Teachers spend a lot of time assessing students and tend to be good at assessing others.
Sometimes, however, the tables are turned and teachers are the ones who are assessed in the form of observations and student evaluations that often occur annually. During the evaluation, a peer or supervisor visits the classroom, watches the teacher in instruction, prepares notes on the observation, and often at the end does a student evaluation. Teacher observations and student evaluations are usually taken seriously professionally, having implications for advancement and continued employment, so teachers are generally concerned about doing well on their observations. There are several strategies and steps an instructor can take to have a successful evaluation.
10 Tips for Preparing to Your Teacher Evaluation
Consistently Nurture a Positive Classroom climate
The first step to a successful classroom observation actually occurs before the observation—from the first day of class, in fact. It involves consistently nurturing a positive classroom environment where students feel respected, the work is productive and focused on course objectives, and the instruction is clear and meaningful. If this environment has not been established, putting it into place for observation day will not likely work.
Again, establishing the positive learning environment is much of the battle—then all that is required for the observation is to teach as usual. However, there are still some further steps that should be further taken.
Decide the Lesson
Review the observation parameters in the letter sent by the department. How long will the observation be, how much of the class session? Is there any specific content or strategy that the observer wants to see demonstrated? Decide on a lesson that will likely work within these parameters. Plan it carefully, noting the objective, materials needed, and steps involved. Remember to put the plan in writing and make it clear and readable as observing faculty usually wants a copy of a written lesson plan.
Prepare the Students
Mention the observation to the students and what to expect, just so that they are prepared for the break in routine, which some students have difficulty with.
Prepare the Classroom
Going back to the lesson you have decided on, make sure the class is set up for that day with audiovisual equipment, books, and other materials needed. Configure the classroom as necessary, moving the desks in the desired format and gather the supporting materials needed.
Introduce the Observer
During the actual observation, begin by explaining in a matter-of-fact way why the observer is there: “Ms. Holloway, whom you may know from other classes, will be joining us today to watch the lesson…” etc.Treat the observer as much a part of the class as possible, such as sitting with the students and following along with the same materials.
Relax. Breathe deep. Smile. Remember the observer is there to support you. If you are prepared, you are less likely to be nervous. Rely on your notes as necessary. Focus on the task, the instruction, and the students, not the observer.
Try a Typical Teaching Day and Lesson
Proceeding with a typical teaching day that fits into the sequence of instruction will help with any anxiety, as you are doing something familiar. Also, it is helpful to the observer as well as the class as whole if this is a usual lesson, not a “dog and pony show”—that is, something for demonstration only, not authentic purpose. If you are genuine, this helps with your nervousness, the observer’s sense of what you are really like in the classroom, as well as the students’ learning as they are not receiving “fake” instruction for show but genuine teaching within the true context of their class work.
As stated, the written lesson plan will help with anxiety, giving a sense that you know where you are going. But as with teaching in general, flexibility is called for. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the lesson plan. A student may ask an unexpected but very relevant question that deserves to be addressed in some depth. You may find that the lesson plan is a little too complex or too simple for the students and that you need to slow down or speed up and adjust in general. That you are able to make these adjustments on the spot will impress the observer more than if you had stuck faithfully to a plan that wasn’t quite working.
Integrating the Observer into the Classroom
Observing faculty and administrators have different philosophies about how much they want to be involved in the class instruction when they observe: do they prefer sitting in the back of the class taking notes or would they like to have a more active role in actually joining the class instruction? If possible, find out ahead of time how the observer would like to participate in the class.
Whew—it’s all over! The observer has left after the completing the observation and perhaps doing student evaluations as well. You may now spend some time debriefing students, answering any questions, and thanking them for participating in a successful observation. You may also have a final debriefing session with the observer, in which feedback will be given, both positive and constructive. Listen attentively, perhaps take notes, and take the feedback seriously for possible adjustments to your instruction.
Few people like to be observed or watched. It provokes stress and can even lead to mistakes. However, through preparation and attentive planning and listening to feedback, a successful observation can be achieved.