How to Evaluate Your ESL Teachers Like a Pro

Posted by Bridget Manley on Sep 24, 2018 7:02:00 PM

Ineffective teachers come with a hefty price tag. Research suggests that spending a single year with an egregiously underperforming teacher can cost a student as much as $1.4 million in lost lifetime earnings. They can also cause even the best-run ESL schools to lose valuable clients and credibility. A well-developed teacher evaluation plan, then, is essential for protecting both your students and your business.

 esl teacher training

Teacher evaluations are difficult to perform, and few principals are unequipped to execute them skillfully. But, have no fear. We’ll show you the resources and tools you’ll need to assess your teachers with confidence and improve your school management. Today, you’ll discover: 

  • The skills and qualities to look for in top-notch ESL teachers,

  • How to give your evaluation program focus and purpose,

  • The tools you can use to assess your teachers, and

  • Common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Measures of Teacher Effectiveness

Just as you wouldn’t start a journey without a destination, neither should you attempt to craft a teacher evaluation program without first identifying what excellent teaching looks like.

According to the research of Goe, Bell and Little, all effective teachers share five characteristics:

  • They are committed to helping all students learn and hold them to high expectations.

  • They contribute to students’ academic, social and attitudinal development.

  • They create engaging lessons, constantly monitor student achievement, adapt instruction to students’ needs and assess learning using multiple data sources.

  • They contribute to a school atmosphere that values diversity and civic-mindedness.

  • They collaborate effectively with stakeholders to support all students, particularly those with special learning needs or who are at high risk for failure.

 In addition to possessing these characteristics, highly effective ESL teachers share other, more specialized skills. These include the use of effective teaching strategies, like using Total Physical Response (TPR) and cloze reading, to engage students’ attention and enrich comprehension. They’re adept at using elaboration and association to boost students’ vocabulary retention. They’re mindful of the distinctive needs of ESL learners, and they speak with the appropriate speed and clarity.

Finally, highly effective ESL teachers recognize and respect the influence that culture has on students’ learning. They understand that because culture is a defining influence on how students’ perceive and understand the world, it will also influence how they learn.

Purpose and Focus: The Roadmap to Excellence

If defining teacher excellence is the destination of your journey, then establishing the purpose and focus of your evaluation program is your roadmap. Start by identifying how you plan to use the evaluation results. This will help you identify whether you’re conducting a formative or summative assessment program.

Formative assessments are low-stakes evaluations designed to help teachers improve their skills. They provide teachers with feedback on areas of strength and weakness, but the results don’t inform personnel decisions. When a mentor teacher observes their protege’s class and offers constructive feedback, they’re conducting a formative evaluation.

Summative assessments identify whether teachers are meeting your school’s objectives. Unlike formative assessments, these evaluations are often used when making decisions about employment and compensation. Quarterly teacher performance evaluations are a common type of summative assessments performed in most schools.

The type of assessment you use will be a major factor in determining the timing and regularity of your evaluations. Formative assessments work best when conducted on a frequent but informal basis. Summative assessments, by contrast, occur less frequently but on a more regular schedule.

Next, identify which outcomes are most crucial to your school’s objectives. Are you looking to improve student retention, or are you more concerned with helping students secure job opportunities overseas? The answers to these questions will help you pinpoint the skills and behaviors that teachers need to have to help you reach these goals.

The Evaluator’s Toolkit

Once you’ve clarified your purpose and areas of focus, your next task is to choose the evaluation tools that are best suited to measure your target outcomes. Classroom observations, student feedback, classroom artifacts, teacher self-reporting and measures of student progress all yield different insights into the classroom. Read on to learn more about each one.

esl teacher evaluation toolkit

Teacher Observations

Classroom observations offer a glimpse into the day-to-day instructional decisions that shape the classroom environment and impact student learning. They’re also highly adaptable. You can conduct them formally or informally. They can serve as either formative or summative assessments. You can purchase observation instruments or create your own.

One of the most common classroom observation protocols is Charlotte Danielson’s Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching. This tool establishes a rubric for evaluating teacher proficiency in four key domains: Planning and preparation; the classroom environment; instruction; and professional responsibilities.

 Use classroom observations to:

  • Help teachers identify and improve areas of weakness

  • Determine whether teachers are meeting performance expectations

  • Identify what type of support a struggling teacher might need

  • Gather data for making decisions about contract renewals and pay raises

Student feedback

One study found that student ratings of teacher effectiveness were better predictors of student achievement than the ratings given by principals or teachers themselves. When combined with other performance measures, student feedback can be a powerful tool for assessing teacher performance.

A simple questionnaire that asks students to rate their teachers on a five-point system can yield valuable data. Be sure to tailor the questions specifically to the desired outcomes you’re measuring. If you want to evaluate teachers’ ability to create a welcoming classroom environment, for example, be sure to include questions that reveal whether teachers demonstrate respect and caring for their students.

Use student feedback to:

  • Pinpoint how students and parents perceive a teacher’s effectiveness

  • Determine whether a teacher is meeting performance standards

  • Identify what type of support a struggling teacher might need

Classroom Artifacts

Lesson plans, assessments, English grammar exercises and other classroom materials all reflect the effectiveness of the teacher who created them. They’re also a convenient and cost-effective method of gathering data. Since teachers have already prepared these materials for class, they’re less taxing for teachers to produce, and they’re less expensive than a pre-made classroom observation tool.

When analyzing artifacts from an ESL classroom, keep these key questions in mind:

  • Are the materials designed to help learners reach their academic and personal goals?

  • Are they culturally sensitive and relevant?

  • Do they include authentic materials that appeal to students’ interests and experience?

Use classroom artifacts to:

  • Help teachers identify and improve areas of weakness

  • Determine whether teachers are meeting performance expectations

  • Identify what type of support a struggling teacher might need

Teacher Self-Reporting

Self-reporting tools — which include teacher interviews, instructional logs and surveys — are an excellent tool for formative assessments. They provide insight into the beliefs, values and thought processes that inform a teacher’s decisions. They prompt teachers to practice metacognitive skills like reflecting on and assessing their own performance, which allows them to explore the limits of their abilities and find ways to improve.

However, self-reporting is more prone to bias than most other evaluation methods, so use this data source wisely. Make sure that all survey submissions are strictly anonymous so respondents feel comfortable giving honest answers. Also be sure that the terminology used in self-reporting tools are clear to both the teachers and their raters. Use a reliable and valid protocol when interviewing teachers to ensure you gather the information that’s most relevant to your purpose.

Use teacher self-reporting to:

  • Identify what type of support a struggling teacher might need

  • Determine what professional development opportunities would best benefit individual teachers or instructional teams

  • Evaluate a teacher’s ability to collaborate with peers to support at-risk students

Measures of Student Progress

 What is the student retention rate for your classes? What does the attendance rate look like? Most importantly, how are your students performing? The answers give you valuable data that you can use for evaluating your teachers. The built-in reporting tools available through Your Agora give you vital insights into student achievement. This data will help you differentiate between teachers who are excelling and those who are struggling.

Use measures of student progress to:

  • Determine if instructional teams are meeting school achievement goals

  • Identify if a teacher’s students are meeting expectations for academic growth

Mistakes to Avoid

Evaluating teachers comes with a litany of potential pitfalls. Steer clear of these blunders to protect the sustainability and credibility of your evaluation program.

esl teacher training

Relying on a single evaluation tool

Taken by themselves, tools like classroom observations and student test scores can offer a window into what makes an effective teacher. But, these tools are validated for measuring only one aspect of effective teaching. A highly effective teacher draws from a broad spectrum of skills and behaviors, and no single evaluation tool can effectively measure them all.

Avoid the temptation to rely solely on test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Instead, gather data from a broader range of sources to ensure you’re seeing the whole picture.

Not using tools for their intended purposes

Teacher evaluation tools are finely calibrated instruments designed to measure a specific outcome. When used incorrectly, they produce incomplete and inaccurate results. Always be sure that the tool you’re using is specially designed to measure the outcomes you’re looking for.

Using untrained evaluators

You may be the expert on your school’s academic goals and needs. But, are you a trained evaluator? If not, proceed with caution. The quality of your evaluation results relies heavily on the expertise of the person administering the evaluation. This is particularly true when conducting classroom observations.

If you plan to conduct evaluations in-house, include evaluator training into your program. Otherwise, defer to the experts and hire an outside firm to conduct the evaluations for you.

Bringing ‘baggage’ into the observation

If you choose to observe your own teachers, be mindful of preconceived notions that can skew your perception. Your natural preference for your own teaching style, as well as your opinion of the teacher themselves, can bias their judgement. Rod Bolitho, of the Norwich Institute for Language Education, recommends using these techniques to help keep you check your "baggage" before a teacher observation:

  • Consciously put aside thoughts of what you would do if you were the teacher.

  • Set up a pre-observation meeting with the teacher so you can get their perspective on the classroom. This will allow you to develop a better understanding of what their objectives are.

  • Cultivate curiosity and open-mindedness. Remind yourself that there's more than one way to be an effective teacher.

  • Clear your mind of any noise that might degrade your attention. You don’t want the lingering effects of a stressful project or a bad commute to distract you while you’re in the classroom.

It takes significant skill and planning to evaluate ESL teachers effectively. But, with the right knowledge and preparation, you can create a state-of-the-art teacher evaluation program that supports student learning and positions your school for long-term success.


Evaluating teachers can be difficult, but Your Agora makes it easier. Use its advanced reporting capabilities to easily gather data about the metrics that matter most to your school. Teachers can create and share ESL lesson plans with its user-friendly interface, which takes the headache out of creating and collecting classroom artifacts. Propel your school to the front of the pack and sign up for Your Agora today.

 

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