Teaching

Teacher evaluations? Sure. Let’s assess ourselves

Teacher evaluations? Sure. Let's assess ourselves

What if we teachers kept a little area in our lesson plan books that looked like this? Teacher self assessments could change teacher effectiveness quickly. (Flickr / daveynin)

In Indiana and all over the country, teacher evaluations have been a hot topic.

I can’t think of a single evaluation model that begins to measure the intangibles of a great teacher, and there are very few that even do a good job with the measurables.

If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, school-administered teacher evaluations are not going to save the education system and produce droves of highly talented teachers.

But one kind of evaluation might.

The self-administered teacher evaluation.

I bumped into this idea while reading the beginning of Greg Biffle’s “Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids” (the inspiration for my recent whole-brain teaching post). (For the record, I am NOT progressing very quickly through this book. It’s for lack of free time, not lack of interest, for sure.)

In the book, Biffle introduces us to Mrs. Maestra, a teacher who challenges herself to move students from the “challenging student” label to the “alpha student” label — the ones who follow directions all the time.

[RELATED: 6 steps to the curriculum of your dreams]

To quantify her efforts, Mrs. Maestra gave herself a grade at the end of each week on two criteria: her ability to control her emotions and tone of voice, and her ability to consistently follow her classroom management plan.

“It made the difficult job of instruction a little more entertaining, like an engaging solitaire game,” Biffle writes.

Think of the drastic improvements in teacher effectiveness if this was implemented wide-spread.

The benefits are clear:

  • We select the best criteria to drive improvement.
  • We assess ourselves fairly. (Because if we inflate grades that only we ourselves see, we’re not fooling anyone.)
  • The fear and adversarial “teacher vs. administrator” atmosphere are gone.

Imagine if we teachers had a corner of our lesson plan books where we kept honest scores of our performance, just for ourselves.

What if we used criteria like:

  • how engaging my lessons were
  • how well I showed my students they mattered
  • how much I varied my teaching techniques
  • how well I connected lessons to student interests or the real world
  • how much timely, relevant feedback my students received

It’s something so small that five minutes of reflection at the end of a week could cover it.

What motivates students to learn often motivates teachers, too, right? Self-driven assessments like reflections give students many of the benefits of teacher-provided assessment without the confrontational atmosphere that often goes along with it.

Sounds like it would work with educators, too.

If we’re waiting on the principal, the school board, the government — Superman — to save education, we’ve misplaced our trust.

Let’s turn the evaluation issue on its head and start evaluating ourselves.

What criteria will/would you use to assess your instruction? If you have used self-assessment, what was your experience? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

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