Effective Practices : Human Resources
Human Resources Section 5
1. What sort of evaluation processes do Waldorf schools employ for teaching personnel?
2. How often do evaluations take place?
3. Which body oversees the evaluation process for the school?
4. Is a similar review process used for administrative personnel?
5. Are these evaluation processes effective in ensuring that individual strengths and contributions are celebrated and development needs identified? What aspects of the process make this possible?
6. What are the key underlying philosophies that inform the policies and practices in this area?
What sort of evaluation processes do Waldorf schools employ for teaching personnel?
The AWSNA shared principles state, in part, that “there are clear, established procedures for recruiting, screening, interviewing, hiring, supporting, evaluating and dismissing personnel” and that “every teacher and staff member will participate in a fair and regular form of evaluation” (See: AWSNA Shared Principles) While it is clear that Waldorf schools share a commitment to fair and regular evaluation, the ways in which those evaluations take place vary from school to school.
One approach that is gaining wide acceptance is a combination of self-review and a 360-degree evaluation. In this approach a colleague meets with the personnel/faculty development committee and his faculty sponsor/buddy. Working together they select a group of 8 to 10 individuals to serve as evaluators. The personnel/faculty development committee then asks these people to participate in the evaluation, asking one or more of the evaluators to observe in the classroom as well. The evaluation team is usually comprised of colleagues from the teaching faculty and administration, but parents have been asked to serve at times. Evaluators are chosen based on their ability to give meaningful and honest feedback.
The person being evaluated and the circle of evaluators are given an evaluation tool to complete. One version of an evaluation tool rates teachers from one to five in a variety of areas. (See: Evaluation Forms and Process) The individual evaluations are completed and forwarded to the personnel/faculty development committee. The committee collates the responses by the evaluators and consolidates the information. A comparison is done of the self-evaluation with the feedback received from the evaluation circle, and differences are noted. The committee then meets with the individual and shares the results. A personal development plan will come out of the review. An overview of the evaluations is presented to the College. Detailed reports are not made to the College unless there is serious follow-up required. A copy of the summary document is placed in the colleague’s file.
Another approach used in some schools has an experienced individual from outside of the school community conduct the evaluations. In these schools an insider may conduct evaluations for fellow teachers if there are no known major concerns, if an appropriate person is available to do the evaluation without it creating awkwardness between colleagues around the review.
The outside evaluator sees the class two days in a row, then meets with the person being evaluated and provides feedback. The evaluator asks the teacher to write up the notes of their conversation to ensure that the message of the evaluator has been heard. These notes are given to the evaluator for editing, and given to the personnel/faculty development committee. The evaluator also meets with the personnel/faculty development committee and shares the feedback with the members.
Even in the case where outside evaluators are used to examine classroom work a form of 360-degree evaluation takes place. A group of faculty and staff members are asked to provide feedback on collegial and community issues. The committee summarizes these comments. The committee then meets with the person being evaluated and shares the information from the outside reviewer and the internal evaluation forms. Together they agree on a professional development plan that addresses the concerns raised in the review. Again appropriate documentation is placed in the colleague’s file.
In addition to these evaluations many schools use “peer buddies” to provide a safe space for ongoing conversation, feedback and development. Typically the College will assign a peer buddy to each faculty member. New employees or those that need extra support are assigned a mentor instead of a peer buddy. Peer buddies are used primarily to enhance colleagueship, and many schools view peer advising and mentoring as a strictly confidential relationship. Peer advisors can be given the responsibility, however, to alert the faculty development committee or recommend an objective evaluation if there is something of concern. (See: Criteria for a Healthy Classroom) (See: Characteristics of the Mentoring Process) Teachers are obligated to meet with their peer buddies at least twice a month. They speak about curriculum and other issues on the mind of the teacher. The peer buddies are also required to do two classroom observations a year, and to prepare written notes of those visits. The buddies also do a mutual mid-year review of each other. A simple report of this review is submitted to the faculty development committee in February. In years where the teacher is scheduled for a full evaluation the number of classroom visits by the peer buddy may be reduced to one.
Questions for Further Consideration
- Is the evaluation procedure clearly defined and documented in your school?
- Are you clear about the roles and responsibilities of mentors? Evaluators?
- Do you budget for outside evaluators? Mentors?
- If your school is not of a size to structure evaluations this way, who is responsible for this vital function? Is your current procedure documented?
How often do evaluations take place?
Many schools evaluate their teachers in the 1st, 4th, and 7th year of a colleague’s tenure. If a colleague returns after completing 8 years of teaching then the review cycle begins again. Other schools choose to evaluate a little more often with evaluations taking place in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th years of service.
Which body oversees the evaluation process for the school?
In most mature schools it is the personnel/faculty development committee that oversees the evaluation process. This committee is mandated by the College of Teachers and authorized to work on behalf of the College.
One school spoke clearly about the capacities which faculty development committee members should possess:
- The ability to be supportive and really care about the transformation of others,
- The ability to say something hard to someone in a clear, tactful way, and
- The ability to recognize when it is time to call it quits with a colleague whose performance is not reaching the requirements of the position. (See: Section 6 Complaints, Corrective Processes and Termination)
It is not always possible for each member to possess all of these capacities, so an effort must be made to be sure that as a group all of the above skills are adequately represented.
In some schools the faculty chair serves as a key member of this committee. In those schools the faculty chair position is primarily administrative with only about 20% of the work load being done as a teacher, allowing the faculty chair to provide real leadership and do the necessary follow up in a timely way.
Questions for Further Consideration
- How are colleagues chosen for this committee? Do they have terms?
- Does this committee have the authority to initiate termination processes? Who does?
- Is the person or group responsible for this activity supported so that this it is a high priority?
Is a similar review process used for administrative personnel?
In most schools a similar process is used for administrative staff, although the faculty development committee is not usually involved. Often schools choose to make staff evaluations the responsibility of an administrative oversight committee. Goals and objectives for the coming period are set for each person and agreed to by the AOC. (See: Evaluation Goals and Objectives) At the time for evaluation the person being reviewed will propose a review panel of 8 to 10 members, and a process similar to the one described above for teachers takes place.
The reason that schools have assigned the responsibility for overseeing administrative reviews to an administrative committee rather than the faculty development committee is that a different kind of expertise is required for successful performance as a staff member. In many cases teachers do not possess the necessary skills to properly evaluate and consolidate the reviews of an administrative staff member, although teachers are certainly included in the circle of 8 to 10 evaluators.
There seems to be general consensus that evaluations of administrative staff need to occur on a frequent basis. Often times a first evaluation is done after three months on the job, and then done as often as once a year thereafter.
Questions for Further Consideration
- Is there adequate administrative staff for your school size? (See: Staff/student Ratio)
- Is there clear understanding among all parties as to the need for confidentiality in this process?
- Is there clear understanding among all parties as to where this information is collected, and to whom reported?
- Does the school work to define the qualities and characteristics of an evaluation? I.e. “What is being evaluated?” (See: Evaluation Goals and Objectives)
Are these evaluation processes effective in ensuring that individual strengths and contributions are celebrated and development needs identified? What aspects of the process make this possible?
The professional development plans that come out of the evaluations do a good job of identifying an individual’s areas of opportunity for growth and providing support to ensure success. The meeting between the faculty development committee and the person being evaluated can also be a good opportunity to commend and recognize real strengths and contributions, allowing someone to feel recognized in all aspects of his or her work. A good evaluation process both acknowledges what is working well and identifies ways in which the school and individual can work together to strengthen areas of difficulty.
Having the right individuals on the faculty development committee is a key to making this work happen well. A regular rhythm to the review process makes it manageable for the school and predictable for all colleagues. The belief by members of the committee in the ability of individuals to transform is an important key to the success of an evaluation program. Colleagues must have a living experience of this commitment; it cannot be only lip service.
What are the key underlying philosophies that inform the policies and practices in this area?
The environment that the faculty development committee hopes to create for the evaluation process is one where the living question is, “How can we be helpful?” The gesture is proactive, and the hope is that people will feel comfortable coming to the committee with a concern or problem early on. Again, the belief in the possibility of personal transformation is of paramount importance.
The purpose of the evaluation must be well defined and clearly understood by both those receiving it and those doing it.
Reviews must be done, and done regularly. They should be completed in a short period of time, with clear guidelines on when the forms are going out, when they are due back, and when the person being evaluated will hear the results.
For an evaluation program to work it must build colleagueship. The more people share with each other the richer everyone’s work is.
The school must continue to ask itself, “Are we professional? Do we have a clear review process? Do we have a good process that makes the concerns clear and creates a good follow up plan?” A quality review program must encourage self-transformation, and also be able to draw a line if the school cannot support this change process in a healthy way.