Hi there! My name is Leigh M. Tolley, and I am an Assistant Professor of Secondary Education in the College of Education & Human Development at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I am also Program Co-Coordinator, along with Dr. Peter Sheppard, Associate Dean of Research & Strategic Initiatives, and Mrs. Marlene Beard, Interim Director of the Office of Teacher Clinical Experiences, of the UL Lafayette Mentor Teacher Training Program. I was fortunate to share ongoing work with the program at Evaluation 2022 with Dr. Elizabeth A. Grossie, our former Graduate Research Assistant.
The UL Lafayette Mentor Teacher Training Program began in Fall 2019 and is currently in Cohort V with plans to start Cohort VI this summer. We work with teachers across Louisiana to support them in earning the state’s Mentor Teacher credentials through an entirely online program involving synchronous trainings, “Coaching Days,” and asynchronous modules. The heart of our program—in every sense of the word—is our team of Mentor Teacher Coaches: Mrs. Ellen Bayless, Mrs. Molly Bourque, Mrs. Kiana Girouard, Ms. Gladys Mouton, Mrs. Kara Rutherford, Ms. Shana Sampia, Mr. Donavan Cade Soileau, Mrs. Christy Taylor, and Mrs. Heidi Zerangue. Our Coaches are all educators who have earned their own Mentor Teacher credentials, and they are the lead facilitators for our training. Today, we are sharing strategies for actionable feedback from our program that also can apply to educational evaluation.
Hot Tip: Use a Shared Vocabulary. In a professional development setting, having a shared understanding of what is being discussed is critical. Work with your schools, students, teachers, administrators, and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that everyone is on the same page in what is meant by important terms and concepts.
Hot Tip: Know What Works. SMART goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (or Relevant), and Timely are an important tool in helping teachers in setting targets and later determining how well they were met. Consider using these and other education-specific strategies when evaluating in classroom and school settings.
Hot Tip: Be Constructive. Very often, feedback and evaluation are viewed as negative and critical, rather than as ways for identifying what is going well and what can be improved. Be mindful of how information is being presented in educational evaluation by being straightforward and providing specific examples of what was observed. In addition, work with the individuals that are part of the evaluation to listen to their perspectives, and address their needs in your design and findings.
Hot Tip: Use Rubrics for Evaluation and Feedback. Rubrics, such as Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, are frequently used to evaluate teachers in practice as well as those who are in teacher preparation programs. Learn which rubrics are used by the systems in which you are working, and incorporate those into your evaluation. It is much easier to provide actionable, specific feedback using the language in the rubric, which in turn helps keep the conversation constructive, rather than critical.
Hot Tip: Have a Structured System. Consistent documentation of feedback, goals, and expectations makes actionable feedback run as smoothly as possible when working with teachers. What systems are currently in place with the schools and districts you are evaluating? What processes do you plan to use as part of your partnership within these contexts? Having a clear system that is understood by all stakeholders in the evaluation—especially if it incorporates ongoing practices—will lead to more possibilities for buy-in throughout the evaluation and increased potential for use of the evaluation’s findings.
This work is supported by the Louisiana Board of Regents through the Board of Regents Support Fund, Contract LEQSF(2021-22)-ENH-DE-29.
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