Friday, November 19, 2010

Meaningful Assessment

Anybody that works in my school has heard this lament before.  Why is it that, as a basketball referee, I'll be evaluated at least ten times during a season, but my teaching has been evaluated twice in 11 years?

This week, I'll write an officiating test (50 yes/no questions about rules of the game; I need over 85% to qualify for national tournaments, or something like that), but every referee knows the value of this test is limited -- anybody can pass a test by memorizing rules, but can they implement them fairly, accurately, and correctly while people are screaming at them about their genetic deficiencies?  That's why we're evaluated during games, repeatedly, by different people who bring different perspectives to the practice.  Immediately after each game, the evaluator(s) provided critical feedback, identifying perceived strengths as well as a couple of areas they would like to see improved (strategies for improvement are available upon request).  They will also complete an evaluation form that, hopefully, includes the same concepts discussed post-game, and their suggestions for advancement or remediation.

Screw the test, but can you imagine the effect on teaching if we knew we'd be evaluated 10 times in a school-year, by several different people who each stayed with our classes for entire periods (days even); then sat down with us to give immediate feedback about our strengths and weaknesses?  What if we had several written evaluations to compare at the end of the year, each of which examined our teaching from individual, professional perspectives?  Wouldn't it make the feedback and evaluation our students receive even more meaningful to them, if they saw us experiencing the same?  Imagine if the people giving us feedback weren't evaluators, but our peers (especially those in our own buildings) -- wouldn't it be neat to regularly share our teaching practices with our friends and compatriots, or would it make you uncomfortable to be critiqued by someone you respect and saw drunk at a staff party once?  Either way, aren't the benefits clear?

Too bad Education's an expense, not an investment, though.

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