Professor Alyson Lavigne breaks down teacher evaluations in new book

lavigne book

By Lauren Grimaldi

Having a good teacher is something that can change a student’s life. That teacher can inspire them to reach their full potential and so on. Still, these facts are not taken into consideration when teachers are evaluated by the person who oversees them.

Alyson Lavigne, assistant professor of Curriculum Studies, recently published a book entitled “Improving Teaching Through Observation and Feedback” regarding this topic along with University of Arizona professor Thomas Good.

“We have a very collaborative process,” Lavigne said, elaborating further on the process behind writing the book.  “We also got feedback from districts [about this topic].”

According to an article on Roosevelt University’s website, Lavigne said the writers hope the book shows that principals can struggle with giving teachers a fair evaluation.

“As part of race to the top, achievement growth must be a significant component of teacher evaluations,” Lavigne said. “But one of the biggest flaws in following that approach is that student achievement data doesn’t always correlate with the scores that teachers receive from administrators, who observe them as part of the evaluation process.”

These weak correlations are incredibly problematic when using observational and student achievement data to provide teachers with feedback to improve teaching and learning, Lavigne says.

College of Education Dean Thomas Philion weighed in on the issue at hand as well, as he described what the current process for such evaluations entail.

“Most teachers are evaluated by an administrator or supervisor at their school, sometimes the principal, sometimes another person,” Philion said. “The evaluator observes the teacher several times and also receives information about the lesson before the observation [and] discussions are held after the observation, too.”

Increasingly, districts and schools are considering student test score data in making decisions about teacher performance and retention, according to Philion.

Phillion said a better approach to evaluating the effectiveness of a teacher would be to develop a more professional approach to teacher evaluation.

“Administrators and supervisors need more training and support for undertaking high quality observation and evaluation, and teachers need more training and support for creating more rigorous and nurturing opportunities for learning in their classrooms.”

Lavigne also elaborated on her ideas for changing the process of evaluations and detailed further what can be found in her book.

“[Principals] don’t have a lot of choice. So, one of the things [that helped] in my research is actually asking school leaders what they think is most valuable in assessing a teacher’s practice,” Lavigne said. “Capturing [what a teacher does] in a classroom can be very challenging.”



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