Designing an Effective Music Teacher Evaluation System (Part One)

By Clements-Cortès, Amy | The Canadian Music Educator, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Designing an Effective Music Teacher Evaluation System (Part One)


Clements-Cortès, Amy, The Canadian Music Educator


Peer Review Corner features articles that have been submitted for review by a panel of music educators. The jury completes a "blind" review of manuscripts, offers suggestions for revision, and the revised article is either accepted or rejected based upon consultation with the journal editor and the others on the editorial board. If you wish to submit an article for review, please send it to Dr. Lee Willingham (lwillingham@wlu.ca).

Introduction

Music education is a publically funded piece of Canadian education, and like other tax supported activities, the accountability of teaching is a topic of interest to a variety of stakeholders including: parents, school administrators, teachers, politicians and students. With such a wide variety of people interested in the results of the evaluation for their own interests and concerns, designing an effective system that satisfies all parties is challenging. Diverse audiences have unique questions and concerns they want addressed. It is particularly complicated to develop an adequate and fair evaluation system for music educators.

There are a number of tensions inherent in the evaluation of music teachers that question the underlying assumption that teacher evaluation is a positive exercise, and it may not be seen as constructive or beneficial by some parties including educators. For example, teacher evaluation can become politicized. The establishment of the "Office for Standards in Education" in the U.K. reportedly has resulted in the undermining of staff morale in such a large scale that few have confidence in their own professional judgement anymore and few can be persuaded to enter the profession. Similar issues arise in Canadian education when teachers are held accountable for standardized test results.

As a discipline, music makes high claims to provide a unique, creative learning environment where a variety of academic, social, health and self-esteem benefits may be gained. For example, there are many claims on the Coalition for Music Education in Canada website (http://musicmakesus.ca/educate/) including highlights from local newspaper articles reporting studies such as: "Music lessons get kids into college," and "Music is good for the health" both posted on April 15, 2011.

Music celebrates its ability to motivate students through different modes of learning. Music is different. Yet, a tension arises when advocates for music education argue that music should be core, or mainstream. When that goal is achieved, music teaching and learning find themselves under the scrutiny of accountability processes. Teachers are evaluated by criteria designed for other modes and disciplines.

Recognizing this assumption several questions surface: "Why would teachers, especially music teachers, impose evaluation upon themselves? What is to be gained from this experience?" Preparing for an evaluation requires considerable effort on the part of several parties, most predominately the teacher. That being said, well-designed evaluation systems may contribute to a teacher's overall continued development as an educator, role model and musician; therefore resulting in a reflexive practitioner striving to implement best teaching practices. Self assessment along with a well-designed systematic process of evaluating teaching practice in music education must, in fact, result in improved teaching and learning.

What Comprises a Teacher Evaluation System?

A teacher evaluation system is "a complete approach to the evaluation of teachers including its purpose, the rules and regulations that apply, the target group to be evaluated, the domains to be covered, the procedures and methods to be employed, the instruments to be used, the persons to be involved, and the types of reports and feedback to be provided" (Teacher evaluation kit: complete glossary, 2004). Haefele (1993) states that ultimately a teacher evaluation system should: provide constructive feedback to educators; recognize and reinforce outstanding service; provide direction for staff development practices; and unify teachers and administrators in their collective efforts to educate students. …

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