Measuring Teacher Effectiveness in Physical Education

By Rink, Judith E. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Measuring Teacher Effectiveness in Physical Education


Rink, Judith E., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


This article summarizes the research base on teacher effectiveness in physical education from a historical perspective and explores the implications of the recent emphasis on student performance and teacher observation systems to evaluate teachers for physical education. The problems and the potential positive effects of using student performance scores as well as establishing a comprehensive evaluation program are explored with supportive evidence that some level of accountability is necessary in our field to make significant change.

Keywords: accountability, program effectiveness, teacher evaluation

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The move to rethink how to evaluate a teacher's performance and explicitly tie assessments of teacher performance to student achievement marks an important shift in thinking about teacher quality. The demand for 'highly qualified' teachers is slowly but surely being replaced by a call for highly effective teachers. (National Council on Teacher Quality [NCTQ], 2011)

In a 1991 article on good teaching, Donald Cruickshank and Donald Haefele argued that there are many kinds of good teachers--some of them are effective at producing high levels of student performance and others are good for other reasons. Since the publication of that article, the education community has moved steadily toward the notion that good teaching is teaching that results in student achievement. A concern for teacher effectiveness largely follows the national standards and assessment movement designed to hold states, districts, schools, and teachers accountable for student performance on designated outcomes. Standards would define what every student should know and be able to do, curriculums would be designed to be aligned with the standards, and assessment would measure the extent to which students achieved the designated outcomes. Assessment of teacher effectiveness in this process naturally follows. The impetus for much of the reform in teacher evaluation has come as a result of the federal government's grant program to states known as the Race to the Top Fund. Race to the Top is part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act granting 11 states $4.35 million to reform education in their states, including a heavy emphasis on student achievement scores and accountability for student achievement (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, 2009). As a result, states, including those not part of the federal program, have been systematically changing the criteria used to evaluate teachers to include student performance scores as part of required teacher evaluation programs. According to the NCTQ (2011), 30 states now require that teachers are evaluated at least in part on objective evidence of student learning. This represents support for the idea that our education system can be improved if we evaluate teachers on their effectiveness, therefore begging the question, "what is teacher effectiveness and how is it best measured in physical education?"

TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS RESEARCH: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

The study of teacher effectiveness is not new. Medley (1979) traced the development of conceptions of teacher effectiveness up to that point as: (a) the possessor of desirable personal traits, (b) the user of effective methods, (c) the creator of a good classroom climate, (d) the master of a repertoire of competencies, and (e) the professional decision maker. Although it is not the purpose of this article to review the research on teacher effectiveness in education or physical education, it is important for the reader to have some perspective on how we have come to this point. The earliest research on teacher effectiveness in the classroom began in the 1940s with a somewhat futile search to link teacher characteristics to student learning. In 1974, Dunkin and Biddle established a model for the study of teaching and identified the constructs of teacher characteristics, student characteristics, process variables (including teacher and student behavior and characteristics), product variables, and the relationship between these constructs as primary targets for research on teaching (Dunkin & Biddle, 1974). …

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