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Why the Systematic Evaluation of Teachers is Upon us: A Selective Chronicle of Events

Richard Dunlop
This paper addresses the formal processes of teacher evaluation and the historical events which have resulted in teachers having their teaching competence formally and regularly judged. The outline presented suggests that teachers should have considerable control over determining standards for their own profession. If schools do not establish formal processes for the evaluation of teachers, there is every likelihood that some less desirable external approaches of the past may re-emerge. In any case, teachers should be well-versed in past teacher evaluation practices, for such practices may well regain some ground.

Teacher evaluation occurs informally in all schools. Teachers discuss the work of their colleagues and determine continually the impact of particular learning experiences on their students. These types of informal evaluation practices are not at issue in this paper. This paper addresses the formal processes of teacher evaluation and the historical events which have resulted in teachers having their teaching competence formally and regularly judged. The historical outline which follows suggests that teachers should have considerable control over determining standards for their own profession. If they do not exercise their responsibility in this regard, teachers should be well-versed in past teacher evaluation practices, for such practices may regain some ground. There are similarities in the history of teacher evaluation in all Australian States and Territories, although this paper focuses largely on Queensland.

The origins of teacher evaluation in Australia may be found in British classrooms in the nineteenth century, where Grace (1985) argues that the ability to subjugate students and demand obedience was used as a common sign of teaching competence. Teacher evaluation at this time in Britain met the needs of industrialists who sought workers accustomed to order and control (Grace, 1985).

In Australia, school inspectors were first appointed in the mid-nineteenth century, when the National System of Education was being established by Australian governments. At this time, inspectors were expected primarily to oversee the financial business of schools rather than judge the competence of teachers (Tronc, 1985). Before long, school financial procedures were not the only aspect of schooling to be closely scrutinised. Tronc and Harris (1985) explain:

"The quest for efficiency grew to dominate all other educational concerns. Inspectors of schools were set the task of testing school children's proficiency and recording the numbers of pupils who reached the standards laid down in the Table of Minimum Attainments." (p.45)
The Table of Minimum Attainments standardised methods of instruction, methods of inspection and the classification of students and teachers, and became the basis for determining the competence of teachers. Inspectors gained a reputation for being authoritarian and despised figures who relentlessly searched for faults (Tronc & Harris, 1985). At this time, in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, a system of 'payment by results' was introduced. Inspectors of schools were charged with administering the system. In short, teachers were paid a basic salary which was enhanced if school attendance was regular and students performed well on standardised tests, both of which were considered fair indices of the competence of teachers. Queensland used a simitar system known as 'promotion by results' and inspectors became "saddled with an image of fault-finding examiner, conservative keeper of standards and preserver of the status quo. " (Tronc & Harris, 1985, p.45).

On the basis of student results on tests of reading, writing and calculation, teachers were assigned numerical gradings. This form of measuring teaching competence led to teaching which would today be considered rigid and uninspired because the teacher who constantly drilled students in a narrow range of subjects was most likely to be well-graded and therefore considered to be highly competent.

In the 1940s and 1950s, each teacher was evaluated annually in Queensland and issued with a form of results, popularly known at the time as a 'yellow card'. This form indicated a teacher's 'industry', 'disciplinary power' and 'teaching ability' (Author Unknown, 1951, p1.1). As these evaluative ratings were usually only considered in the case of 'unsatisfactory' teachers or when promotion to a position of higher authority was requested, the purpose of conducting annual evaluations of all teachers began to be questioned. Daughtrey (1951), representing the Queensland Teachers' Union, outlined one of the main problems with the system in operation at the time:

"Over the years there has grown up around this system a rigidity which has tended to destroy initiative, individual enterprise, and a sense of responsibility. In short, teachers have found that it is to their advantage to be 'conformers' rather than 'reformers'." (p.2)
In 1951, it was proposed that only teachers who sought administrative positions should be evaluated. A composite assessment conveyed in the terms 'unsatisfactory', 'satisfactory', 'very satisfactory' and 'highly satisfactory' replaced the individual ratings on industry, disciplinary power and teaching ability. Each inspector at the time had to support the judgments that were made by providing an accompanying 'pen picture' or short essay with each report (Author Unknown, 1951).

By the second half of the twentieth century, the Queensland Department of Education, along with those in all other Australian States, was attempting to promote the role of inspectors as twofold: evaluator and advisor. Inspectors were not only expected to be key figures in the evaluation of teachers, but also act as disseminators of innovations.

Connell (1989) describes inspectors of the 1960s as the 'elite' of the Queensland Education Department. With a record of successful teaching experience, they were chosen in their late thirties and early forties to fulfil several functions, including:

Despite the increasing emphasis on the inspector as responsible for fostering the professional development of teachers, Tronc (1985) claims that until very recently school inspectors represented a threat to many Queensland teachers. The expectation of an inspectorial visit usually prompted "an extensive artificial show, in which teachers temporarily abandoned normal practices for other procedures which were more likely to win official approval." (Tronc, 1985, p.43).

One explanation for this may have been that the dual roles of inspectors were incompatible and could not be adequately performed by the same individual simultaneously. The tension between the two main inspectorial roles of evaluator and adviser led to a serious challenge by teachers' unions in the 1960s and 1970s in most Australian States, including Queensland. Leading this challenge was the Victorian Secondary Teachers' Association whose members went on strike at least 11 times in their "determination to eliminate the inspectorate" (Connell, 1989, p.4). In Queensland, disputes at Caboolture, Toowoomba and Centenary Heights State High Schools resulted in inspectors only being authorised to observe teachers when invited by teachers to do so.

An attempt to completely dismantle the inspectorate was unsuccessful in Queensland in the 1970s. The position of inspector, according to Connell (1989) "resembled that of the archdeacon of the Anglican Church . . . the inspector was the eye of the Director-General and, although less venerable, experienced still a reverence similar to that paid to his ecclesiastical counterpart. ( p.3).

By 1970, Queensland had adopted procedures for teacher evaluation which were similar to those in use in other States. A teacher's only compulsory evaluation was in his or her second year of service, unless another was requested by the school principal or Director-General, or unless a teacher wished to be considered for promotion. A female teacher who wished to continue teaching after marriage also had to be evaluated.

The partial dilution of the functions of the inspectorate in Queensland was brought about by a combination of events. Firstly, during the 1970s in particular, the length and intellectual rigour of teacher education increased, which led to the "growth of a strong concern among teachers that a professional educator was demeaned by submitting to constant and regular examination by an outside authority." (Connell, 1989, p.3). Secondly, the unprecedented level of curriculum development and changes in educational emphases in these decades encouraged inspectors to become more involved in the provision of professional development activities. Thirdly, the expansion of the schooling system meant that some of the activities of the limited number of inspectors had to be reviewed. Consequently, full inspections of schools and teachers were reduced (Connell, 1989).

The expansion of the schooling system and curriculum development in Queensland prompted the appointment of many 'advisory' teachers and 'consultants' in the 1970s to complement the advisory role of inspectors. Connell's (1989) interpretation of this situation was as follows:

"As the developmental and advisory tasks increased beyond the point where they could be handled by inspectors, a range of consultant, curriculum, and specialist officers were appointed or seconded from the teaching service to cope with the expanding area of providing advice and in-service education to teachers. " (p.5)
The advisory role of inspectors was apparently steadily eroding. During the 1980s, efforts by the inspectorate to regain territory and formally evaluate all teachers were opposed by groups representing teachers' interests. This occurred in most States of Australia. In New South Wales for instance, the 1985 Quality Education (Teacher Efficiency) Review report outlined procedures for evaluating the competence of teachers in that State. The procedures were rejected by the New South Wales Teachers' Federation Council on several grounds. Firstly, the Federation Council claimed that the procedures were punitive, time-wasting and an unwarranted burden on teachers. Secondly, they were considered educationally unsound by engendering fear and mistrust among colleagues, and by reducing the time given to teaching tasks. Thirdly, the procedures were expected to undermine the credibility of the teaching profession by being oriented toward the detection of faults for dismissals rather than for improvement. Fourthly, they were considered managerially deficient, destroying collegial decision-making which is appropriate to teaching and encouraging the entrenchment of bureaucratic hierarchies (Preston, 1989). Facing such opposition, the Teacher Efficiency Review was abandoned in 1986.

During the mid-1980s, Australia suffered the onset of an economic recession. According to Smyth (1988), Australia and other nations in the western world did not escape "a return to the kind of conditions that endorse reified forms of knowledge and hence greater surveillance of teachers." (p.21). Smyth (1988) claims that during the 1980s the inspectorate throughout Australia was encouraged to increasingly adopt a 'watchdog' mentality as a means of ensuring that schools were more efficiently managed and increasingly accountable to the public. Masquerading as methods of guaranteeing public acceptance of actions taken in the schooling system, Smyth (1989) claims that what is actually happening "is a legitimation of the transference of power over educational decision-making from teachers to groups outside schools." (p.484).

In 1988, the position of 'Chief Inspector' was created by the Queensland Department of Education. Primarily, the Chief Inspector was responsible for overseeing the operations of field and office-based inspectors (Dwyer, 1988). Dwyer (1988) identified the roles of the inspectorate in Queensland as:

Several educators have pointed out the fundamental problem with these dual roles. One of the more recent, Yerbury (1987), reminded us that:
"There has been growing disillusionment with multi-purpose -schemes, the trend being towards separating salary-related assessments and development-related evaluations, in time, paperwork, procedures and often, responsibility. This reflects the differences between them in focus, approach and roles, and the incompatibilities that arise in attempts to combine them." (p.143)
The impact of the Chief Inspector's appointment was immediately noticeable. The inspectorate expanded in 1988 and 1989 with the appointment of 'junior' inspectors in each educational region in Queensland. Moreover, following devolutionary planning policy in education systems in the United States, New Zealand and some other Australian States and Territories, the Queensland Department of Education also initiated actions that would lead to the increasing devolution of decision-making to individual schools and their communities.

During 1988, the Queensland Department of Education signalled its intention to devolve authority to individual principals and staff of schools. An official notice in the Departmental bulletin, the Education Office Gazette, on September 30, 1988 indicated that school principals and teachers would soon be expected to draw up School Development Plans which would outline each school's future priorities and directions and provide "a basis for both internal and external monitoring" (Dwyer, 1988, p.41).

This notice also indicated that school administrators would be responsible for managing their own budgets and may have considerable discretion in determining the number and nature of the school staff. However, each school would remain accountable to the relevant regional office for the manner in which funds are expended (Reynolds, 1988).

In 1990, the Chief Inspector commissioned the system-level testing of students in Years 5, 7 and 9 on aspects of literacy and numeracy. Preston (1989) argues that there is a close link between the testing of students and the evaluation of teachers, and views both trends as unfavourable:

"External pressures for the testing of students are matched by similar pressures for teacher evaluation, and there is an ever present danger that such pressures will be succumbed to in a similar way: one which is educationally destructive for students and professionally and industrially destructive for teachers." (p.18)
At present, Queensland primary school teach ers, like their counterparts in most other States, are formally evaluated in order to move from probationary to permanent status. Unless teachers apply for a promotion, or unless they face a charge of professional misconduct, formal evaluations of teachers rarely occurs beyond the probationary period (Lokan & McKenzie, 1989). There are a number of recent developments which suggest that this situation may change. The pressures for change have been generated outside of Queensland as well as internally.

At the 1989 seminar of the Schools Council Quality Project held in Canberra, teacher evaluation was a major agenda item and one of interest to all State representatives. The seminar participants considered the matters of teacher quality and career paths in teaching, including the notion of 'advanced skills teachers' (MacDonald, 1990). Advanced skills teachers would be expected to spend most of their time in classroom teaching with the remainder devoted to designing and conducting professional development activities for others on staff.

The process of restructuring the Queensland Teachers' Award also commenced in 1989. As part of this award restructuring agreement for Queensland teachers, the Queensland Teachers' Union argued for the establishment of a career ladder, whereby teachers would progress from one salary band to the next by meeting certain criteria involving a mixture of formal qualifications, years of teaching and other relevant professional experience (Queensland Teachers' Union, 1990). It was proposed that applications for progression be considered by a panel: a school administrator, a professional colleague elected by and from the staff of the school, and a peer nominated by the applicant (Queensland Teachers' Union, 1990).

A further dimension of the award restructuring process for teachers involved the introduction of annual teacher evaluations. The Queensland Teachers' Union and the Queensland Department of Education developed a set of principles for the operation of Collaborative Teacher Performance Reviews. The Collaborative Teacher Performance Review had to:

Also in l990, a process of consulting with a wide range of individuals in Queensland's educational community was established by the Queensland Department of Education Policy Unit. The project undertaken by members of the Policy Unit, known as 'Education: Have Your Say', involved a large number of group interviews with head office and regional personnel, the receipt of thousands of written submissions and meetings of school community groups throughout Queensland.

The discussion paper produced as a result of the 'Education: Have Your Say' process outlined some findings related to teacher evaluation. When the issue of teacher evaluation was raised in submissions to the Policy Unit, the respondents "were consistent in their belief that all staff should have their performance regularly reviewed." (Department of Education, Queensland, l990, p.15). The discussion paper also stated that:

"A common concern among those who discussed this topic was the need for positive action to deal with poor and incompetent performers. Suggestions ranged from retraining to dismissal. Many saw a close link between the results of performance reviews and rewards for performance." (Department of Education, Queensland, l990, p.15)
The Policy Unit's intentions for the evaluation of teachers was revealed in the conclusions of the discussion paper:
"For staff to develop as professionals, they need to receive regular and direct feedback about their performance so that personal career development plans will be purposeful and meaningful . . . Performance reviews for all staff should be viewed as a vital component in the management of the Department's human resources." (Department of Education, 1990, p. 19).
The Policy Unit also reported several findings about the role of school inspectors. A large number of respondents regarded the inspectors' dual role of evaluator and adviser as unrealistic (Department of Education, 1990). In addition, "the traditional image of an inspector as an authoritarian figure with vast punitive powers,' was considered to be antiquated (Department of Education, 1990, p.16). It was suggested in the discussion paper that accountability to the public would be able to be ensured by evaluating the status of school development plans and using them as the basis for 'Collaborative School Reviews' (Department of Education, 1990, p.16). During each Collaborative School Review, the efficiency of the operation of a school will be determined by comparing the objectives of the Development Plan for each school with actual attainments.

Considering the nature of recent events, it would appear that the function of teacher evaluation is being entrusted largely to practitioners. There has been a clear trend towards the devolution of authority and responsibility from the system level to individual schools. The degree to which a school community is satisfied with that school as the unit for accountability will determine whether the function of evaluating teachers remains in the hands of practitioners or is performed by an external agent. With the current nationwide emphasis on accountability, if schools do not establish formal processes for the evaluation of teachers, there is every likelihood that some less desirable patterns of the past may re-emerge.


Author Unknown. (1951). The Altered Form of Appraisement of Teachers, Brisbane: Department of Education, Queensland.

Author Unknown. (1990). 'Collaborative teacher review report finished', Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol. 13, No.6, p.7.

Connell, W.F. (1989). The Inspectorate in Australia 1960-1985, unpublished report.

Daughtrey, G.T. (1951). Queensland Teachers' Union: Statement resulting from a meeting about the Queensland Inspectorate, Brisbane: Queensland Teachers' Union, 17 May 1971.

Department of Education, Queensland. (1990). Focus on Schools: The Future Organisation of Educational Services for Students, Brisbane: Government Printers.

Dwyer, L.J. (1988). Review of the Inspectorate, Brisbane: Department of Education, Queensland.

Grace, G. (1985). 'Judging teachers: the social and political context of teacher evaluation', British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol.6, No.1, pp.3-15.

Lokan, J. and McKenzie, P. (eds). (1989). Teacher Appraisal: Issues and Approaches, Hawthorn, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research.

MacDonald, S. (1990). 'National teacher appraisement policy needed', Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol. 13, No.2, p.6.

Preston, B. (1989). 'Teacher evaluation: contextual issues and policy development', in Teacher Appraisal: Major Issues and Approaches, eds J. Lokan & P. McKenzie, Hawthorn, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research, pp.17-25.

Queensland Teachers' Union. (1990). Award Restructuring Agreement: Teachers' Award - State, unpublished.

Reynolds, D. (1988). 'Foreword', in The Self-Managing School, B.J. Caldwel & J.M. Spinks, London: The Falmer Press.

Smyth, J. (1988). A Critical Pedagogy of Teacher Evaluation, Geelong, Victoria: Deakin University Press.

Smyth, J. (1989). 'A critical pedagogy of c lassroom practice, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol. 21, No.6, pp.483-502.

Tronc, K. and Harris, H. (1985). 'Victims of history: the establishment and growth of the Australian inspectorate, Practising Administrator, Vol. 7, No.3, pp.43-48.

Yerbury, D. (1987). Review of Personnel Policies and Practice, Adelaide: Department of Education, South Australia.

Please cite as: Dunlop, R. (1992). Why the systematic evaluation of teachers is upon us: A selective chronicle of events. Queensland Researcher, 8(1), 29-40. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr8/dunlop.html

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Created 22 May 2006. Last revision: 22 May 2006.
URL: http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr8/dunlop.html