Education Next recently published the article, “Getting classroom observations right.” The article, among many indicators of effective teachers discussed how teacher success is partially determined by the evaluation and observation systems in place in four urban school districts. They found that districts that integrate in a number of factors into the teacher evaluation system – including classroom observations, teacher identified criteria and school wide student achievement – lead to greater student achievement overall. While those school districts they studied that only used student test scores as the only measure of teacher effectiveness revealed that student achievement did not increase.
We know that in education – face-to-face, blended or online learning – that the teacher is the key to student learning. In a blended learning classroom, the teacher is the motivator, encourager and guide for students to learn concepts with the help of technology. The same is true in an online learning classroom. The way the teacher interacts with students directly impacts how engaged students are with their learning.
Currently, classroom observations focus on the teacher and how the teacher teaches in the face-to-face classroom. As blended learning is implemented in more classrooms across the U.S., what is observed in a classroom will have to change. A recent article in eSchool News talked about blended learning teachers in Idaho and how a blended learning classroom is “productive chaos.” It is challenging for an observer to know how to observe a classroom that looks like “productive chaos.”
In New York City a few years back, a principal shared with me about one of his experiences in observing a classroom that had implemented blended learning. In New York City Schools, a quality assurance officer accompanies new administrators in the observation of classrooms. Together, they observe classrooms and then compare notes after the observation. In this one case, the quality assurance officer and the new principal observed a blended learning classroom. The principal observed engaged learning, excellent use of technology and ongoing data analyzed by the teacher. The quality assurance officer saw just the opposite. That is the challenge of observing a blended learning classroom: new guidelines need to be developed to guide administrators and others in how to best observe a blended learning classroom.
Recently, the TNTP issued the working paper entitled, “Reimagining teaching in a blended classroom.” The diagram below is one aspect of thinking about how observations of blended learning teachers will need to change. The authors identified a blended learning teacher (as different from the traditional teacher) needing to be a researcher and developer, integrator, and guide. Something for administrators and classroom observers to think about.