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Teacher Evaluation Reflecting Time

Self-Reflection in Schools – A Lost Art?

Summer seems like the perfect time to do some self-reflection on the school year. The hustle and bustle of grading, lesson planning, meeting, and instructing is over, and there is finally time to think about what worked and what didn’t. However, reflection shouldn’t wait until June. Even though it can be tempting to put it off until there are fewer demands on their time, effective teachers reflect on their work often.

What to Look For:  Self-reflection is most powerful when it is purposeful. Whether it’s during a lesson, in a weekly reflection journal, or while playing back a video observation, it’s important that teachers and administrators have set clear, data-driven goals that encourage effective teaching techniques, student engagement, meeting state standards, and illustrating content knowledge.

Constant Reflection:  The best teachers are constantly reflecting and actively monitoring. During class, as teachers monitor the students for engagement and level of understanding, they may decide to include more instruction or encourage more active student involvement. Lessons may change during a class period or from one period to the next. This type of reflection is important, but it should be combined with other forms of reflection, too.

Notes/Journals:  Reflection is even more effective when teachers use reflection journals. These journals include reflection regarding specific, data-driven goals, making the reflection more purposeful. Teachers can write daily or weekly to reflect on specific goals. They can determine which lessons were most effective, what engaged students, and how different learners responded to differentiated methods of teaching. Through journaling, teachers can discover patterns that emerge as they record their experiences over time.

Video Observations:  One of the most powerful tools to aid in self-reflection is video observations. The video format allows teachers the opportunity to see what their students see. These observations are also a valuable way to reflect with peers and administrators. A series of videos shot at different periods throughout the year can make it easy to see patterns emerging and to gauge where improvement has occurred or needs to occur. And, the power of video means teachers can reflect conveniently when they have time to do it thoughtfully and purposefully.

students, video observations

Teacher Video Observations for a Changing World

The most transformative device of the 21st century, and arguably in all of human history, was created in 2007.  The first generation iPhone introduced us to a new wave of technology called smartphones.  It’s slogan was, “This is only the beginning…”.  How right were they?!  It’s 11 years later, and smartphones are part of our everyday lives just like getting dressed or going to work. As such, it’s no surprise that these devices will play an important role in how schools prepare, educate, and cultivate the next generation; particularly as it pertains to using video observations to improve instructional practices.

What does the future job industry look like?

According to the Institute For the Future, IFTF, 85% of the jobs people will have in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet (future jobs). This means that teachers today are preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Let that sink in for a minute!  It’s critical that we help teachers and students prepare for this approaching reality.

What are the skills that will be needed?

Although we may not know what these jobs will be, we do know that students will need skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration as well as the ability to adjust quickly in a rapidly-changing technological world. But, if teachers are to better prepare students for this, teachers should be innovators, too (innovative teachers).

What are the goals in order to get there?

Billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr, an early backer of Google and Amazon, understands innovation. His success, he says, comes from setting transparent goals he calls OKRs (objectives and key results) and evaluating them. More importantly, however, is that Doerr also gives permission to fail, because he says it is better to aim high and meet 70% of your goals than aim low and meet 100% of them.  Perhaps this same idea should be applied to education to encourage teacher innovators as they create professional growth goals?  After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

What will determine success?

Teachers, too, need permission to fail. They need to be able to try new things without fear. This will open the door to innovative ideas that encourage student engagement focused on creative thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. Teachers and evaluators can use video observations, like iAspire Reflect, to discuss ideas that worked and change the ones that didn’t. In this way, teachers can equip students with the skills they need to navigate this brave new world.

Video observations are the future of teacher evaluations because they support self-reflection, allow for more frequent coaching cycles, and can be self-driven.  This allows teachers to adapt and grow so they can prepare students for those jobs that haven’t even been invented yet!

The Art of Effective Feedback

The art of giving feedback is just that – an art.  It takes purpose, planning, and practice.  I remember the very first time I emailed feedback to a teacher after observing a lesson.  I wish I could have a mulligan!  Sure I did the best that I could, but I’m not sure the feedback I sent had a purpose, other than to send it, or was well planned.  It certainly was practice though!

One difficulty I had, even with a lot of experience, was balancing being thorough with the feedback and not taking too much time when writing it.  I wanted to be sure the recipient of my feedback clearly understand what I was trying to say, why I was saying it, and how my observations led to what I communicated with the teacher.  However I also didn’t want to write too much time writing because both the teacher and I were busy and had a plate-full of work to do at all times.

According to Grant Wiggins, “Feedback is information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal.”  (Educational Leadership) The key here, in my opinion, is reaching the goal.  This reinforces the importance of setting goals, having measurable criteria, and shaping a clear vision for the future.  Mr. Wiggins goes on to explain 7 Keys to Effective Feedback, including the feedback being tangible and transparent, actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing, and consistent.

A separate publication from ASCD Express reinforces many similar characteristics of effective feedback, including being goal-oriented and giving bite-sized chunks while focusing on big-picture learning goals. While this article is focused on teachers giving feedback to students, these same qualities of effective feedback also work from observer to teacher.

Marzano gives fantastic tips about effective coaching which includes many applicable strategies when providing feedback in either a coaching or supervisory role.  These include descriptive feedback, providing teachers with choice, emphasizing growth and learning, and focusing on one goal at a time.

Other great feedback resources include the following:

Keeping in mind the above tips will help when writing feedback for your first, four hundredth, or four thousandth time.  It does take purpose, planning, practice, and time to provide meaningful feedback.  However, there are very few things that make as big or bigger of an impact on teaching, and therefore student learning, than helping teachers grow.

What have you found to be most helpful when providing feedback?