By Nick Rocha – Teaching within our current educational system often involves a great deal of autonomy, emotional competency, and a passion to build and sustain an organized learning environment. One element that is often unique and challenging to teachers (as compared to other professions) is how to effectively evaluate their instruction and methodology. A typical classroom houses one teacher; peer educators are conducting classes at the same time and usually cannot observe other classrooms. How might self-evaluation pose some significant challenges to improving on lessons and classroom management? What can be done to minimize bias?
It is appropriate to define what self-evaluation means in this particular context. When a teacher completes a lesson, how do they know if the lesson was engaging or valuable for the students? Many teachers utilize self-evaluation techniques to address this question. They will often reflect on whether students were attentive, if students asked questions pertaining to the materials covered, or if they looked dazed or confused. It is hard to engage critical evaluation through self-reflection because our own assumptions might influence how we choose to evaluate our style and techniques.
If teachers plan to reflect on their experiences within the classroom, they should first create a list of the learning objectives and outcomes that they want to cover before the lesson. That way they can reflect on whether or not they have achieved their objectives for the class period and if not, what they could do to address the situation. The process of critical evaluation should occur as a regular routine so that you can measure progress over the week and the semester.
Collecting information from students is another way to obtain evaluation without teacher biases. Teachers can administer a questionnaire about the course and instruction to their students and ask for an honest review of the class thus far. I would argue that students’ responses should be anonymous so that they feel that their feedback will not affect their relationship with the instructor. If teachers design the evaluation using the Likert-scale and use the same evaluation questions throughout the semester, it might provide an extremely valuable insight into the teacher’s techniques and course material throughout the semester (and how it might have changed).
If teachers desire a more insightful evaluation of their teaching, they can also ask a fellow teacher to conduct a group interview after class or after school to ask the students specifically about the class and the facilitator. This can be voluntary, but it is important to make sure that class demographics are being represented through the small interview group. Small group sessions are a strong alternative to the questionnaire approach if most students are likely to put down limited responses on their evaluations.
It is fairly difficult to self-evaluate your own teaching methods and classroom management skills. Since teachers work mainly by themselves in the classroom, finding ways to measure attentiveness or student engagement is vital for self-evaluation and improvement. Allowing students to be open and honest with their critiques might be scary at first, but measuring how teachers grow over a certain period of time can be a truly gratifying experience.