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Teacher Self Assessment

reflections in mirrorsThe 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

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  1. I feel video feedback is one of the most powerful ways to see yourself from a more objective perspective. I was a golf coach in Colorado and we would always use video feedback. The golf swing is such a matter of feel, and often a player develops the wrong feel and think they they are on plane, when in fact they are very flat. They think they’re keeping their head still, when in fact they are looking up before the club face even reaches the impact zone. For most amateur golfers, seeing your golf swing for the first time is very eye-opening. I know this would also be the case for teachers.

    I’ve had administrators draw a grid of the classroom and keep track of my movements, the amount of wait time I gave after asking a question, and who I called on. This is always helpful information; I tend to teach to the right side of the room (teacher’s right), though I have good mobility and generally have reasonable wait time. I would really enjoy an administrator videoing a class and doing a similar break-down with me after the fact. I know it would be embarrassing, but so what. I know I use filler words, and I know that though I feel engaging in some cases this is because I’m paying the most attention to the kids who seem to be engaged. I can’t see the whole room when I’m teaching. Nobody can. Who wouldn’t want to video themselves so they might improve their presentation style and overall “presence”? I make the students do this, so why shouldn’t I do this myself?

    I recently let students video my example Individual Oral Presentation. Now it’s on Facebook and kids periodically comment on it. I use “you know” as a filler phrase a lot. It’s funny, because I make such a big deal of “um” and “like” that I must have developed my own linguistic tic. The kids have fun evaluating my Oral Presentation because they can see I’m not perfect either.

    I think some teachers may not wish to take a risk like this. It’s scary to let yourself be held up to the light of criticism, however constructive it is supposed to be. It might be safer to do videos of classroom instruction like this as a part of a self-evaluation program first. It feels less formal that way and instead of being defensive I think teachers would learn from the experience. I know I did not enjoy fellow coaches watching my golf swing with me for the first time. I was completely disillusioned, and they had a sort of “see, I told you” attitude. I doubt most teachers would feel exactly this way, but I can see how it would be similarly uncomfortable.

    There is only one thing I would like to add to the idea of self evaluation. As a secondary teacher I think “classroom management, collaboration with colleagues, use of technology, student perception… preparedness, and pedagogical knowledge” are important criteria, but I feel Passion, both for the content and for reaching teenagers, is even more so. Student perception, perhaps gleaned from teacher reviews, may give some insight into a teacher’s passion, but in the end this is a kind of “intangible”. I feel many “master teachers” and administrators are so enamored with all the jargon and formalized processes that they forget about PERSONALITY. In the end, good teachers are naturally engaging, and bad teachers are not.

    Still, being naturally engaging is not enough. In tandem with a solid pedagogy, though, it’s a perfect combination. So if evaluation must happen (and we all know it must), then let it be self-evaluation.

  2. Justin I think that you are right about attitude being important. I know that when I went through the self-evaluation process, there were teachers that I wouldn’t want to work with because they would be too patronizing. There were others who were tough in that they were very honest but I enjoyed working with them because their motive was to help me improve as a teacher, not to belittle me.

    It’s interesting that you mention passion as being such an important criteria. That was the topic of this week’s edchat.