The Value of Reflection
I believe that reflection is a vital part of a healthy and balanced life. This includes self-reflection, for how else will we be able to chart our paths for self-improvement? When schools go through the accreditation process, they have to do a self-study. I’ve been through several such experiences for accreditation by Council of International Schools (CIS) and Middle States Association (MSA) of Schools and Colleges. I found it an arduous but rewarding process because it highlighted the things that the school was doing well, and guided us through a process for prioritizing and implementing improvements for the school. It required individual reflection and group reflection, discussions between various groups of colleagues as well as the teaching staff, goal-setting, implementation and evaluation. I think that this is a great model for teacher evaluation.
Revising Teacher Evaluation
I previously taught at a small international school. Our superintendent explained that he had a hard time evaluating us from just a few visits to our classroom, knowing that those few visits provided an incomplete picture. He suggested self-evaluation and peer evaluation as steps in the teacher evaluation process. The staff members brainstormed to decide what made a good teacher and came up with ideas like classroom management, collaboration with colleagues, use of technology, student perception of learning and teaching within the classroom, preparedness, pedagogical knowledge. Then a sub-committee looked at the brainstormed ideas as well as models of teacher self-assessment found online, and created the first draft. The sub-committee consulted with the staff and used the feedback to create a working document.
It Starts with Self-Assessment
The first step was self-assessment, requiring evidence to support the level of proficiency that the teacher thought he/she had. Next was peer assessment. Teachers identified peers to assess them and could decide how many times they wanted to complete a peer assessment. Then they could have a principal or the superintendent evaluate them. The superintendent would first meet with the teacher to discuss their self and peer evaluation steps, the improvements they’d made and their existing challenges. Then he/she would observe the teacher during at least two classes. As part of the process, teachers evaluated both the assessment standards and the process and made appropriate revisions at the end of each school year.
Some teachers resented the self-evaluation as one more thing to keep track of. They had trouble gathering evidence to show their level of proficiency for each standard. This was a few teachers; most took ownership of the process and benefited from it. However, we had a community of teachers that were generally reflective. We spent staff meetings discussing articles by Alfie Kohn, Wiggins and McTighe and “Classroom Instruction that Works”. Teachers were constantly asked to take part in the decision-making of the school and gave feedback to the superintendent. The school aimed to be student-centred and recognized that it also had to be teacher-centered and support teachers.
Learning from Process
I believe in self-assessment. I use it in my classes and for myself. Incorporating self-assessment appeals to me because it lets teachers identify their challenges AND work to improve them. Hopefully we do the same thing in our classrooms. We focus on the process, letting kids revise, improve, resubmit because the process and the learning that happens is more important than the tangible product.
Some teachers are uncomfortable with videotaping their lessons or having peer assessment. Maybe that’s because we need consistent standards between ourselves and those who assess us, or maybe it’s because knowing that we’re being “watched” forces us to self-reflect, a sometimes unflattering and scary process.
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Revised January 30, 2018. First published on February 18, 2010