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Experts to Administrators: Evaluation Lessons from Roger Ebert

Experts to Administrators: Evaluation Lessons from Roger Ebert

When it comes to effectively evaluating teachers in their classrooms, administrators might be better off following the practices of late film critic Roger Ebert.  

Leadership experts Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers stated that Ebert's tactics were worth copying in an blog post on In the article, the duo said that blending praise with criticism was recommended by the esteemed reviewer and speaker.

"The intent, however, is to continue to improve professional performance," the writers said. "That outcome is coupled by a problem: feedback is accompanied by a value, a number, and a label. Part of evaluations may be based upon student test results which some feel are loosely connected to teacher performance, yet others believe it is directly connected."

The writers then offer four different steps administrators can take to mimic Eberts' practices. One is "evaluation as feedback."

"But here we are addressing the part of the evaluation that is done by the supervisors of teachers and principals. The qualitative process, that requires some sort of evidence, should be intended as feedback," they said. "Suggestions and comments by the supervisor can inform conversations about the nature of improving performance. There are those who believe feedback with a measure cannot be the route to improved performance and that coaching, a far more complicated process that includes confidentiality and excludes a measure, is a better route to improvement."

Both writers said that they agree that "coaching, in its proper form, is a better avenue for improvement; one that is separate from the measured and labeled outcome. However, we are mandated to observe and evaluate and label. We also have to play the hand we have been dealt."

Another portion of the article, titled "Roger Ebert as Evaluator", looks that the documentary "Life Itself." The documentary is a "multi-dimensional study of a very interesting man and his work" being Ebert.

In the documentary, the writers said, Martin Scorsese "calls his respect for Mr. Ebert and his appreciation of the fairness and skill in his reviews, even when they included a warning that Mr. Scorsese might be headed down the wrong path."

"How can we engender this respect for criticism and use it as motivation to grow as professionals?" the writers asked. "We do expect it of students. Evaluation is part of ongoing assessment of progress in all aspects of life both personally and professionally. How can we master the context in which it lives right now?"

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Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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