It’s Just A Conversation

I participated in my first ever #edchat conversation on Tuesday, January 18, 2011.  The topic was how to make the teacher evaluation process more collaborative. This is something many educators have wanted for a long time. Generally speaking, I believe most districts may be using something very different. They may have a simple check list with little or no room for comments, specific feedback or collaborative conversation. There are many reasons why this is so, but I say, the evaluation is just a conversation.   

What I have found is that many want to talk about their craft and constantly reflect on their work as a teacher. One question I ask teachers during the pre-observation conference is, “What specifically do you want me to look for?” This simple question creates rich dialogue and makes the process much more enjoyable. Some teachers respond with an area of strength, while others choose an area of improvement. Either way, the evaluation moved from a checklist to meaningful conversation about one’s craft. It was like #edchat before #edchat existed! The pre-observation conference is only part of the conversation. The equally important second part is the post-observation conference.

During the post-observation conference, I would begin the conversation by asking, “So how do you think it went?” The teacher would immediately reflect on nearly every minute of the lesson, offering ideas about what he would do differently, how he handled specific situations in the classroom, and what he did well. I would say very little, except for an occasional affirming phrase or a clarifying question. Once the teacher finished sharing, I would then provide specific feedback about what I saw and what I heard.  Additionally, I would ask more questions, give praise for what went well, and offer suggestions. The process is more so that of a coach with close observation, constant praise, critique, and recommendations.

My district takes the evaluation process very seriously, as we should. We use an extensive four page rubric to describe each strand of the four Praxis Domains. Each administrator and teacher up for evaluation goes through one day of training with one of our district curriculum coordinators in charge of our Entry Year Teacher program.   The process is a model of collaboration.  It’s reflective for both the administrator and teacher, and it is meaningful. Now that I think about it, in the end it’s simply a conversation about one’s craft!

What questions do you ask your teachers or what questions do you wish your administrator would ask you before and after an evaluation?

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