Are all teacher evaluation tools made equal?

The authors investigated whether Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FFT) is a tool which encourages instruction that adequately responds to the needs of students with learning disabilities.

Key Takeaway:  This article highlights the importance of teaching skills to learners in sequences to allow for practice and reflection, consequently leading to mastery. Moreover, direct and explicit instruction allows educators to react and adapt to the individual learner’s needs as they progress through their learning journey. —Frankie Garbutt

Summary: “All teachers are evaluated using the same tool, regardless of the teacher’s role, suggesting that the instructional approach supported by one tool would meet the needs of all students,” say Hannah Morris- Matthews, Kristabel Stark and Nathan Jones (Boston University), Mary Brownell ( University of Florida) and Courtney Bell (Educational Testing Service, Princeton) in this Journal of Learning Disabilities article. The authors investigated whether Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FFT) is a tool which encourages instruction that adequately responds to the needs of students with learning disabilities. The use of observation tools, to evaluate teacher practices and identify professional development needs, can be “agnostic and universal,” thus creating the assumption that one instructional approach benefits all learners. The academics rooted their research in the Load Reduction Theory (LRI) because previous studies suggest that students with learning disabilities benefit from direct and explicit instruction. LRI practices “avoid overburdening the working memory, and facilitate productive interaction between long-term and working memory.” This is achieved through using the pillars of LRI teaching practices (intensive, explicit, systematic and individualized instruction) in order to support learners with cognitive disabilities.

The study addressed two questions: 

1. What assumptions about instructional quality are present in Danielson’s FFT? 

2. To what extent does Danielson’ FFT make practices associated with LRI visible?

The methodology of the study looked at the language of the observation tool due to its role in “defining, evaluating and developing good teaching.” Their analysis found that practices that reduce cognitive load are rare and instead favour practices which are student-driven and focused on making sense of complex content. They concluded that “observers using FFT would direct these teachers to practices that would likely serve as barriers to equitable and efficient learning opportunities.”

Nonetheless, the limitations of this study were acknowledged as it had not investigated “how FFT might operate in practice” because the analysis “does not provide insight into the ways that raters make use of the tool.” Moreover, the focus “foregrounds the needs of students whose disability influences cognitive processing,” and thus, “does not explicitly speak to the needs of all students with disabilities.” Consequently, it was suggested that further research is required into how the framework is used as a whole and not just segments of the tool. The authors suggest that future researchers “query how observers use and make sense of the rubrics to better understand the processes through which they arrive at ratings and determine directions for professional development.”

The conclusion was that FFT as an instrument “may not be an appropriate mechanism through which to support a continuum of effective instruction for students with learning disabilities and other struggling learners.” The researchers proposed to root observation tools in the cognitive load theory, recognising the need for a diverse tool box with practices that can respond to learners’ needs.

Article Summarized:

Morris-Mathews, H., Stark, K. R., Jones, N. D., Brownell, M. T., & Bell, C. A. (2020). Danielson’s Framework for Teaching: Convergence and Divergence With Conceptions of Effectiveness in Special Education. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 54(1), 66–78. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219420941804

Summary By: Frankie Garbutt- Frankie believes that the MARIO Framework encourages students to become reflective, independent learners who progress at their own rate.

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We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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