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Teacher Workforce

April 2020


How are observations in teacher evaluation systems associated with improved teaching practices?


Following an established research protocol, REL Central conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles to help answer the question. The resources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic databases, and general Internet search engines. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We have not evaluated the quality of the references provided in this response, and we offer them only for your information. We compiled the references from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant sources may exist.

Research References

Cherasaro, T. L., Brodersen, R. M., Reale, M. L., & Yanoski, D. C. (2016). Teachers’ responses to feedback from evaluators: What feedback characteristics matter? (REL 2017–190). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Central. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“The importance of teacher effectiveness is well supported by studies that document variation in teachers’ abilities to contribute to student achievement gains. All else being equal, students taught by some teachers experience greater achievement gains than do students taught by other teachers. In response to initiatives to increase educator effectiveness as directed through flexibility waivers under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, many states are implementing new teacher evaluation systems. Those states are also seeking information about how evaluators can best use evaluation findings to provide individualized feedback to teachers to improve both teaching and learning. Data from Regional Educational Laboratory Central’s Examining Evaluator Feedback Survey were used to analyze teachers’ perceptions of feedback provided as part of their district’s teacher evaluation system as well as their ratings of the importance of various characteristics of feedback in their response to feedback. The study team then explored how characteristics of feedback and response to feedback are interrelated. Correlational analysis finds that teachers’ responses to feedback are related to their perceptions of four characteristics: the usefulness of the feedback, the accuracy of the feedback, the credibility of their evaluator, and their access to resources. Structural equation modeling analysis suggests that in responding to feedback, teachers’ perceptions of the usefulness of the feedback and the credibility of their evaluator could be more important than their perceptions of the accuracy of the feedback and their access to resources. Results from this study may be helpful in prioritizing evaluation needs at both the state and district levels for training and guidance on providing feedback. They may also help inform states of additional data needed to improve understanding of how feedback is used and what impact it can have on teacher performance. The following are appended: (1) Analysis sample; and (2) Methods.”

Garet, M. S., Wayne, A. J., Brown, S., Rickles, J., Song, M., Manzeske, D., (2017). The impact of providing performance feedback to teachers and principals, Executive Summary (NCEE 2018-4000). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“Educator performance evaluation systems are a potential tool for improving student achievement by increasing the effectiveness of the educator workforce. For example, recent research suggests that giving more frequent, specific feedback on classroom practice may lead to improvements in teacher performance and student achievement. This report is based on a study that the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences conducted on the implementation of teacher and principal performance measures that are highlighted by recent research, as well as the impact of providing feedback based on these measures. As part of the study, eight districts were provided resources and support to implement the following three performance measures in a selected sample of schools in 2012-13 and 2013-14: (1) Classroom practice measure; (2) Student growth measure; and (3) Principal leadership measure. Within each district, schools were randomly assigned to implement the performance measures (the treatment group) or not (the control group). No formal “stakes” were attached to the measures--for example, they were not used by the study districts for staffing decisions such as tenure or continued employment. Instead, the measures were used to provide educators and their supervisors with information regarding performance. Such information might identify educators who need support and indicate areas for improvement, leading to improved classroom practice and leadership and boosting student achievement. This is the second of two reports on the study. The first focused on the first year of implementation, describing the characteristics of the educator performance measures and teachers’ and principals’ experiences with feedback. This report examines the impact of the two-year intervention, as well as implementation in both years. The main findings are: (1) The study's measures were generally implemented as planned; (2) The study’s measures provided some information to identify educators who needed support, but provided limited information to indicate the areas of practice educators most needed to improve; (3) As intended, teachers and principals in treatment schools received more frequent feedback with ratings than teachers and principals in control schools; and (4) The intervention had some positive impacts on teachers’ classroom practice, principal leadership, and student achievement. This report is a summary to the full report. [For the full report, “The Impact of Providing Performance Feedback to Teachers and Principals. NCEE 2018-4001,” see ED578873. For the first year report, “Early Implementation Findings from a Study of Teacher and Principal Performance Measurement and Feedback: Year 1 Report. NCEE 2017-4004,” see ED569983. For the first year report executive summary, “Early Implementation Findings from a Study of Teacher and Principal Performance Measurement and Feedback: Year 1 Report. Executive Summary. NCEE 2017-4003,” see ED569982.]”

Henry, G. & Guthrie J. (2015). An evaluation of the North Carolina educator evaluation system and the student achievement growth standard. Consortium for Educational Research and Evaluation–North Carolina. Retrieved from

From the executive summary:

“In 2011, as a part of the State Board of Education’s implementation of North Carolina’s Race to the Top (RttT) initiative, a sixth standard–a measure of student growth, the Educational Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS)–was added to the existing five standards for evaluating teachers. The purpose of this report is to describe the outcomes of teacher evaluations that have occurred since the sixth standard was added and trends in those outcomes through 2013-14.”

Makkonen, R., Tejwani, J., & Venkateswaran, N. (2016). How are teacher evaluation data used in five Arizona districts? (REL 2016–142). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory West. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“Recent teacher evaluation reforms instituted across the country have sought to yield richer information about educators’ strengths and limitations and guide decisions about targeted opportunities for professional growth. This study describes how results from new multiple-measure teacher evaluations were being used in 2014/15 in five school districts in Arizona (according to interviews with district leaders and instructional coaches and surveys of school principals and teachers), with each district administering its own local evaluation system developed to align with the overarching state evaluation regulations passed in 2011. Findings from a majority of the study districts indicated that online data platforms are facilitating observation-based feedback, with evaluation results reportedly influencing subsequent professional development for teachers--in particular shaping the work of instructional coaches and/or the support opportunities that are suggested for teachers within the district's online system. However, responding teachers in the five study districts expressed some skepticism about the relevance of school- and district-level professional development offerings, and viewed themselves as responsible for their own professional growth activities. In addition, respondents indicated that the timing of the release of standardized state test data renders those data less useful for professional development decisions than observation results. Meanwhile, teacher evaluation data are reportedly being less systematically used in talent management decisions, including to identify teacher leaders or to assign teachers to schools or classrooms. Regarding evaluation’s impact, principals and teachers in a majority of study districts agreed that their new teacher evaluations have improved teachers’ instructional practice, but teachers in all five study districts were less likely than principals to agree that evaluations have benefited students. Together, these findings are suggestive of positive benefits from organizational structures that support the review of data during the school year, such as standards-based observation frameworks, benchmark assessments, professional learning communities, and instructional coaching and feedback. However, skepticism among teachers (particularly high school teachers) suggests that they may not yet perceive their evaluations as entirely credible and relevant to their work. The following are appended: (1) Data sources and methodology; (2) Protocol and code book for district interviews; and (3) Case summaries.”

Shaha, S. H., Glassett, K. F., & Copas, A. (2015). The impact of teacher observations with coordinated professional development on student performance: A 27-state program evaluation. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 12(1), 55-64. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“The impact of teacher observations in alignment with professional development (PD) on teacher efficacy was quantified for 292 schools in 110 districts within 27 U.S. States. Teacher observations conducted by school leaders or designated internal coaches were coordinated with PD offerings aligned with intended teacher improvements. The PD involved throughout was an online, on-demand system teachers accessed as convenient with a range of PD assistance regarding teaching techniques and participative teacher/user interactive communities for collaboratively posting and downloading PD-related materials. Results indicate that systemic teacher observations, coupled with aligned PD, resulted in significantly improved student achievement in reading and math on standardized assessments.”


Keywords and Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • teacher AND observation
  • walkthrough AND “teacher evaluation”
  • walkthrough AND “teacher professional growth”

Databases and Resources

REL Central searched ERIC for relevant references. ERIC is a free online library, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, of over 1.6 million citations of education research. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and Google.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: The search and review included references published between 2010 and 2020.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority was given to ERIC, followed by Google Scholar and Google.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were used in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types, such as randomized controlled trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive analyses, literature reviews; and (b) target population and sample.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at Marzano Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Central under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0005, administered by Marzano Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.