Today schools are being asked more and more to justify that they are providing quality education to their students (Haertel, 1999). The schools in turn are asking that teachers be responsible for the quality of the training that they are providing their students (Haertel, 1999). This demand for quality is often without markers other than, perhaps, student performance on some identified standardized test (Haertel, 1999). This may be one reasonable marker of teacher effectiveness but, perhaps is not sufficient by itself. A teacher's effectiveness is a multifaceted picture of how the learners in their charge grow under their direction. We expect our children to develop a motivation for learning, a basis of learning to build on, the skills or ability to apply their learning, and finally we expect our children to succeed at taking their learning and their skills outside the school and to use them in building the lives we hope they will have. Largely, we hold our teachers responsible for guiding this monumental task.
To frame our reference in a realistic approach to evaluating teacher performance, this article suggests borrowing from the realm of corporate, industrial, and adult training and using Kirkpatrick's (1959a, 1959b,1960a,1960b) four level model of training evaluation. This model of evaluation has been the most reviewed and applied guide to assessing the effectiveness of training in the adult world of work since its inception in 1959. In an article in Training and Development (1996), Kirkpatrick reviews the model and notes that little of the content has changed. He still posits that the effectiveness of training, and this paper suggests teaching, is best evaluated at four progressively difficult and valuable levels. These are the reaction level, the learning level, the behavior level, and the results level (Kirkpatrick, 1959a). The rest of this paper will define these levels and discuss how each can be used to evaluate the performance of teachers in the traditional classroom setting.
Level One: Reaction
The first level of this model is the reaction level. Kirkpatrick (1996) describes it as, "how participants feel about the various aspects of a training program." In other words, do they have positive feelings about the instructor, the material, and the experience. The premise is that if participants do not have those positive feelings they will not reap the fullest benefit from their instructions and they will not support the experience as valuable to others. For corporate training, we can see the loss this could lead to for the trainer or training department. If little benefit or positive experience was derived, little future use of this trainer or training service is likely (Kirkpatrick, 1959a). For teachers working with our children in a traditional school setting, the value of this level of evaluation may seem less clear. For as long as there has been instruction, students who have not wanted to be in school have been there anyway. We have laws that make being there until a given age mandatory (McCarthy & Cambron-McCabe, 1987). So why should teachers be evaluated on their performance at the student reaction level?
The answer is, again, multifaceted. To begin with if we accept that one of the goals of instruction is to create motivated learners, we can easily connect student reaction to learning and instruction to motivation (Alao & Guthrie, 1999). If an individual does not like a program, "there's little chance they'll put fourth an effort to learn" (Kirkpatrick, 1996). An environment that is valued and an experience that is enjoyed leads to a learner that is willing and more receptive. A more willing and receptive learner is able to take in and retain more material. Additionally, if we look to the value that corporate training places on their participants leaving their training experience with favorable things to say so as to not drive future trainees away or to not influence employers to devalue their training, it may seem difficult to find ready analogies in public education. …