Becoming a Better Teacher: How to Evaluate and Improve Your Teaching Skills
Usually when a teacher hears the word 'assessment', she thinks about strategies for checking in on her students’ progress and proficiency.
She uses a variety of assessment methods: tests, interviews, homework, and direct observations to name a few. But the best teachers don’t limit their assessment efforts to their students. Self-assessment for teachers can mean the difference between great and stellar performance. But self-assessment is foreign for those who are usually focused on student assessment. Where does the interested teacher start?
How to Make Good Use of Self-assessment
Ask Yourself Something
If you have never done self-assessment before, you may not know where to start. It’s not like teachers can give themselves tests on the effectiveness of their teaching. But by making some key and simple observations, you can gain even more information than the choice between a, b, c, or d could tell you. After each lesson, activity or event, take a few minutes to ask yourself some questions and take notes on your answers. When you are evaluating what happened in your classroom, make sure you are focusing on both the good and the bad results. Both have benefits. When you analyze something that didn’t work, you can make sure you do not repeat your mistakes. When you analyze something that did work, you will be able to recreate the circumstances that made the activity successful.
The Benefits of Self-Assessment
Though self-assessment may be the last thing on your to do list as a teacher, the process is really quite valuable. When we take an honest look at our teaching, the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, we learn where our strengths and weaknesses lie. Sometimes, we evaluate specific activities or assignments. When we do, we plan better and have higher quality activities to direct our students the next time through. Sometimes, though, assessment can give an even broader perspective. We begin to see where our teaching strengths and weaknesses lie. We may find areas where we need further training or where our teaching biases lie. Becoming aware of these needs then allows us to meet them through different types of professional development. As a result, we become better overall teachers and everyone benefits.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Method
After completing a class activity or classroom unit, simply ask yourself three questions. First, ask yourself about the good stuff. What worked?
One very simple tool for evaluation is what I like to call the good, the bad, and the ugly. After completing a class activity or classroom unit, simply ask yourself three questions. First, ask yourself about the good stuff. What worked? What was fun, successful or productive? What would you do again? Make a list of your thoughts on a sheet of paper. These are the activities or types of activities you should repeat. On a second sheet, look at the bad stuff. What didn’t work? What was a flop or too difficult? What would you not do again? These are the types of activities you want to eliminate from your plans in the future. Finally, make a third list of the ugly stuff, that is, the things that need improvement. What could have worked if you had made some changes? What could you have tweaked to make more successful? What almost worked? Which activities have potential with a little more work and planning? These are the activities that you should include in the future after you have made improvements to them.
The What/Who/When/Why Method
Another method for evaluation and self-assessment is what I call the 4W method. It’s a little more detailed than the good, bad and ugly analysis. Your post activity evaluation will be focused with four simple questions. For this type of evaluation, think back to all the things that happened in class and make a numbered or bulleted list. What happened? Remember to focus on both the good and the bad. Once you have your list of events, look at each of them in more detail. For each, ask yourself who was involved. Ask yourself when it happened. And then attempt to determine why each of those things happened. When you answer these questions, you will begin to see what worked and didn’t work in class. You will know what types of events you want to try to recreate and others that you want to avoid. Then, once you have finished evaluating each event, you will know whether you need to include this activity or type of activity in the future, whether you need to make some changes to that activity, or whether you need to eliminate that activity altogether.
Look for Patterns
Once you are in the habit of evaluating your class activities, you will start to notice patterns in your teaching. You will see areas of your teaching or classroom activities that are consistently strong. In addition, you will see areas of your teaching or classroom activities that are consistently weaker. Once you start noticing these patterns, these are the areas in which you should seek professional development. Do you struggle with incorporating communicative activities in class? Find a book or read some articles for advice. Do you have trouble explaining grammatical concepts to your students? Ask a fellow teacher for tips on how to make the abstract more concrete or take a refresher course yourself. Are you failing to cover the amount of material you need to by the end of the year? Or are your students in the habit of misbehaving? Maybe it’s time to get some training on classroom management or time management.
For teachers, it can be tempting to do the same activities over and over again, and a teaching rut can be hard to get out of once you’re in it. By regularly spending a few minutes reflecting, evaluating, and assessing what you have done in class, you can become a better teacher and one who is always getting better.
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.
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