Academic journal article High School Journal

Assessment of Foreign Language Teachers: A Model for Shifting Evaluation toward Growth and Learning

Academic journal article High School Journal

Assessment of Foreign Language Teachers: A Model for Shifting Evaluation toward Growth and Learning

Article excerpt

Although there is no consensus on how to assess teacher quality, scholars do agree that the improvement of teaching is the most important step that we can take toward improving the quality of education of our students and the one that directly affects learning outcomes (Perlman & McCann, 1998). Teacher assessment has become a cornerstone issue insofar as teaching improvement is concerned; yet, there is no consensus as to what constitutes an effective assessment method (Brent & Felder, 1997; Wood & Harding, 2007). This problem particularly affects foreign language teachers. In this conceptual article, we explore and argue for a model that situates peer evaluation at the center of teacher assessment. Further, we argue that foreign language teacher assessment: 1) should include multiple types of assessments, ranging from administrative evaluations to peer observations and feedback; and 2) should primarily serve as a platform for improvement of the quality of teaching and for the teacher's growth and professional development. We conclude by identifying directions for future research examining the potential of this proposed model.

Introduction

As a secondary foreign language teacher, I [first author] was assessed year after year by a member of the administration who knew nothing about teaching a foreign language and did not speak a foreign language. The main focus of my evaluations was classroom management. (1) Crookes (1997), addressing the role of administrators in assessing foreign language teachers, points out that not only do principals enter classrooms rarely (once or twice a year), but that those infrequent visits result in formal evaluations used for decisions about employment and promotion rather than to produce any changes and improvements of the quality of teaching.

As Lewis, Parsad, Carey, Bartfai, Farris, and Smerdon (1998) indicate, the quality of teaching is very difficult to assess since it is such a complex and multidimensional matter. Bell (2005) states that, although for the last 50 years there have been replete attempts to establish criteria for comprehensive teacher assessment, there is little literature that deals with content-specific effective teaching and how teachers in specific content areas, e.g. foreign language, should be assessed and by whom. Although there is no consensus on how to assess teacher quality, scholars do seem to agree that the improvement of teaching is the most important step that we can take toward improving the quality of education of our students, and the one that directly affects learning outcomes (Perlman & McCann, 1998; Rowland, 2009). Teacher assessment (2) has become a cornerstone issue insofar as teaching improvement is concerned; yet, there is no consensus as to what constitutes an effective assessment method (Brent & Felder, 1997; Bell, 2005; Wood & Harding, 2007).

Evaluating foreign language teachers has additional challenges for those evaluators who do not speak foreign languages or do not have a background in second language acquisition since large portions of foreign language lessons are carried out in a target language. In this context, it is difficult to assess a teacher's content knowledge or students' degree of understanding and learning. Yet, administrators frequently go into foreign language classrooms with an evaluation checklist that includes assessment of a teacher's content knowledge, among other performance criteria. For this reason, the focus of our paper is assessment of foreign language teachers. While changes are needed in teacher assessment in other content areas, evaluating foreign language teachers presents additional challenges that specifically apply to the foreign language classroom. We hope to contribute to the literature on teacher assessment by beginning a conversation about much-needed changes in foreign language teacher evaluation and professional development. We begin this conversation with an overview of the existing teacher evaluation practices in secondary education and then narrow the discussion to the field of foreign language teaching. …

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