Survey Results: Professional Learning & Evaluations
School busses are parked, classrooms are quiet, hallways are empty (unless your school is hosting theater camp) and many of us are recharging with some time at the beach.
It’s also the time of year when educators take time to reflect on the past school year, look at the data they’ve collected, set goals and make plans for the coming year. We surveyed school districts around the country to learn what they’re thinking about evaluations and professional learning (PL).
Most effective professional learning formats
Unsurprisingly, the PL formats that respondents said were most effective at advancing educator growth involved a high degree of collaboration.
- Coaching / mentoring
- PLC / team meetings
- Internal meetings / committee work
Those who took our survey said they found action research and independent studies to be the least effective format.
What are the highest professional learning priorities for educators in 2016-2017? According to almost 9 out of 10 participants, “Supporting educators in applying their learning to enhance practice.” And nearly as many said, “Making sure our teachers have access to learning that fits into their busy schedules.”
When participants were asked what other goals they would like to set for professional learning in the coming year, several themes emerged, such as working to make professional learning more collaborative and data-driven. But the most common theme was providing more specific, individualized professional learning to meet the needs of teachers.
“Professional Learning needs to be meaningful and geared toward the needs of the teachers to accomplish buy-in and active participation.”
“Differentiated professional development for the new teacher vs the experienced teacher; for the elementary versus the secondary teachers; for the general ed versus the intervention specialists — to meet each role’s needs.”
Another high-priority goal? Assessing the impact of professional learning in the classroom.
“To create a manageable means of evaluating the impact of professional development.”
“I would like to see systems in place that will help monitor the effectiveness of different avenues of professional development and which are the most effective for our district.”
Most useful measures in performance evaluations
We asked respondents to select the measures they’ve found to be most useful in teacher evaluations. The winner? Informal observations — coming in just above classroom observations from the principal.
Highest goals for evaluations
What did survey respondents say were their highest priorities for 2016-2017 in the area of teacher evaluations? Making evaluations more impactful in the classroom, and increasing efficiency for evaluators and observers. Nearly 75% said that each of these is either “High Priority” or “Essential Priority.”
More than half identified that each of the following is a priority for next year as well.
- Train observers and evaluators in offering meaningful feedback (68%)
- Increase the level of teacher buy-in to our evaluation process (56%)
- Calibrate observers and evaluators to ensure inter-rater reliability (54%)
Many respondents also shared additional evaluation-related goals they would like to set. Again, several common threads ran through many of these, such as increasing inter-rater reliability.
“I would like to see a clearer connection between data points including practices and student performance data and greater consistency among observers in interpreting the meaning of standards for teachers.”
“Continue with immediate feedback to teachers and principals. District-wide inter-rater reliability and standards set.”
Making the evaluation process more manageable was also frequently mentioned as a high-priority goal.
“I would like a more manageable way to gather evidence.”
“I would like them to be less cumbersome and more effective and practical.”
“Making the system more efficient so that the principals can manage the demands.”
Use of technology in professional learning and evaluations
Given the administrative complexity of each of these areas, we also asked how districts use technology in managing evaluations and professional learning.
The coming school year is only two months away — maybe less, depending on your district. Where are you in the goal-setting process? What are your highest priorities?