Online classes provide the opportunity to evaluate teachers with detailed scrutiny. Special challenges related to administrative expertise, evaluation techniques, and data privacy need to be considered and addressed in policy to ensure supportive evaluation, clear understanding, and responsive professional development.
What makes a good online teacher? iNACOL has developed research-based standards that answer this question. The National Standards for Quality Online Teaching4 includes thirteen standards, each with two to fifteen specific criteria. Program teams will want to review these comprehensive criteria and identify those that are – and are not – germane to their particular situation.
In traditional classrooms, direct observation generally consists of an administrator visiting a classroom a few times per year. Sometimes a pre-conference and post-conference are included in these snapshots.
In an online environment, the vast majority of teacher and student work is in writing and archived in the learning management system. Administrators can review the daily work of a teacher and its impact on students in great detail as often and as thoroughly as they wish.
Additionally, the roles of the curriculum and the teacher in online courses can look quite different from the face-to-face classroom. Without traditional class periods, pre and post conferences may not be as useful or may have different purposes.
Because online curriculum is designed very differently than textbooks, even lesson planning does not look the same. This can make it difficult for administrators trained in traditional systems to fully appreciate what they are seeing and thus to be effective evaluators.
A teacher’s self-evaluation can also be a very effective and important part of the evaluation process. Whether used to evaluate the same criteria as the supervisor’s evaluation or a narrower set of criteria, encouraging teacher reflection in a safe environment does more than address the actual evaluation content. It can also reveal different perspectives on effective teaching and be used as a tool to build professional learning communities.
Policies should answer the following questions:
- What team will be involved in reviewing the National Standards for Quality Online Teaching5 for local customization?
- Will other standards such as the National Education Technology Standards (NETS) from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) be included? Are there state standards for teachers that will be included?
- What training and experience must administrators have prior to evaluating online teachers?
- What will be the limits, if any, on an administrator’s ability to review online interactions?
- Will you define any areas of the courses that are off limits for administrators to use for evaluative purposes?
- Will phone logs, external emails or other evidence from outside the learning management system be included in the evaluation process?
- What role will a teacher’s self-evaluation play in the overall evaluation process?