The Evaluator’s Habits of Mind

Credibility. Any person that wants to do anything with their lives cannot achieve without establishing credibility. This includes those of us who have chosen to have a life of meaning. I, like so many of you out there, have chosen to use my gifts and talents in the service of humanity. That choice has led me into my current professional role as an educator, and inspired me to become an agent of positive social change.

As an advanced graduate student at Walden University, I am engaged in a course of study that will enable me to become a professional evaluator. There are many challenges that evaluators face, but there is one that can make or break an evaluator’s career, credibility. To understand the role credibility plays in the course of an evaluator’s work, I will paint for you a scenario where an evaluator’s credibility was called into question and describe what she could have done to achieve greater credibility.

Tad Little is a new principal at Big Town High School. Little is entering Big Town after the school witnessed an increase in student behavior problems and a decrease in staff morale. Vowing to the turn the school around, Little begins his tenure on a positive and encouraging note. As the school year progresses, student, parents, and teachers notice that high school environment is definitely more quiet and organized; however, the teachers begin to feel that they are under a microscope and being judged, sometimes accosted, for every decision they make concerning their classes. Meanwhile, Little is on a mission to institute procedures within the school that will help the school achieve adequate yearly progress, a status required by the school district and the state department of education. Little believes that tracking teacher performance through evaluations will be one way to demonstrate that the school is making progress.

So, Little creates a teacher evaluation form and meets with teachers to inform them of their upcoming evaluation. When teachers ask for a blank copy of the evaluation form, Little refuses, saying that he does not want the teachers to be too prepared. Little also does not specify the exact dates of the teachers’ evaluation. Rather, he tells the teachers he will meet with them the day before the evaluation. Many of teachers wonder why they were not given a copy of the evaluation form, as was the practice under previous administration. This line of questioning leads the teachers to ponder why Little is being secretive with the evaluation and how trustworthy will the results of the assessment be.

Although Little’s intentions may have been good, his method of implementing change in the school is clearly flawed. By not fully disclosing the process and procedures of the evaluation to the teachers, Little runs the risk of the teacher evaluation findings being rejected by the teachers themselves. Since the nature of the evaluation was effectively withheld from the teachers, a renewed atmosphere of distrust may develop, which will make it very difficult for Little to lead any future initiative in the school.

Unfortunately, the situation of Tad Little and Big Town High School is all too familiar for many of us in the education field. Is there anything Little could have done to promote effective evaluation in his school? Of course! Little should have adopted what I am terming the Evaluator’s Habits of Mind:

  1. Spend quality time with the teaching staff and helping them understand the purpose of the evaluation and how the evaluator’s (principal’s) knowledge and background can be utilized during the evaluation process (Yarbrough, Shulha, Hopson, & Caruthers, 2011).
  2. Develop professional relationships with all members of staff while maintaining a degree of independent judgment (Yarbrough et al., 2011).
  3. Draw on professional experience and wisdom when constructing evaluation instruments and methodologies (Yarbrough et al., 2011).
  4. Be honest with the stakeholders and community members about what you are doing, your intentions (Laureate Education, 2012).
  5. Be willing to speak the truth, even if the stakeholders do not like the evaluation findings, or even if your job is on the line (Laureate Education, 2012).

There is a lot of responsibility that goes into evaluation. Whoever takes up the role of evaluator must invest a significant amount of time in gaining trust and respect from the people that he or she is working with, which can include colleagues in the evaluation field and those who will benefit from evaluation findings.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer).(2012a). Voices from the field:Evaluator credibility. Baltimore, MD: Author

Yarbrough, D., Shulha, L., Hopson, R., & Caruthers, F. (Eds.). (2011). The program evaluation standards: A guide for evaluators and evaluation users (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication, Inc.


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The Evaluator’s Habits of Mind by Rashida Outlaw is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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