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Getting More Out of Your Teacher Evaluations
posted by: Alix | May 15, 2012, 09:32 PM   

In most states and school districts, teacher evaluations have become a fact of life. While the intended goal of evaluations is to help support and improve teacher performance, many teachers struggle with making the most out of their evaluations. Though many of the components of teacher evaluations lie outside of a teacher's control, there are things any teacher can do to ensure they benefit from their evaluation. Here are a few suggestions:

Complete a Self-Assessment
One great idea to help you get more out of your teacher evaluations is to regularly conduct self-assessments. Request a copy of the document that will be used to measure your evaluation, or dig up a copy of an old evaluation you received, and use it for a self-assessment. At the end of a specific day or week, reflect back on your performance in the classroom and rate yourself as though you had "observed" your performance. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What did I do well?
  • What actions/resources/approaches seemed most helpful to my students?
  • What areas did I struggle with?
  • What things could I improve and how?
  • What additional skills/experience/knowledge would help me improve my performance?
Be honest about your performance, strengths and weaknesses. Write down your observations and reflections.

Now set yourself goals for improvement and identify some development activities that can help you get there. Again, write these down. Make sure your goals are specific and give yourself timelines to complete the development activities. Then periodically check in on your progress.

Completing a self-assessment is a great way to periodically reflect on your performance and take charge of your own development and success. While we all tend to evaluate ourselves reflexively, particularly after a "bad day", periodically completing a more formal self-assessment, and writing down your feedback, goals and action plans helps to overcome our natural tendency to do nothing and encourages a proactive approach to self-improvement.

Engage in a Dialogue with Your Evaluator
Wherever possible and appropriate, engage your evaluator in a dialogue about your performance; don't just rely on the written evaluation. Share your own insights. Ask for clarification of feedback where needed. Ask your evaluator for suggestions or guidance for improvements. How would they have handled the situation? What learning or development resources do they recommend? Do they know a teacher they consider a "master" in this area? If there are specific aspects of your performance that you'd like feedback on, ask your evaluator to focus on these before your evaluation. If a previous evaluation flagged areas for improvement, ask your evaluator for feedback on these, to verify your progress.

Your evaluator is supposed to be there to help you, not to judge you. By seeing them as an ally and engaging them in a dialogue about your performance, you'll get practical feedback and helpful advice to help you succeed.

Focus on Development
The focus of your teacher evaluations should be on your continued development and success – how can you become an ever better teacher than you are today? So when an evaluation identifies areas for improvement, look for development activities that can help you and take action. It may be something as simple as asking a model teacher or mentor for advice, doing some reading, or observing someone else. You can also start a discussion in the staff room or participate in an online forum. The important thing is to intentionally engage in development activities, implement what you've learned, practice new approaches, and continually evaluate your progress and success.

Seek Additional Feedback & Support
Between formal evaluations, it can be helpful to solicit additional feedback on your performance and support. When you're trying to master a new skill, it takes some practice and time. Ask a fellow teacher, your principal or even a volunteer parent to observe you and give you feedback. Then make adjustments until you feel you've mastered the skill.

Your teacher evaluations can be a valuable tool to help you in your professional and career development. By playing a more active role in the process you can support your learning and improve your performance.

Adam Cobb is regional manager with Halogen Software. He focuses on helping K-12 school and district leaders and administrators optimize their teacher and staff evaluations and overall talent management practices.

Do you have any tips for making the most out of your evaluations?
Comment below.

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