Most professional counselors and therapists will affirm that relationships are injured when one party in the relationship set an expectation for the other party and neglects to tell that person what that expectations is. The hope is that one person in the relationship will magically know what the other desires or needs. Such magical thinking can only result in disappointment, hurt, anger and frustration.
This condition exists between parents and child, spouses, lovers, teacher and students, and employer and employee. In fact, the condition is so pervasive, that one wonders why such an unpleasant condition has not been corrected and is allowed to persist. One possible explanation is that the condition exists outside the awareness of the parties involved and it continues because it garners for all concerned certain familiar feelings.
In the school setting, unuttered expectations often hover around classroom observations and evaluations. Such expectations need not lead to anxiety or resentment if all involved know exactly what those expectations are prior tot he actual observation itself.
The principal or supervisor in a building should be fully aware of what sound educational teaching behaviors are needed in order to meet the cognitive, affective and psychomotor needs of the students who attend that school. The teachers who stand daily before these students should not only be aware of the latter behavior but must also be capable of using a process through which cognitive, affective, and psychomotor needs are met. Both teacher and administrators, by virtue of his or her job description, have specific roles which include but are not limited to observation, evaluation and consultation.
It seems only reasonable that the parties involved would set each other up for success and good feelings since the objective of quality education is the same for both. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case in the past, for people involved in the total evaluation process often enter and leave the relationship amid hard feelings and self-righteous indignation.
The Commissioner’s Guidelines cite fifteen principles of staff evaluation as a framework to guide the efforts of local school districts to meet the requirements of NJAC:6:3-1.21. The eighth and tenth principles state, "Staff should know who will conduct the evaluation and understand the process and procedures by which they will be evaluated in relation to their positions" and "evaluation should focus on the activities and processes essential to the performance of the job and the supervisor should be familiar with the context in which these duties are carried out."
These two principles recognize two major truths. The first is that the most important process that goes on in a school system is the process that goes on in the classroom. The second truth is that it is incumbent upon the administration to tell the teacher what is expected of that teacher when observations are to be made so the teacher does not have to guess at those teaching behaviors that would ensure a successful evaluation.
The New Jersey State Board has imposed upon the school community a process for teacher evaluation and key elements stress the need that all parties involved come up with teaching behaviors for classroom observation and evaluation. Guidelines for developing such criteria have been written and recognize the following realities and needs:
1.- There are many possible criteria that could be selected to evaluate teaching staff members. The choices and their implications cannot be reviewed here. The regulations do not included criteria but instead set minimal requirements for policies and procedures.
2.- There should be a clear rationale for the criteria selected and they should be linked logically to the performance of duties and responsibilities identified in the job description.
3.- In general, it is better to select a short list of key criteria and focus on them rather than to adopt long lists that cannot be used effectively by supervisors.
4.- Criteria which encourage collection of observable information on job performance are to be preferred over criteria which call for general subjective judgments.
Now teachers will know exactly what teaching processes are expected of them when they are observed because they will have been involved with the administration in deciding what teaching processes or behaviors are expected of them in the classroom. An administrator or supervisor may now say, "I’ll be in on such and such a date and I will be looking for the following teaching processes and behaviors. The teacher would then know exactly what the expectation is and can then develop a lesson plan that will reflect his or her capability in the specified area. If the teacher does not demonstrate a particular process or behavior, it becomes incumbent on the school system or supervisor or their representative to provide in-service or materials so the teacher can become skilled in that process or behavior. The school board owns responsibility for providing access in time or money so the teacher can gain that professional growth. The teacher owns responsibility for involving him or herself in those activities leading to that professional growth. All become responsible because each knows what is expected.
Much effort will be expended on developing mutually acceptable teaching behaviors and clear rationales for such behaviors against which a teacher will be evaluated during the classroom observation process. Much soul searching a valuing will go into identifying a relatively small number of crucial teaching processes and behaviors so the evaluation process itself can gather observable information rather than subjective judgments.
Since time is money and re-inventing the wheel is counter-productive, it may benefit a district to consider procedures, behaviors and rationales already in existence and the following are offered for that purpose. These behaviors are concerned with both the cognitive and the affective domains and are the product of many hours of study, observation and decision making.
1. THE TEACHER ENCOURAGES DIVERGENT THINKING
Divergent thinking is the ability to see numerous alternatives and possibilities in any given situation. It is essential in problem solving. It also reinforces the area of learning to choose from alternatives in the decision-making process.
2. THE TEACHER ASKS OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS.
Asking open-ended questions allows for answers other than "Yes"or "No". It calls upon the student to make relationships among pieces of diverse information, collect stored knowledge, and answer in conceptual form.
3. THE TEACHER SEEKS CLARIFICATION AND EXTENSION OF STUDENT RESPONSES, OTHER THAN IMMEDIATE JUDGMENT AS TO CORRECTNESS.
Seeking clarification or making sure that what the student is saying is what he/she means enables the students to practice communicating clearly and effectively.
4. THE TEACHER BUILDS UPON STUDENT RESPONSES.
Building upon students' responses recognizes that students have a variety of experiences that they will share, if asked to do so. Some responses, if handled skillfully, not only will bring thinking to higher levels but also will involve several other students in this process. In this way, the teacher makes and supports the development of ideas.
5. THE TEACHER RESPECTS STUDENTS' PERSONAL RESPONSES AND DOES NOT JUDGE.
When a student responds and the teacher does not judge "good or bad" but accepts the answer and deals with it rather than its correctness, students feel freer to offer responses that are creative and honest as well as correct. It also sets an atmosphere where the students take permission to respond, without fear of reprisals for disagreeing. A teacher who accepts, establishes that it is safe to think and be themselves in that class.
6. THE TEACHER SHOWS ENTHUSIASM FOR THE TOPICS
The student recognizes immediately if a teacher knows and is comfortable with the material. The student can also pick up whether the teacher enjoys the subject matter. Teachers cannot ask only the students to get excited. Creativity and creative thinking is invited through enthusiasm.
7. THE TEACHER'S SEQUENCE OF QUESTIONS GROWS OUT OF STUDENT RESPONSES
A skillful teacher knows what questions logically follow what answers and proceeds along these lines in order to raise think-mg skills. Also, when the sequence of questions deals with the educational process, students become more aware of themselves as learners (affective awareness.)
8. THE TEACHER CAN PRESENT AND DISCUSS MATERIAL WITH COMPETENCE.
Students feel secure in learning if they believe the teacher is competent. Competence is revealed in some of the following:
Teacher preparation, lesson planning, delivery of lesson, classroom atmosphere, variety of activities, etc.
9. THE TEACHER PRESENTS THE MATERIAL IN AN INTERESTING WAY AND USES A VARIETY OF TEACHING TECHNIQUES.
The proper structuring of time is crucial to the success of a lesson. If the time is structured so that meaningless rituals are emphasized, little will be accomplished. If the class is structured so that the students are actively involved in interesting activities relating to the subject matter as well as intrinsic activities where they can talk about what is meaningful to them and their experience, it creates an atmosphere of involvement in learning. The teacher also employs a variety of teaching techniques. One way of making the learning experience exciting is to employ as many alternative techniques as is feasible in a unit in order to accomplish a wider viewpoint as well as to develop a greater proficiency of skill development.
10. THE TEACHER ENCOURAGES STUDENT INTERACTION.
Recognizing that the learner is a repository of experiences that others can learn from, the teacher encourages interaction wherever possible. This is also revealed in the way the classroom is set up. Grouping students in a circle establishes that each student in the circle can be the focus of the class. Students who sit in rows facing the teacher know that the teacher is the focus and that interaction is not really encouraged.
Grouping, regrouping, encouraging students to question or challenge others encourages student interaction.
11. THE TEACHER IS PATIENT AND ALLOWS TIME FOR STUDENT'S THOUGHT
In the silence after a question is asked, thinking may be taking place. Teachers should not feel that someone should be speaking all the time for something to be happening that is meaningful. The only talking done in this period of "thinking through" should occur if the teacher needs to check out what they do not understand in the original question (students do not understand.)
12. THE TEACHER HAS CREATED AN ATMOSPHERE OF TRUST AND CONCERN.
Learning is facilitated when students are comfortable in their environment and feel safe in that environment. A teacher builds such an atmosphere by listening, clarifying needs and expectations, being non-judgmental, setting parameters of behavior, and by establishing natural consequences so students are not surprised or overwhelmed. The atmosphere says, "You are welcome here and you have nothing to fear from me." It says that "You will be treated fairly and you will be given permission to develop and think." It says, "You are protected."
13. THE TEACHER LISTENS TO AND HEARS WHAT STUDENTS ARE SAYING.
Listening, real listening, is a skill. It is operating when the listener is totally focused on the speaker. Listening is operating when the speaker feels he/she is saying something that is being understood and accepted without judgement. When real listening is going on, the listener is non-verbally saying to the speaker, "You are important and what you are saying is important." The listener also clarifies so as to fully understand the meaning and intent of the speaker.
14. THE TEACHER CREATES ASSIGNMENTS THAT EXTEND AND GROW OUT OF THE WORK DISCUSSED IN CLASS.
It is the classroom teacher who, for the most part, decides what is important to teach and how it is to be taught. The decision and the complete execution of this task is the creative act of teaching. The task itself is not complete unless reinforcement takes the form of homework or additional work of some sort. These assignments must be logical outcomes of what was actually taught by the teacher. The teacher may be breaking the complete circle of the teaching process by delegating to the textbook company the right to decide what is to be reinforced. Valid assignments grow Out of what has been discussed in class.
15. THE TEACHER RELATES AND RESPONDS TO DIFFERENT STUDENTS AT DIFFERENT LEVELS.
Recognizing the specific learning needs and patterns that students have allows the teacher to build and insure success in his/her classrooms. While all students need to be treated fairly, a good teacher recognizes which students need a firm hand and which need a more relaxed environment; which student needs constant encouragement and which student could use some push toward independence.