How to Evaluate Teacher Performance in Virtual Classrooms

by | Jan 11, 2021


How can school leaders evaluate teacher performance in virtual learning? When the COVID-19 pandemic caused school closures in the spring, most public schools were unprepared to shift to a virtual-only learning strategy quickly. We recently published an article explaining how schools can measure students’ mastery of virtual content. Nevertheless, how can principals, district administration, and other school leaders measure teachers’ performance in virtual classrooms?

What Teachers Need for Virtual Learning

In the 2011 paperStudent Satisfaction and Learning Outcomes in E-Learning,” Eom and Arbaugh identify a few key elements teachers need to promote student achievement in a virtual setting:

  • Clear goals and objectives — Whether teachers offer instruction through a physical or virtual classroom, they must provide standards-based instruction. Standards-based instruction guides students toward clear, measurable learning goals, such as learning how to perform a task or demonstrating mastery of a specific concept.
  • Engagement and facilitation skills — Eom and Arbaugh note that in “a shift to online education, the instructor’s role has become more of a facilitator than a traditional lecturer.” Teachers must work to keep students engaged in virtual learning through individualized instruction, collaborative activities with peers, systems of accountability, and consistent communication with students’ caregivers.
  • Readiness and preparedness to use technology Project Tomorrow finds that about 78% of teachers are “not very comfortable” leading students in virtual learning environments. Teachers need targeted professional development to understand best practices in virtual instruction, how to facilitate students’ learning in a virtual classroom, and how to troubleshoot technological issues with students. Schedule a free call with CSAS to learn about our evidence-based professional development solutions.

Virtual Instruction Success Indicators

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) offers a Comparison Tool for Virtual Learning to help educators and school leaders measure key indicators of strong virtual instruction. Principals and other evaluators can use this tool to help teachers identify and develop evidence-based virtual instruction strategies. Some of the indicators include:

  • Lesson structure and pacing — Students should be able to understand how the learning unit will progress, and how and when they will need to access each part of the lesson.
  • Questioning — Students should have opportunities to reflect upon what they have just learned, and ask questions through collaborative conversations with their peers and teacher.
  • Academic feedback — Students should receive timely feedback from teachers to improve their work, and know when they can expect this feedback.
  • Instructional plans — Each lesson should be well-prepared in advance of the virtual learning session. Instruction should be aligned with prescribed standards, and students should understand how their progress will be measured.
  • Environment — Students need to feel supported in their virtual classrooms. Teachers should provide adequate training to help students understand how to use virtual learning tools, share encouraging messages to keep students motivated, and house all course information in a single location with clear labels so students can easily navigate the virtual classroom.

How Virtual Classroom Observations Work

In a traditional school setting, where the majority of classes take place in a physical classroom, school leaders can conduct instructional rounds to evaluate teacher performance. Through instructional rounds, school leaders and teachers work collaboratively to improve student achievement by observing and providing feedback for one another’s instructional techniques.

Job-embedded coaching and feedback continue to be crucial for promoting student achievement, but your team may have to get creative to give teachers the feedback they need. In a recent article, EdTech highlighted Pinecrest Academy Horizon, a school that uses virtual classroom observations to support teachers’ professional development. Here is how the virtual observation process works:

  1. Before the virtual lesson, the teacher and principal (and/or other school leaders) identify goals and objectives for the instructional period.
  2. The teacher sets up a webcam that allows students and the principal to watch their instruction through a live streaming video.
  3. The teacher wears a headset so the principal can provide real-time feedback and advice during the lesson.
  4. The instructional video is recorded so the teacher and principal can debrief with one another afterward and find more opportunities for improvement. Recordings can be shared with other teachers to offer new insight and also help teachers see their improvements over time.

Keep in mind that, just like any other type of professional development, virtual classroom observations should not be a one-time occurrence. Develop a routine with your teachers and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) so every educator can receive frequent, consistent feedback on their performance.

Next Steps: Professional Development for Virtual Instruction

The Center for Student Achievement Solutions works in collaboration with your school leaders to customize professional development based on your school or district’s specific needs. We offer support for:

  • School leaders (including principals, district administrators, and state leaders)
  • Teacher performance
  • Whole school improvement

Schedule a free call with one of our expert consultants to learn more about our evidence-based professional development approach.