Teacher evaluation is just one of many aspects in the lives of teachers. It is an integral component of the profession, from pre service training through certification, contract renewal, and professional development (Nevo, 1994). However, it has come to be viewed by those it was meant to help as a means of controlling teachers, motivating them, holding them accountable for their performance, or getting rid of them when their performance is poor. Teachers' resistance to evaluation is reasonable if the evaluation "is subjective, unreliable, open to bias, closed to public scrutiny, and based on irrelevancies" (Soar, Medley, and Coker, 1983, p. 246).
An alternative to this "dominant model" of teacher evaluation is the inclusion of formative personnel evaluation into existing systems of teacher evaluation. Formative personnel evaluation is designed to help teachers improve the quality of instruction by identifying strengths and weaknesses (Haefele, 1993). The improvement of instructional practice is quite possibly the most important - and most positive purpose of teacher evaluation (Manning, 1988). However, this method of teacher evaluation continues to be extremely underutilized (Haefele, 1980).
The purpose of this article is to provide a thorough description of a system designed to provide formative feedback to teachers in the form of student ratings and comments. Three phases -- design, data collection, and assessment - of the study are described. The focus of the article is on the latter of these three phases.
Specifically, teachers' perceptions of the usefulness, quality, and credibility of the formative feedback provided by students are examined.
Importance of Sound Evaluation of Classroom Teaching
Virtually all educational institutions in the United States evaluate the qualifications and work of their personnel. These evaluations occur at several key "points" during an individual's period of service with the institution, including certification, selection (hiring), assignment, promotion, an award of tenure, and allocation of special recognition or awards (Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 1988). Many institutions also use evaluation as a means to provide feedback for improving the performance of educational personnel. The need for sound, thorough evaluation of educational personnel should be clear. As stated in the Personnel Evaluation Standards (Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 1988), " . . . to educate students effectively and to achieve other related goals, educational institutions must use evaluation to select, retain, and develop qualified personnel and to manage and facilitate their work" (p. 5). It is evident that personnel evaluation in education has been used to select and retain teachers, but seldom has it been used for the development of qualified teachers.
Historically, there has been widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of personnel evaluation in education (Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, 1988).
Educators, policy makers, and community groups often attack the near absence of personnel evaluation systems or the superficiality in the systems that do exist (p. 157). Highly developed and effective teacher evaluation systems are rare in American education (DarlingHammond, 1986). Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Pease (1983) state that "most existing systems [for evaluating teachers] are illogical, simplistic, unfair, counterproductive, or simply unproductive" (p. 158). In their review of procedures used to evaluate teachers, Soar, Medley, and Coker (1983) agree that evaluation procedures possess all of these characteristics. Frase and Streshly (1994) assert that "teacher . . evaluation appears to be purely ceremonial, with little or no intent to improve instruction ..." (p. 50). Finally, Scriven (1980) declares that the procedures used in the evaluation of teaching are "shoddy at the intellectual and the practical levels" (p. …