Portfolio: Teachers Take Charge of their own Professional Growth
By Roger Gagnon
For years, evaluation of teachers was a point of concern and many people including me felt that there must be a better way of enhancing professional practices. During the last 30 years, I have been part of teacher evaluation on three separate occasions, all of which produced a nice report but did very little for my professional growth. I have had experience in teacher evaluation firstly as a teacher, as a vice-principal and finally as a principal.
In the fall of 1997, my Director of Education asked if I would be interested in replacing him on the zone committee reviewing teacher evaluation. The members included the superintendent, two directors of education, the director of administration, a supervisor and a school principal.
The request that I become an active member of that committee was initiated because of my involvement in three areas: leadership development program, the R.A.R.E. growth model and the portfolio for teachers. The leadership development program is a provincial initiative which is to provide professional activities and opportunities to interested teachers who have aspirations of becoming a school administrator, a team leader or a department head. The R.A.R.E. growth model was created by educators from District 10. It is a tool that allows educators to Reflect, to Assess, to Respond, and to Evaluate their professional growth. The portfolio for teachers was the work of a group of teachers who identified different components for portfolios for teachers.
During our first meeting, after sharing similar experiences, the group decided to shift from evaluation to growth for all employees. The committee was renamed the Growth Committee.
Throughout this article I will attempt to provide information on the growth process, its implementation, feedback from employees and to review what we have planned for this school year.
Through the course of 1997-98 school year, we gathered our information and, got feedback from teachers and the support staff. We also developed a parallel growth program for support staff. By the Spring of 1998, we has developed a model that we would introduce to all employees in the fall of 1998. Everyone of us has to identify one to three professional goals, with strategies and indicators of success. These goals would be articulated to one's immediate supervisor on or before the 30th of November. A follow-up meeting in the Spring would be held to review the success of the plan, accompanied by the feedback on one's professional development activities and some evidence of student learning that was a result of the goals initiated in the Fall or as a result of a very good job performance.
Documentation related to the growth process is to be kept in a portfolio. Also in this portfolio, employees may want to document many other aspects of their professional or their personal lives. Initially we in-serviced the principals on how to conference employees regarding the growth process.
The implementation of the growth process is not immediate but done over time constantly going back to employees for feedback. In the Spring of 1999 we went back to all employees with five questions:
- Did you feel that setting goals for yourself helped you grow professionally?
- Did you share your goals with your immediate supervisor individually or as part of a team, grade level or as a staff and was this a positive experience for you?
- What impact did the growth process have on your professional activities?
- How comfortable are you with the growth process?
- What changes can be made to improve the growth process?
Based on the feedback received from close to 800 teachers, the following information has been shared with all of our teachers:
1. 92% of teachers responded that setting goals for themselves helped them grow professionally. It gave direction and provided important feedback. It allowed teachers to reflect and to share with fellow teachers. To have things in writing makes it more concrete. There is more focus on attaining one's goals which results in more professional activities.
2. 69% of teachers reviewed their growth plans with their immediate supervisor individually and 30% shared their plans as part of a team. 89% of teachers indicated that this exercise was positive. They used words like receptive, encouraging, supportive, non-judgmental, interesting. However some teachers expressed concerns with time, follow-up, and sharing
3. As far as the growth process having an impact on professional development activities, teachers responded that there was a greater awareness of personal goals, professional development activities, self reflection and sharing. They were better at organizing documentation. 195 teachers stated that they would have done professional development regardless of the growth process.
4. 89% of teachers said that they were somewhat, comfortable or very comfortable with the growth process.
5. On how to improve the process, teachers identified five areas:
a) That more opportunity to share goals and progress on goals be provided.
b) That the goal-setting process be clarified, with a clearer connection to student learning.
c) That enhanced professional development opportunities which were provided during the first year be maintained.
d) That there needs to be continuing focus on conferencing techniques.
e) That more attention be paid to the needs of specific groups.
After one year of implementation we are very encouraged by the feedback provided by our employees. They are still saying that this process is much better than the old evaluation process. It has to be stated that we still require formal evaluation for our beginning teachers and for those teachers who have shown deficiencies in classroom environment, instruction, planning and preparation on professional conduct and practices. With these teachers it is our goal to engage them in the growth process or to get them back into the growth process as soon as possible.
The next two years will tell us if we are on the right track and from all indications we are. It is a growing process and over time it will become the norm for everyone. Our plan this year is to fine tune the process with emphasis on in-servicing employees on goal setting, in-servicing administrators on conferencing techniques and asking all employees to have the growth process as an agenda item throughout the school year.
About the Author
Roger Gagnon is a native north-western New Brunswicker with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education completing his thirtieth year in education. He has taught students from grades five to twelve concentrating on French Immersion and Core French. He has been a Department Head, a Vice-Principal, a Principal and he is presently a School Supervisor responsible for French, Middle Level, the Growth Process, Leadership Development, the Beginning Teacher Induction Program and Staff Development in District 10, St .Stephen, New Brunswick.
Réflexions - February/février 2000 Vol. 19 No. 1