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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.

Video Self Reflections

Using Videos During Teacher Observations Part 2 – Teacher Self Reflection

Last week I spent some time talking about my own personal struggles when completing observations.  As a quick recap, these difficulties included an inability to notice, and capture, everything that happened in the classroom, the difficulty in remembering and recalling the specific details of each lesson when in an observation conference with a teacher, and the teacher’s own self-reflection of the lesson.  You can read last week’s post by clicking here: Using Videos During Teacher Observations Part 1 – My Own Struggles

Today I want to focus on the self-reflection aspect of the teacher observation/evaluation process.  Many researchers have proven the power of creating an environment where employees thrive, one which:

  • Challenges employees but provides appropriate support.  The Pygmalion effect suggests that people will reach the expectations that are placed on them.  If you expect a lot from your employees, but not so much that you consistently discourage them, your team will rise to your expectations.  Consequently, if you expect very little from your employees, guess what you will receive in return?
  • Values employees and their contributions.  Teaching is a tough job, as we all know.  Your teachers are impacting dozens, if not hundreds, of students each day.  Teachers are world-changers – let’s treat them as such!
  • Encourages both collaboration and autonomy.  Teachers have a lot to learn, and a lot to share.  Encourage your teachers to continually learn from each other, yet create an environment for teachers to practice and implement their learning in their own classrooms.  In the words of Daniel Pink, “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.
  • Allows for risk-taking.  For teachers to improve, they must try new things.  Allow your teachers to take risks and see what happens (of course the risk needs to be legal, ethical, thought out, and fits within the vision, mission, and beliefs of the organization…)  Setting up an environment where risk-taking is “allowed” will provide encouragement and motivation to teachers to improve, even if there are stumbling blocks along the way.
  • Supports teacher self-reflection.  See below:

To get the most out of any professional development, initiative, or strategy, the ownership must lie in the hands of those on the front line.  The best book study or workshop will not positively affect your teachers, and therefore students, unless and until your teachers actually practice the actions.  Studying is not enough.  Learning is not enough.  You must actually “do”.

Being the owner of a company that specializes in employee evaluations, I fully support the effective use of observer feedback.  After all, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  Having an outsider provide perspective, suggestions, and questions can go a long way to improve teachers’ instruction and implementation of the studying and learning.

However, sometimes I think we miss the boat and provide a little too much observer feedback.  Many times I had observation conferences with teachers, and the teacher was WAY harder on him/herself than I thought was necessary.  The teacher would have an entire monologue prepared with things he/she would change.  This is great self-reflection, but as we discussed last week, I question what the teacher was using to reflect.  It was solely based on memory of what she heard, saw, and said as well as what she let through her own filters.  Additionally, how many days had passed between the lesson and this reflection?  Again I question if this is the absolute best way for teachers to self-reflect?

I wonder how this teacher’s thought process would have been different if he/she had reviewed the lesson on video first?  I wonder what this teacher would have noticed and how more meaningful it would be to watch the lesson, or a portion of it, on video?  Perhaps the teacher is so in tune with his/her own teaching the reflections would have been identical.  I’m guessing not though.  I’m guessing this teacher would come prepared to show, not just talk about, what she noticed and what she would do differently.  As a former observer, this is the kind of self-reflection I would want my teachers to participate in.

Next week we will dive further into the research and discuss the Best Foot Forward project from Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research.  Here’s a little teaser to think about between now and then:

“The reflection that I did myself, when I videoed, offered me more opportunity for growth than anything an outsider could do for me. Watching my kids, what went on in my room, how I handled it, and things I said—that was more important than any sit-down that I could have with anybody [else]. ”

Best Foot Forward teacher, North Carolina (2013)1

1https://cepr.harvard.edu/files/cepr/files/1._leveraging_video_for_learning.pdf