A New Normal for Teacher Evaluation

Greg Cottrell
October 10, 2020

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on instruction. It has also had a significant impact on teacher evaluation and supervision. As teaching and learning adjusts to fit the needs of virtual and hybrid learning models, there is also a need to reconsider traditional notions with respect to teacher evaluation. Teacher evaluations are intended to provide support to ensure teachers are delivering high quality instruction and provide pathways by which teachers can improve. Evaluation models vary from state to state and district to district but they often require establishing professional goals, teacher reflection and supervisor feedback. During a traditional year of in-person instruction, there are times when the teacher evaluation process is a routine procedure of established protocols using documents and goals that are often “dusted off” and slightly modified from one year to the next. However, just like everything else in 2020, there will need to be a new normal for teacher evaluations.

There has never been a more important time to utilize an evaluation system that supports teachers than there is right now. The good news is that in many cases the regulations and systems are in place to support hybrid and virtual teachers with meaningful evaluation. They just need to be reimagined to fit the current situation. The Learnics Insight Link provides a method of collecting evidence about online teaching and learning. This evidence provides primary and quantifiable data about student online learning behaviors. Many experienced evaluators know that when doing an observation of a teacher in the classroom, the best indicators of the quality of the instruction are gained by watching what the students are doing, not what the teacher is doing. Learnics allows teachers and evaluators to collect and incorporate this student learning behavior data into teacher evaluations, goals and reflection. Through the use of Learnics Insight Link, teachers and evaluators assess student engagement by looking at which websites the students access, how long they spend on each part of the assignment and the Google Search terms that the students use.  

Data from Learnics Insight Link can be used in Student Growth Objectives (SGOs), Professional Growth Plans and Teacher Observations. It can also be used for activities such as teacher portfolio or teacher action research projects. Some states offer more flexible options of highly effective or tenured teachers. For example, New Jersey teachers who are rated as “Highly Effective” in the prior year have the option of engaging in a reflective practice protocol (RPP) as a replacement for a classroom observation. The RPP requires teachers to intentionally focus on improving one aspect of their teaching and to create a portfolio that provides evidence of this intentional reflective practice. In Pennsylvania, tenured teachers can utilize the “Differentiated Supervision” model for teacher evaluation. In this model a teacher can create a portfolio or engage in an action research project. In all of these cases information about student online learning behaviors can provide the basis for rich, authentic and effective teacher evaluation and support during hybrid, virtual or blended learning.

Below is a sample of how a teacher in Pennsylvania could utilize Learnics’ Insight Link to conduct an action research project that is aligned to the PA Differentiated Evaluation model:

 What will this self-directed action research project look like?

The Learnics team, led by Dr. Doug Lare, along with NASD administrators will work with our teachers to develop action research projects using Insight Link to collect student information. The action research projects will include professional learning community (PLC) meetings. During these meetings teachers, administrators, and Learnics team members will share, collaborate, and reflect upon students’ online learning experiences captured through Insight Link.

This self-directed action research project is a unique opportunity to collaborate with various educators within and beyond the Northampton Area School District to help improve teaching and learning in an online environment. While each teacher will need to determine their own action research project, the team of teachers, administrators, and Learnics team members will be a support throughout the entire process.

The following page includes an outline of the self-directed learning:

Why Learnics?

Learnics provides tools that allows teachers to gain critical information about student online learning behaviors.  These insights allow teachers hold students accountable, identify students in need of support and improve the design of their lessons.  With Learnics tools, teachers can answer these basic questions about the online learning experiences that they are creating.

  1. How long is it taking for students to complete the work?
  2. Are the students accessing the prescribed websites, podcasts, and videos?
  3. Do students know how to complete independent online research and if so, what resources are they using?
  4. How are students finding and using new content online?
  5. How can I hold students accountable for their virtual presence during online learning?

The goal of Learnics is to support, improve, and transform student online learning experiences. Whether the instruction is virtual, hybrid, flipped, or blended, the Learnics Insight Link (Learnicsᴵᴸ) provides teachers with feedback to support the online learning process.


Greg Cottrell is a High School Principal in New Jersey
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