The Educational Theatre Association has released the EdTA High School Theatre Educator Evaluation Workbook, an editable PDF professional development tool for teachers and their administrators. The four-chapter standards-based workbook, available to members as a free download on the EdTA website, was created to address a need among theatre educators seeking to more clearly communicate their classroom practice to administrators who serve as evaluators of teacher effectiveness.
The book includes an introductory chapter that guides users—both teachers and administrators—through the steps needed to use it effectively. Chapter 2 provides a checklist of resources needed by an educator to create and teach standards-based curriculum. Chapter 3 addresses assessment practices that can be applied to measure student learning. Chapter 4 defines observable theatre educator practice in four distinct areas: planning and preparation; maintenance of a productive classroom environment; instructional practice designed to reach specific goals; and contribution to the school or district. The workbook also includes a series of editable forms.
According to EdTA Director of Educational Policy, James Palmarini, the Evaluation Workbook is intended to serve as a resource that will help theatre educators and their administrators better understand the needs and expectations of one another. “I like to call the workbook a translation tool,” he said. “A theatre educator may be doing a great job, but their principal may not understand what it is they’re doing and why. Conversely, the teacher needs to know how their curriculum and student outcomes can help support the mission and goals of the school or district.”
Palmarini said the Evaluation Workbook represents the third leg of standards-aligned documents intended to affirm the professionalism of theatre educators and student learning in the art. “This work really started with the publication of the National Standards in Theatre Education in 2014,” he said. “Those standards have since been adopted or adapted by 30 states and the list is growing. To help teachers articulate the curriculum, staffing, scheduling, and resources needed to meet those standards, EdTA created the Opportunity-to-Learn Standards in 2016. This workbook, in support of those standards, articulates best practices by theatre educators engaged in standards-based teaching.”
He added that, while the workbook can certainly be used as a component of a theatre educator’s annual evaluation, it’s not intended to replace school or district-based evaluation systems. The 2016 Every Student Succeeds Act gave districts a lot of flexibility as to how they measure teacher effectiveness, but generally there are no specific evaluation documents that directly address theatre and other arts teachers. The arts—theatre included—have very distinct pedagogy that is unlike more traditional subject areas.
“The ultimate goal here is for theatre teachers to become better educators and to improve theatre education programs throughout the country,” he said. “The discussion between the educator and the evaluator should help determine how the teacher can most effectively promote student learning in theatre. To do that they need resources and training. So, using the workbook criteria as a prompt, a review should include a discussion about the things the teacher needs, whether it’s a new light board or scripts, and what professional development would help them improve their skill sets.”
Palmarini said that EdTA was planning a series of professional development workshops that would train users how to best use the workbook. “We know evaluation is a sensitive topic, so doing professional development around its use is extremely important. This is a versatile document that can be used in multiple ways, whether for evaluation or just reflection. We want to make sure that our members and other users understand that.”