A Nationwide Look at Teacher Perceptions of Feedback and Evaluation Systems

Findings from the American Teacher Panel

by Andrea Prado Tuma, Laura S. Hamilton, Tiffany Tsai

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Research Questions

  1. What are teachers' perceptions about the feedback they receive?
  2. What are teachers' perceptions about the evaluation systems at their schools?
  3. What types of feedback do teachers receive, and is that feedback perceived as helpful in informing their instructional practices?
  4. Are teacher evaluation systems perceived as helpful and fair?
  5. What types of resources do teachers receive to support their participation in evaluation systems?

In recent years, state and local education leaders across the United States have revised their teacher evaluation policies and practices in an effort to enhance the quality of evaluation measures and improve instructional practices. These teacher evaluations are often based on multiple measures of performance, including classroom observations, indicators of teachers' contributions to their students' performance on standardized tests, and stakeholder surveys that measure parent and/or student beliefs about teacher practices.

We currently know little about how teachers have responded to these systems outside of a small number of districts where research on teacher evaluation has been conducted. To address this issue, this research used a nationally representative survey of educators to examine teacher perceptions about the feedback they receive and the teacher evaluation systems at their schools. Analysis provides a broad picture of the different types of feedback that teachers reported receiving during the 2015–2016 school year and whether teachers found it helpful in improving their instructional practices. The research also focuses on teacher perceptions of the data sources that informed their most recent evaluation, the perceived helpfulness and fairness of evaluation systems, and the resources that teachers reported receiving to support their participation in these systems. Most teachers reported receiving useful feedback, although majorities perceived feedback from fellow teachers and from coaches or mentors more positively than feedback from formal observations or from school leaders. Teachers in higher-poverty schools reported receiving more-frequent feedback from peers, school leaders, and coaches and mentors than teachers in lower-poverty schools.

Key Findings

  • A large majority of teachers reported receiving regular feedback that was helpful for improving their instructional practice.
  • Teachers at higher-poverty schools reported receiving feedback from peers, school leaders, and coaches or mentors more frequently than teachers in lower-poverty schools.
  • The most commonly reported component of teacher evaluation systems was classroom observation ratings.
  • The frequency of feedback and observations was positively associated with teachers' perceptions that evaluation systems improved their practice.
  • Teachers who were observed or given feedback by a peer, mentor, or coach had more-positive perceptions of teacher evaluation systems than those observed or given feedback by an administrator.
  • Teachers who believed that evaluation systems were intended to promote teacher growth and development were more likely to rate those systems as fair.
  • More than half of teachers indicated that they received sufficient resources related to formal instructional feedback and/or evaluation, while at least one-third of teachers reported receiving insufficient resources.

Recommendations

  • School and district leaders who design feedback systems should consider how much emphasis to place on the formal feedback that occurs as part of an evaluation system versus the less-formal feedback that teachers often receive from colleagues, administrators, and others, and whether increased emphasis on the former might come at the expense of the latter.
  • Practitioners and policymakers looking to improve teachers' perceptions of evaluation systems should consider providing teachers with multiple opportunities for classroom observation and feedback provision.
  • Researchers could explore the design of teacher evaluation systems that reduce the time burden on school administrators by involving teachers' peers, coaches, and mentors as both classroom observers and feedback providers.
  • Efforts to communicate clearly about the potential benefits of evaluation systems should be coordinated so that teachers receive consistent messages from central office staff, school leaders, and professional teacher organizations.
  • Practitioners and policymakers involved in the implementation of teacher evaluation systems should consider not only how to provide school leaders with sufficient resources, such as training and time to effectively carry out evaluations, but also how to provide teachers with the resources they need to participate in evaluations in a way that improves their ability to benefit from such systems.

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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