About Teacher Evaluation

What Is Active Learning and Who Needs It?

Students with multiple and significant challenges who are also dealing with vision and hearing loss, face very unique challenges when it comes to learning. Active Learning is a best practice instructional approach being utilized world-wide for children who are blind, visually impaired, and deafblind experiencing significant additional disabilities impacting physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. Specifically, it targets children who are developmentally at birth-4 years of age.

Active Learning is an approach based on the work of Dr. Lilli Nielsen, a developmental psychologist and preschool teacher, who worked for over 43 years with children and adults with multiple disabilities at Refsnaesskolen, the National Institute for Blind and Partially Sighted Children and Youth in Denmark. Along with this Active Learning Space website developed by Penrickton Center for Blind Children, Perkins School for the Blind and Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, we hope this document will help you to feel more confident when evaluating your staff using this approach.

We encourage you to utilize the website, webinars, and our online self-paced training modules to support your staff’s training needs. This are also helpful for the families of these students. You may also want to review content under Implementation.

What Should You Be Looking for When Evaluating Staff?

When evaluating teachers and other staff serving these children and who are using Dr. Nielsen’s Active Learning approach in their classroom there are a number of things you should be able to observe or document.

    • Evidence of proper and on-going assessment and documentation of student performance
      • Completion of the Functional Scheme for the student including summary pages with at least annual updates
      • Assessment reports from related service staff, teacher of students who are visually impaired, teacher of students who are deaf and hard of hearing, and/or teacher of students who are deafblind
      • Regular weekly documentation on student performance in activities and learning environments
    • Evidence of all staff working with the student to be able to use educational techniques that address the student’s social and emotional developmental levels and IEP goals for the student
      • Are able to reduce demands during activities based on the child’s responses (e.g., shorten the duration of the activity, accept partial response, allow the child to take a short break and try again, offer an alternative activity, does not overly praise the child)
      • Show understanding of the specific IEP goals for each activity related to child’s interaction skills and the appropriate student response (e.g., child tolerates the presence of the adult, child shows an interest or interacts with the adult, child is able to attempt a step in a familiar activity, child shows the ability to self-regulate)
      • Shows the ability to follow the child’s lead (e.g., imitates the child’s actions on objects, makes his/her hands available to the child and models actions using hand-under-hand, allows for small breaks to let the child process, does not talk continually interrupting the child’s learning,)
      • Shows the ability to notice and interpret child’s communication attempts made through movement, gestures, vocalizations, signals, signs, words, etc.
      • Uses communication methods that are meaningful to the child and appropriate to his/her sensory abilities (e.g. supports speech with sign/gestures if child is deaf or uses tactile information if child is blind or deafblind)
      • Uses turn-taking interactions and responds to expressive communication attempts to encourage the development of conversation and communication. Limits directive communications.
    • Selection of specific Active Learning equipment that matches IEP goals for physical and cognitive development
      • Has the ability to explain why a specific piece of equipment is being used in an activity and how it relates to the student’s IEP goals
      • Shows the ability to set up and position the child using the equipment appropriately and safely
    • Selection and creation of Active Learning environments that address the student IEP goals and supports academic content areas as well as expanded core curriculum areas for students with visual impairments or deafness
      • Has the ability to explain why specific materials are being used in an activity and how the activity relates to the student’s IEP goals
      • Has knowledge of the student’s preferences and sensory abilities for accessing materials in the activity
      • Materials used in all activities include many common objects (not miniatures of objects) made of various materials including wood, metal, paper, natural substances (rocks, plants, animals, fabric, etc.)
    • Ability to explain specific Active Learning strategies to the student’s family members and provide resources to help them understand the approach
      • Communication and progress notes to the family reflect child’s activities and how they relate to the IEP goals
      • Can explain to parents/caregivers why specific pieces of equipment and materials are being used with the child
      • Can explain why an Active Learning approach differs from typical learning approaches due to the child’s early developmental levels
      • Can direct the family to resources and training related to Active Learning

In order to aid in the evaluation process, we have developed a form for administrators and supervisors to use. It indicates things to look for in the instructor’s practice and in some cases what to look for in terms of the student’s responses or behaviors. We have also included resources to suggest to the instructor for training purposes that may also guide you, as the administrator, in better understanding the Active Learning approach.

Each section is assigned a maximum number of points that when totaled equals 100 points. Bonus points are assigned to indicate excellence in the utilization of this approach. Of course, there is always more to learn and expertise is developed over time and in collaboration with other professionals. This scoring system is only meant to address the specifics of implementing Active Learning and does not supplant any required state teacher evaluation documentation.