Evaluating teaching quality

Colin Penfold

Teaching quality is fundamental to educational outcomes and education reform around the world. In the face of a worldwide learning crisis, effective responses will depend on ensuring high quality teaching on a global scale. Measurement and evaluation of teaching quality is therefore hugely important: any attempts to transform the quality of teaching that children receive are dependent on accurate measurement of that quality.

Education Development Trust has been keen to promote an inclusive dialogue on this important topic. It is, by all accounts, a complex and nuanced issue, not least because there are huge contextual differences in the countries in which we work. We therefore partnered with the University of Oxford’s Department of Education to organise a successful and intellectually stimulating symposium on the topic of teaching quality evaluation.

The event, which was held in Oxford, brought together a diverse range of professionals and experts in education to identify and debate the key challenges in the evaluation of teaching quality worldwide. It considered a range of issues: from the role of pedagogy and subject-specific tools in assessing educational quality, to the value and validity of strictly time-limited snapshot observations or of evaluations conducted by non-experts. Moreover, in line with Education Development Trust’s specialist expertise in teacher development, participants debated the use of teaching evaluations in teachers’ development processes, and whether such evaluations could be meaningfully used for professional development. Participants also considered teachers’ contexts, experiences, knowledge and beliefs, and the role that these factors may have in generalised assessments of teaching quality.  

Each of these significant challenges poses various questions, especially around accountability, effectiveness, and the impact that they will have on teachers – both in terms of their assessment performance and their overall efficacy and wellbeing. Our summary of the event provides insights into this helpful discussion, the key challenges, and important nuances that should be considered. Such insights will be important as policymakers continue to face decisions about the methods, criteria and practicalities used to evaluate teaching quality in their school systems, and as researchers seek to expand the current knowledge base on the subject. We hope to continue this dialogue in the coming years, to ensure that evaluations lead to higher quality teaching for all.