Wiggins' fantastic article Seven Keys to Effective Feedback, that one of the problems I was encountering was providing advice or praise to teachers rather than feedback.  Wiggins make a clear distinction between advice, praise and feedback:
"Loosely speaking, of course, feedback means anything we say back to a person who has said or done something. So, it is not uncommon to hear educators say that “Good job!” and “Try harder next time!” are examples of feedback. Yet, strictly speaking, neither is feedback: the first phrase is praise and the second phrase is advice. Feedback is information about what happened, in light of a goal; there is no praise, blame, or advice, just actionable data from some result."
Wiggins provides us with the connection to supervision of teachers in the following presentation that is linked on his website.

So...connecting Carol Dweck's work around mindsets, and Grant Wiggins research on feedback has planted a seed for change in my own practices.  But there is still something missing.  The system itself still seems archaic, inflexible, and rudimentary.  This was brought home to me recently when I read an article  from The Harvard Business Review that Graded Superintendent Lee Fertig sent out to our admin team about the revolutionary approach to HR that Netflix has taken over the last few years.  Their ppt.  about their practices has gone viral and become the talk of Silicon Valley.

I am very intrigued by the way in which Netflix couples freedom, responsibility and a culture of innovation.  In this model, leaders become responsible for building amazing teams and a strong culture, not managing the behaviors of people.

On the whole, I think taking these three sources (Dweck, Wiggins and Hastings) would be a fantastic starting point for revolutionizing the way in which we supervise teachers.  If we want innovative classrooms, we must start innovating our professional growth and supervision models.  


  1. I think you lift some key points in your reflection. I especially like the integration of some of the thinking from Hastings. Ultimately, it sounds as though you're engaging teachers in learning in the same way we would hope they would engage students WHICH makes me wonder more about empowering teachers to own this process more. I've been super hot on BloomBoard (http://www.bloomboard.com) these days. Essentially, teachers can post their goals and collect evidence on the site holding the portfolio and feedback you mention - BUT it goes a step further in that one can tap their marketplace of PD to build playlists to support their learning, using a "see, read, do" format. Feedback without rich, differentiated resources to grow is where many fall short in supporting teachers. Thanks for getting this thinking into words. Helpful and powerful.

    1. Colleen, Bloomboard looks like a fantastic resource. I will definitely dig deeper to see how it might be useful for us at Graded. Do you know of some schools that are using it? I would love to hear from admin who have had success. I think it is also important to differentiate between adult and student learning as you point out. Regardless, the focus has to be on growth, not checking off boxes. Thanks as always for your thoughts.

  2. Jeff, my first thought on the freedom that Netflix offers is Ricardo Semler's book Maverick. He has been promoting that in his company since the early 90s. Professional growth and supervision has always been something that I've not been satisfied with. As much as we want it to work for everyone involved it just doesn't seem to be happening. While the Bloombard tool looks interesting I can't help but think that we all need a paradigm shift. For me this is what it will take for all of us to dig ourselves out of our traditional thinking. How can we make this more about learning and growth and provide all members of the community with an environment that promotes learning that changes practice? Maybe we a group of teachers and administrators to dig into this dilemma to come up with a new view on our current practices. The potential for improving out culture can be enormous. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    1. Blair, thanks for the response. I think both you and Colleen are getting at a similar theme, which is the fact that we need to think of adult learners differently and include teachers more robustly in the process. We tried to do that this year with the teacher portfolios, but it has not been enough. The problem we run into over and over again is time. Teacher involvement will be vital, but we need to find the time for them to participate effectively.


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