Friday, February 17, 2017

Want to improve your practice? Observe yourself!

It is often said that the first step in recovery is admitting that you have a problem.  For educators, this could be expanded to say that the first step towards improving your practice may be identifying the problems in your current practice. Teachers and technology coaches that are truly interested in improving their practice may be overlooking some of the most practical ways to get started.  You cannot fix what you do not know is broken.

Yoda- The teacher that needs no evaluation!

Here are a few great tips for educators to identify areas for improvement:

1. Actively participate in the mandated teacher evaluation system.
Teachers get evaluated, that is nothing new. The systems used to evaluate teachers vary from state to state, even district to district. The importance that administrators place on these systems also varies.  It may be simply a task that they have to complete and could, therefore, be of little value to teachers.  But if you have an experienced administrator that truly sees teacher evaluation as a mechanism for teacher improvement, pay attention to their comments and suggestions!

2. Take a look, hard look at your own practice.
When was the last time you took your own test or completed the same assignment?  Do you have quirks in the way you create assignments that could be improved?  Are your instructions clear? Are your examples and test questions free of bias?

But self-evaluation does not end with the products you create.  It also includes taking a good look at yourself in the mirror.  Well, the modern equivalent of a mirror.  Technology has improved to the point that recording yourself in the classroom is so easy that arguing against its use is futile.  I did this myself during a professional development session just a couple of weeks ago.  I set up my iPad mini along with my Swivl C- Series C1, my own personal robot videographer! I recorded the entire session and then, a few days later, I watched the recording.  I looked for any tics, overly repetitive phrases, and my general interactions with my audience. (I actually used a portion of this recording in my PBS Digital Innovator application; you can see a portion here.) Remember, few people like to see themselves on video.  Just get past that and evaluate your practice objectively. Are you providing wait time? Do you call on boys more frequently than girls? Or particular students?

3. Critical friends
Never underestimate the power of having a close friend sit in on your class and then have a frank and honest discussion with them.  What did I do well? What could I improve? What might you do differently?

Want more tips on teacher self-assessment? Check out this page of resources from Scholastic.

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