Teachers helping teachers - A proposal

Talk with other teachers, exchange tips, participate in polls regarding a teaching studio business

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:10 am

Piano and music teachers, as far as I can determine from personal experience and extensive searching of the Internet, usually have little means of getting unbiased feedback and constructive criticism on their private studio teaching. As we've discussed in another thread on Departing Student Feedback, if the teacher doesn't put students in competitions, where other knowledgeable educators and pianists can rate the abilities of students, and doesn't actively seek comments from students in a well-organized fashion, the teacher usually has almost no outside independent evaluation of his/her teaching. Here on the Forums and in e-mail sent to PEP, we have heard many stories of teachers who really need some feedback on their teaching, both positive and negative, but aren't getting it. Indeed, we often hear good teachers talk about the fact that they feel "unappreciated".

It seems to me that there is an opportunity here for music teacher organizations really to help improve teaching by carrying out half-day or day-long evaluation sessions with their member teachers. As I envision it, such evaluations would be done by a three member committee of teachers, chosen from the membership, looking at all aspects of studio operation, excepting business records and other private materials, by sitting in on a full day of lessons and evaluating the teacher's performance according to a standard set of criteria. The results of the evaluation would only be provided to the teacher and only used by the evaluated teacher to improve teaching. Evaluation committee members would be specifically enjoined from sharing information specific to the evaluated teacher with others. The music teacher organization could not use the information to "rate" teachers, nor could it provide it to others. The evaluated teacher could not use the evaluation results in advertising nor could the teacher quote the results to others. The teacher could choose to indicate to others that he/she had been evaluated by the organization, if the teacher so chose.

Every member of the music teacher's organization would be asked to serve on at least one evaluation committee, so that all members would eventually have an opportunity to offer suggestions to evaluated teachers and, also, and just as importantly, learn from the evaluated teachers. Evaluators would be strongly encouraged to be both honest and constructive in their comments. They would be given guidelines for performing the evaluation and specifically asked to share tips and expertise in their comments. Only those teachers who had granted permission to perform such an evaluation would be visited and only those would be allowed to serve on evaluation committees for other teachers. Although some teacher organizations offer "certifications", these are not similar to the evaluation I'm referring to here.

I'm interested in hearing about whether teachers think this would be a benefit to them and whether they would agree themselves to be so evaluated by their teaching peers. Would it make a difference to a student to know that a prospective teacher had allowed their teaching to be evaluated by an unbiased committee of other teachers? Should such a procedure be a part of a certification? Such evaluations would depend on the honesty and integrity of both the evaluated and the evaluating teachers, but could be very helpful to all. :)




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Postby Tranquillo » Sun Apr 27, 2008 7:48 pm

I thought it would be interesting to note that being a public school teacher, a teacher gets accredited by 3 mentor teacher watching and observing a teacher teach in different classes, therefore making an evaluation.

This procedure happens in Australian schools but I do know that there is a board that gives private music teachers accreditation and that involves filling out some sort of a form.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:57 am

Becibu wrote:I thought it would be interesting to note that being a public school teacher, a teacher gets accredited by 3 mentor teacher watching and observing a teacher teach in different classes, therefore making an evaluation.

This procedure happens in Australian schools but I do know that there is a board that gives private music teachers accreditation and that involves filling out some sort of a form.

Yes, the process is similar here in the U.S. for public school teachers, though it produces a highly variable quality of teacher here. Those music teachers who teach in public schools here get some kind of evaluation through the schools. That's the reason I limited my proposal to "private studio teaching".

I think you're probably referring to AMEB in Australia. This is the sort of certification I mentioned to open the thread, as similar certification procedures are used here by some national teachers' organizations. I don't know AMEB's procedures for certification, but, based on your description, it seems that it doesn't involve much in the way of detailed review by teaching peers.

If it wasn't clear in what I said in my initial post, the intent of the "peer review" process I've proposed is not obtaining a "certification", nor is it to "rank" teachers against one another, nor is it to point out what the teacher might be doing "wrong" (or "right"), per se. Rather, the intent is to provide a formal process, entirely voluntary in participation, in which teachers can learn from each other. Local music teacher organizations are in an ideal position to sanction such evaluations, because their members generally know each other personally and are within easy travel distance of one another.
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Postby Tranquillo » Mon Apr 28, 2008 11:00 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
Becibu wrote:I thought it would be interesting to note that being a public school teacher, a teacher gets accredited by 3 mentor teacher watching and observing a teacher teach in different classes, therefore making an evaluation.

This procedure happens in Australian schools but I do know that there is a board that gives private music teachers accreditation and that involves filling out some sort of a form.

Yes, the process is similar here in the U.S. for public school teachers, though it produces a highly variable quality of teacher here. Those music teachers who teach in public schools here get some kind of evaluation through the schools. That's the reason I limited my proposal to "private studio teaching".

I think you're probably referring to AMEB in Australia. This is the sort of certification I mentioned to open the thread, as similar certification procedures are used here by some national teachers' organizations. I don't know AMEB's procedures for certification, but, based on your description, it seems that it doesn't involve much in the way of detailed review by teaching peers.

No I wasnt reffering to AMEB, AMEB may have some sort of a way to observe teachers and give accrediatation or something like that...

I am talking about MTA - Music Teachers Association. It requires filling in some sort of a form and having proof of teaching, I dont know if it requires another teacher observing the lesson.

This idea of teacher evaluation is great, I dont know if you heard but some time ago last year there was a plan in England to pay teachers by the quality of their teaching and the parent and students were involved in making judgements on the quality of the teachers teaching. I suppose that is extreme but there has been some talk of it in Australia.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:28 am

Becibu wrote:This idea of teacher evaluation is great, I dont know if you heard but some time ago last year there was a plan in England to pay teachers by the quality of their teaching and the parent and students were involved in making judgements on the quality of the teachers teaching. I suppose that is extreme but there has been some talk of it in Australia.

Public school teacher evaluation is proposed all the time here. Indeed, it was the basis for the U.S. No Child Left Behind initiative here originally.

Of course, this doesn't have much to do with teaching in a private piano studio, which is the subject of the proposal, thankfully. I hope that one of the strengths of my proposal is that it doesn't qualify one for any certification, award or ranking. It's just intended to help teachers help themselves, and, I hope, students.




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Postby 112-1182392787 » Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:44 am

But if it already exists, why do it again in a different form? One of the things that I am concerned about is that different teachers have different styles and standards. I have been exposed to two teachers who were very knowledgeable, very individual in their approaches. They had sound reasons for what they chose based on deep knowledge and well thought through philosophies. However, both were subject to criticism by their peers who did not understand their approach and would have prefered the status quo. I would not want either of these teachers to modify their teaching based on peer review.

Might dialogue and a free exchange of ideas by a possible alternative?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:19 pm

pianissimo wrote:I would not want either of these teachers to modify their teaching based on peer review.

Might dialogue and a free exchange of ideas by a possible alternative?

Are you suggesting that it is somehow inappropriate for teachers to seek an entirely private and voluntary evaluation of their teaching by their own teaching peers, which peers are voluntarily subjecting themselves to the same examination? Are you implying that the teacher isn't knowledgeable enough to use information gained through such a process judiciously and appropriately? Or, are you suggesting that you, personally, should have final say over what the teacher teaches, as you have actually indicated, rather than the teacher taking into account her/his own situation and making voluntary changes suggested by this voluntary process? How can there be a meaningful "free exchange" of ideas if teachers don't know what other teachers are actually doing in the studio, especially if the teachers don't put students in competitions or get any other outside input?

If such a process as the one I've proposed exists, it isn't documented anyplace on the Internet that I could find by substantial searching, nor is it used by any teacher's organization of which I'm aware, nor could I find a different process similar in aim and scope in use anywhere on a regular basis. That doesn't mean such a process doesn't exist somewhere, but it's clearly neither common nor well-documented.

Key aspects of my proposal are that every part of it is both voluntary and private, as is the teacher's response to the evaluation. Both the teachers you cited would be completely free to do nothing to change any part of their teaching as a result of such an evaluation, if they deemed that appropriate. If a given teacher doesn't want any new ideas or already knows absolutely everything there is to know about teaching piano, he or she can decline to participate at all, without any negative consequences (e.g. denial of a certification) whatsoever. My proposal is all about "dialogue and a free exchange of ideas"; it simply provides a formal, organized mechanism for that to occur efficiently.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:43 pm

If you don't have a local music teacher organization to sanction and help set up such a peer review process, there is nothing to prevent two teachers from sitting down, drawing up a set of evaluation criteria and then carrying out this peer review process amongst themselves. Since the peer review process is entirely voluntary on the part of all participants, it would not need sanction, though a sanctioned process in which a substantial number of teachers took part in drawing up the review criteria might result in a bit more thorough review. :)



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Postby 112-1182392787 » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:42 pm

Changing angles - in what form would such an evaluation take place? How would one teacher be evaluated for his teaching by other teachers? Do they observe his teaching? What criteria does one use to choose the evaluators?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:50 pm

pianissimo wrote:Changing angles - in what form would such an evaluation take place? How would one teacher be evaluated for his teaching by other teachers? Do they observe his teaching? What criteria does one use to choose the evaluators?

I think I've already discussed all this, so you'll have to clarify for me, if I've missed something about the nature of your questions. I think all my posts imply that the evaluation is done in-person, observing the teacher actually teaching, as well as the actual studio environment.




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Postby 112-1182392787 » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:08 pm

Yes, I did miss part of the proposal. So the evaluating teachers are chosen from the membership. Which membership? Member of the piano teaching profession by dint of teaching piano? Member of PEP? I'm not clear on that. Who does the choosing, and based on what kind of criteria?

Next comes the evaluation itself, where the evaluator sits on lessons, assumably with the consent of the students and the student's parents. I am wondering if the lesson would still have the same character if a teacher knew there was an evaluator. Not to mention whether a student could still respond the same way to his teacher.

The evaluation follows a standard set of criteria. What kind of criteria? Standard implies that something is accepted by everybody.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:51 pm

pianissimo wrote:Yes, I did miss part of the proposal. So the evaluating teachers are chosen from the membership. Which membership? Member of the piano teaching profession by dint of teaching piano? Member of PEP? I'm not clear on that. Who does the choosing, and based on what kind of criteria?

Next comes the evaluation itself, where the evaluator sits on lessons, assumably with the consent of the students and the student's parents. I am wondering if the lesson would still have the same character if a teacher knew there was an evaluator. Not to mention whether a student could still respond the same way to his teacher.

The evaluation follows a standard set of criteria. What kind of criteria? Standard implies that something is accepted by everybody.

All of this is explained in the proposal and subsequent posts. When you have read the proposal carefully and understood it, I'll be happy to answer meaningful questions about any issues not covered in what I have written. Right now, these kinds of repetitive questions on information already covered explicitly or implicitly multiple times serve no useful purpose that I can see. I would hope that isn't your intent, given that this proposal was offered as an idea that piano teachers might use, purely voluntarily, to benefit each other. ???




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Apr 30, 2008 8:56 am

Let's talk for a moment about a few new and relatively undiscussed issues:

1) Length of time spent in the evaluation. I don't see how a meaningful evaluation could be done in much less than half a day, ideally, a full day would be best, although that would entail a bigger time commitment from the evaluators. The whole point of such a process is to see what the teacher does with a variety of students having a variety of problems/issues.

2) Nature of evaluation. For the evaluated teacher, ideally, there would be nothing to do or prepare for. It would be self-defeating for the teacher to put on a "dog-and-pony show" for the evaluators, since the evaluated teacher would learn nothing valuable by doing that and would gain nothing either. The evaluators would simply sit quietly in the back of the studio and observe, neither making comments nor offering suggestions during the evaluation. Since the evaluators are sworn to secrecy in all aspects of the proposed process, there are no privacy issues with respect to students to deal with. The original description of the process specifically excludes matters that have privacy issues (studio records, for example) connected with them from consideration during the evaluation. The evaluation is about improving teaching by sharing ideas.

3) Criteria of evaluation. I have said many times already that the teachers themselves, either collectively through a music teachers organization or by themselves, would set the criteria for evaluation by mutual consent days or weeks prior to the evaluation. Although I have a number of ideas about what the criteria might include, at least generally, I'll wait for some teachers to comment about them before I add my thoughts. Guests can post in this thread to add their ideas.

4) The peer review process. Scientific peer review is required whenever one submits a paper for publication or a proposal for grant funding. It has real consequences in the sense that a paper can be rejected for publication or a grant proposal not funded as a result of peer review. Reviewers can also demand changes in the paper or proposal. Most editors of scientific journals and books listen to the reviewers recommendations and demands.

The evaluation process proposed here for piano and music teachers is similar in spirit, but differs in about every other way: it is completely voluntary for all parties, nothing (except better teaching) is riding on the evaluation, the process is completely private (i.e. copies of the evaluations are provided only to the teacher and the evaluators), and the teacher is neither required to follow the recommendations nor allowed to publicize the results of the evaluation.

5) Being an evaluator. Evaluators must realize that, just as the teacher can't be hurt in any tangible way by the evaluation, they can't be of much help unless they are serious and honest. An "I'm OK, You're OK" approach won't help. That doesn't mean that the evaluators should be nasty or offer thoughts that aren't pertinent, but it does require that the evaluation be candid.

I hope these additional thoughts will help people who have read the proposal carefully understand the way it might work a little better. :)
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:34 pm

Dr. Zeigler, I asked my questions because you asked how students felt about knowing their teachers had participated one of these assessments. To ascertain how I would feel in order to answer that question, I was trying to get a better picture. It may be that the answers lie in the "implicit" parts and that's why I'm not getting them.

My main thoughts resided in the knowledge that for the instrument that I'm studying there are some main approaches, and then there are some relatively unknown schools that come from a different base. If a teacher from the one camp were to observe lessons of a teacher from this other context things they observed might appear wrong when in fact it fits well in the overall context of this alternate approach. I know, in fact, that there are differences in this area and a great unfamiliarity. In view of this I wonder whether an assessment should be preceded by a write-up by the teacher to be assessed outlining their teaching philosophy and approach, in order to orient the reviewing assessors before the fact so that they would understand what they were seeing. I know that for my instrument certain things would seem contrary to current prevalent pedagogical principles but make perfect sense in a context which would be unfamiliar.

To answer the question of whether it would make a difference for me as a prospective student to know that the teacher had undergone such an assessment: I would have to know who had done the assessing according to what kind of criteria. With my current teacher I know the reputation of the conservatory in which he studied and so the fact that there were professors who would have examined this teacher in the various areas of his craft. I would want to know his teaching philosophy and approach regardless of what any assessor might say, because teaching is an individual and personal undertaking. I would want to know the criteria the assessors are using in order to determine whether they are things that I, too, find important.

I would rather wait and see what teachers have to say in order to get a clearer picture. I would not be able to answer that question presently.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:31 pm

pianissimo wrote:If a teacher from the one camp were to observe lessons of a teacher from this other context things they observed might appear wrong when in fact it fits well in the overall context of this alternate approach. I know, in fact, that there are differences in this area and a great unfamiliarity. In view of this I wonder whether an assessment should be preceded by a write-up by the teacher to be assessed outlining their teaching philosophy and approach, in order to orient the reviewing assessors before the fact so that they would understand what they were seeing.

To answer the question of whether it would make a difference for me as a prospective student to know that the teacher had undergone such an assessment: I would have to know who had done the assessing according to what kind of criteria.

Once again I'm forced to point out that you need to read what has been said. If the evaluated and the evaluators agree prior to evaluation on the criteria, as I've mentioned several times, whether a teacher is in "one camp" (whatever that might mean) or another is, at most, of little importance and, more likely, completely irrelevant. If the teacher didn't agree that the criteria were appropriate, no matter what "camp" the teacher might be in, the teacher could simply refuse to participate.

Since it is the teachers who set the criteria, your comment that, "I would have to know who had done the assessing according to what kind of criteria[.]" would seem to indicate, once again, that you consider yourself more knowledgeable about the piano and about piano pedagogy than the combined wisdom of all the teachers involved in such an evaluation. Would you ask to see the CV's, publications lists and activities of the evaluators and evaluated before you could decide? Would knowing the criteria help you, in any way, as a student, to decide if the evaluated teacher might be a good one, especially in light of the fact that the teacher couldn't tell you the results of the evaluation, again according to the proposal.

To me, merely knowing that the teacher had subjected herself/himself to voluntary evaluation would suggest that the teacher cared enough about teaching to do everything he could to be the best possible teacher. That would matter to me. My personal view is that teachers are wise enough to set their own criteria. Also as I've already said, assembling that wisdom would be the purpose of setting the criteria well prior to the actual evaluation, so that they could be considered as fully as possible and agreed upon by mutual consent. If criteria were set by a sponsoring organization, the teacher would either agree to be assessed under them or voluntarily refuse assessment.




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