Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Rethinking Faculty Evaluation and Professional Growth

Full disclosure.... using this post to process an idea.  So if you are inclined to discuss - feel free to comment.  If you work with me  - don't panic.  My ruminations below are all in the idea stage!

Here we go :-)

Our current faculty evaluation system here in Indianapolis is about 10 years old.  In true Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) fashion, the time has arrived to move into the evaluation stage. Is the process serving faculty needs?  Is the process encouraging the kind of growth we anticipated?   To give you content, our current evaluation program looks like this:

This model is built on the foundations of Marzano, Downey, Wiggins and McTighe.  Through a series of standards and indicators, evaluating administrators and faculty discuss successes and failures in the classroom... culminating in a year end meeting.  Evaluating the process, we find a weakness in meeting needs of new and experienced faculty - both who are lumped in same process.  We find that formal observations and informal walkthroughs work well for early career teachers who are new to our methods and expectations.  The indicators and focused discussion builds a foundation for them.  However, we are not seeing the growth process with mid-career faculty.  Veteran faculty quite frankly know the elements of day-to-day teaching but do not feel challenged to really innovate. In an nutshell, our challenge has become less one of evaluation (Are you doing your job?) and more one of professional growth (How can you better develop your craft?).

As Jesuit educators we a challenged by the 1st Principle and Foundation “…we show reverence for all the gifts of creation and collaborate with God in using them so that by being good stewards we develop as loving persons in our care of God’s world and its development…”  As a public school educator I might have translated this to say “My gifts and interests are meant to be shared and I choose to share with my students so they can grow and care for the world.”  However you interpret – a challenge as an educator is to recognize and articulate professional gifts and limitations.  Once gifts and limitations are articulated, then a professional begins to desire opportunities for growth.  

Great, Jen… but what does this have to do with faculty evaluations in schools??

What if we separate evaluation from growth in our processes?  This is not all my idea… The IndependentSchool Management firm thinks the idea of separating is possible and even preferred. Taking a page from higher education tenure processes - what if we ask the deeper questions regarding life as a scholar?  Can I as faculty articulate my identity as a scholar?  What do I offer to my department/university that is unique to my gifts?  I strongly feel we should be having this conversation in K-12 to focus on growth rather than simple evaluation.

Taking this idea into my school context,  we create an evaluation around the Profile of an Education Educator plus some basic professional expectations to create an evaluation to quickly communicate “meets/does not meet” expectations for employment in our schools.  (For those wondering, Brebeuf Jesuit operates with year-to-year at-will employment agreements).  Maybe it could look like this:

Meeting expectations communicates that a faculty member has a job next year
(barring anything unexpected with enrollment and finances).  With evaluation out of the way, then faculty and supporting administrators could focus on the real work necessary for improving our learning experiences – professional growth.  Setting goals that stretch teaching methods, innovate assessment and just plain energize the classroom away from the fear of “will I have a job if this fails?” So, instead of checking the "do you lesson plan effectively" indicator, I am asking:

  • What is your personal identity and mission as an educator?
  • Why do you hold these values?
  • How do you values support the mission of Brebeuf Jesuit as we develop students God-given talents as a responsibility and act of worship?
  • How do you express your mission within your department?
  • What do you need to bring these desires into the classroom?

Diving into the questions above through a process of self-reflection, dialogue and action might lead to deeper professional growth.  Growth that would encourage my desire that all our faculty discover the classroom as a place of awe and wonder and not just a paycheck.