Reframing observation

By Rachael Gabriel
August 2018
Vol. 39 No. 4
Classroom observations and the feedback they generate have great potential to support educator development, especially when compared with other components of teacher evaluation systems. Too often, however, they are the site of missed opportunities, broken trust, and frustration. To address the priorities outlined in Race to the Top, the federal grant program initiated in 2010, teacher evaluation systems must include measures of student achievement and multiple observations for every teacher, regardless of experience level. In my work evaluating and supporting the implementation of these new-generation teacher evaluation systems, I have learned that three key challenges to observation, sewn into the very fabric of evaluation, consistently obscure learning opportunities for teachers and leaders. Overcoming these challenges requires intentionally reframing the purpose and possibility of the evaluation

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Rachael Gabriel

Rachael Gabriel ( is associate professor of literacy education at the University of Connecticut.


Gabriel, R. (2015). Not whether, but how: Asking the right questions in teacher performance assessment. Language Arts, 93(2), 120-127.

Gabriel, R. & Woulfin, S. (2017). Making teacher evaluation work: A guide for literacy teachers and leaders. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.

Gabriel, R. & Woulfin, S. (2015). Evaluating the structure and content of observation instruments. In R. Gabriel & R. Allington (Eds.), Evaluating literacy instruction: Principles and promising practices. New York, NY: Routledge.

Grossman, P., Cohen, J., & Brown, L. (2014). Understanding instructional quality in English language arts: Variations in PLATO scores by content and context. In T. Kane, K. Kerr, & R. Pianta (Eds.), Designing teacher evaluation systems: New guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project (pp. 303-331). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Measures of Effective Teaching Project. (2012). Gathering feedback for teaching combining high-quality observations with student surveys and achievement gains. Seattle, WA: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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