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Self-reflection, perhaps the most important component of teacher evaluation

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A variety of teacher evaluation models and methods are used in schools around the world and teacher and school leader attitudes towards them differ considerably.

From the teacher perspective, perhaps the greatest concern regarding teacher evaluation systems is their fairness. In some schools teacher evaluation comprises an extensive list of things that the teacher will, in some way, be measured against by an evaluator. The trouble with such a list is that most evaluators are not able to spend enough time with the teacher to be able to reasonably evaluate the teacher on all of these performance standards. As a result, some schools have moved towards 360 degree evaluation models. Unfortunately, the extensive checkbox list still remain in the 360 models and many of the people participating in the evaluation do not see anywhere near enough of the teacher’s practice to provide fair judgement. Furthermore, there is the whole debate about using rating scales in teacher evaluations anyway but we’ll leave that one alone for now.

From the evaluator’s perspective, some understand the above concerns of the teacher but, for many, they are mandated to conduct the evaluation as required by the school leadership, the district, or education system. Moreover, an extensive checklist evaluation system can be onerous for the evaluator who goes out in search of the evidence to justify the judgement being made, then we come back to the amount of time that can be given to the process to avoid it being rushed.

Teacher evaluation is really about providing a platform for teacher growth and development not judgement. In this sense, a teaching professional should be doing most of the work in identifying the areas for improvement with the evaluator supporting and guiding them. If the evaluator is doing most of the work, then the teacher does not take enough responsibility for their own professional learning and development in line with the expectations of the school in which they work.

Evaluation should be driven by a teacher’s self-reflection first and foremost. Evaluators become essentially coaches clarifying what elements of better teaching practice may look like and support the teacher in identifying the steps needed to get there with the responsibility falling on the teacher to self-report progress made. Of course feedback is needed throughout the process.

A difficulty with self-evaluation is that the level to which a teacher will engage with the process will vary along with the amount of honest reflection that takes place. Evaluators have to support those who will be extremely hard on themselves regarding their ability and performance but may need to be tough in giving feedback to those that have significant blind spots in their practice and ignore major areas for development. The best evaluation models school’s can have is where teachers genuinely wish to seek feedback and are motivated to improve rather than afraid of the consequences.

In thinking about self-reflection in driving teacher improvement, a great tool is the Johari Window, which was developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram in the mid 1950’s. Evaluation models that incorporate self-reflection and move outwards to seeking feedback from others should highlight to teachers that there are blind spots in their practice, things that they may be unaware that they do really well and other things that they may not know need improvement. Using a model like this, schools have the opportunity to develop greater trust in the teacher professional growth and evaluation process if they see that it it sincerely used as a tool for self-exploration to become a better teacher. There is always something we can improve upon.

The following video, from Norquest Associates, is a great introduction to the Johari Window and may be useful to weaving into beginning evaluation with self-reflection before others begin to offer feedback.

Richard Bruford View All

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology.

With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools.

Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin.

In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

One thought on “Self-reflection, perhaps the most important component of teacher evaluation Leave a comment

  1. I think this is very interesting.

    The current model of professional growth pathways we currently have seems to me to be the best way. Especially in comparison to some other checkbox evaluation systems implemented in other systems such as standards and basic QTS skills which practically check for a pulse, and an ability to push paper rather than depth of thought.

    To get the most from people there has to be some buy-in and providing freedoms, subject to alignment with schools aim, the professional growth pathway allows one to pursue a goal tailored to oneself. This seems infinitely better than a blanket-approach of one-size fits all.

    Not to mention living by the principles we seek to bring out of students in terms of reflection. This shift from evaluating to coaching, equally is reflected in classroom with the move from the ‘sage on the stage’ to the ‘guide on the side’.

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