One of the most valuable tips that I received during my teacher preparation years in college concerned self-evaluation. My professor shared that he had been using a system of self-evaluation which helped him grow professionally each year and focus on improving effective PE instruction. Each year, he kept a “journal” based on instructional practices and at the end of each semester, he reflected on what and how he taught during the term. Each time he did this, he noted one area of excellence which he would continue to maintain and one area of weakness which he would focus on improving.
At the time, I did not process the ultimate value to this best-practice concept. When I started teaching, I did little to no self-evaluation because I thought I was doing a “good job”. After several years of teaching, I began reflecting on my instructional practice by keeping a journal. I made a point to collect what I called the “needs improvement list” each semester. I tried to keep the list short so that I felt I could make changes to improve in my areas of weakness. The process was truly an eye opening experience that helped guide my future professional development choices. About a decade ago, I began making a concerted effort to concentrate on my areas of weakness by searching out professional development activities to bolster those areas. I truly believe that this had the largest impact on my ability to provide a quality program for my students that never got stagnant and continued to raise the bar.
As an educator, we focus a lot of our time on student achievement and tracking progress. Rarely do we, the teachers, take the time need to evaluate our instructional practices and their impact on student progress/achievement. Currently, most states have increased teacher accountability by increasing the standards for teacher evaluation. Unfortunately, the process is not improving instructional practice but rather creating stress and animosity. According to Pat Puleo (1993) in the California ASCD Newsletter, “studies show that evaluation is ineffective after five years” (Robbins & Alvy, 2003, p.104). It is my contention that if teachers spent more time performing effective self-evaluation/reflection, we would notice an increase in teacher effectiveness.
The 100 million dollar question is; what strategies should teachers use to focus on self-improvement? The process can be more or less formal based on your needs. In my experience, just keeping a personal journal has been extremely beneficial. Of course, there are more formal options that have checklists and focus on targeted goals (for a sample of more formal checklist and rubrics, click on the links below). Clearly, there are lots of options that can fit each educator’s needs. The key is to make self-evaluation part of your professional growth process. Hopefully when you are finished you will be able to provide more effective PE instruction!
Check out these links for excellent self-evaluation resources –
Robbins, Pamela M. & Alvy, Harvey B. (2003). The Principal’s Companion: Strategies and Hints to Make the Job Easier, California: Corwin.