How to evaluate an ESL teacher

teacher image by Twilight Dragon from

ESL teachers are responsible for teaching students who are studying English as a Second Language and helping them to develop their language skills.

An ideal ESL classroom will be one in which students feel comfortable, are engaged in a variety of effective and stimulating activities and are held accountable for making progress in English. ESL teachers must teach listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing---prioritised in that order. A good teacher will have students who are making progress and who enjoy coming to the ESL program.

Talk to the ESL teacher about programmatic expectations well before the evaluation. Explain exactly what you will be looking for, so the teacher can work to meet your expectations. Expectations should be tailored to meet the specific needs of language learners. For example, an ESL teacher should have a way to assess oral language skills, provide a variety of activities to stimulate oral and written English and make reading materials available at the students' level of English proficiency. A teacher evaluation should never be a "surprise," but rather part of an ongoing process of mutual feedback. Teachers always should be involved in the evaluation process, rather than being passive participants.

Include student program participation and progress as part of the evaluation. Look at student attendance. An ESL teacher should show that she recognises possible cultural barriers to attendance and take measures to stop attendance problems before they become chronic. The teacher should be in contact with parents, using an interpreter if necessary.

The evaluator also should consider how quickly students are progressing toward the next level of ESL. Data such as the number of years individual students have been in the ESL program can be considered. Do not include grades, as grades are too subjective to be a reliable measure of success.

Evaluate the effectiveness of the materials that the ESL teacher uses to support her lesson. Materials should be relevant to the ESL student's cultural needs, including the need to assimilate in their new country. Materials also should be engaging and specifically designed for ESL students. Appropriate materials for an ESL classroom include readings about current events taking place in students' home countries as well as practical items that will make students' lives in the United States easier once they are familiar with them--job applications and bus schedules are materials that many second language learning lessons can be built around.

Observe the teacher while she is teaching. Note whether or not she uses clear, comprehensible English when communicating with her students. Notice if students appear to be engaged in the lesson---language learning is limited when ESL students are forced to be passive learners. The ESL teacher should use a variety of techniques, including cooperative learning; Total Physical Response (TPR) during which students respond physically to verbal commands; and cloze (fill-in-the-blank) activities which require the student to complete a dictation with the missing words. A teacher's written English should be printed neatly so that students for whom ESL is their first written language can understand.

Incorporate teacher self-evaluation into the evaluation process. Teachers can videotape themselves teaching a class for the most objective evaluation, and afterward, view the tape to see if their voice is clear and the language is comprehensible to students, as comprehensible input should be used at all times. Teachers also can use a videotape to observe the behaviour of students, which is affected by the teacher's performance. An ESL teacher should make certain that all students are working to develop their oral proficiency and that students are not depending on other, more proficient students to speak for them. Checklists are also useful, as they can help the teacher to reflect on their language teaching strategies and their effectiveness. Encourage the teacher to set goals to increase student language-learning and engagement, as even excellent teachers can work to improve the English proficiency of their students.