Melinda, a second-year English teacher who I mentor, needs to incorporate more student reflection in her classroom, according to guidance her vice principal offered in a recent evaluation. Her vice principal’s recommendation was for Melinda to have students reflect on their learning by identifying their own learning goals and areas of growth.
In our mentoring session a week later, Melinda confided, “I don’t really know how to do that. Should I just ask them to write down a goal and a growth area in their journals? What if they can’t easily identify what their goals and growth areas are? Then what should I do? And how will I effectively monitor learning goals and growth areas for over 100 students?”
For many novice teachers, incorporating evaluator feedback into their daily practice can seem like an overwhelming challenge. In particular, school administrators may make suggestions for improvement without providing specific tools, resources, or guidance for how novice teachers might plan and implement changes to improve their teaching practices.
As a mentor to novice teachers, I see this phenomenon all too often. The evaluator, usually an experienced educator, makes a suggestion for improvement but overlooks the fact that the novice teacher may not yet know how to implement the recommendation.
As a novice teacher, how might you clarify evaluator feedback? And how can you identify the areas for growth in your own teaching and learning skills? First you will need to devise a data-driven action plan, and then analyze and reflect on the data to improve your teaching.
Analyzing Growth Areas to Improve Teaching Practice
Collaborate with a colleague: Ask a colleague or mentor to review the evaluation feedback with you—they can be really helpful in clarifying the feedback, and they can help you understand any topics or concepts from the feedback that you’re unfamiliar with. Here are some questions that may help you gain clarity as you consider your evaluator’s perspective:
- What data from the evaluation feedback provides evidence to support the recommendations for growth?
- What strategy or course of action did the evaluator suggest? Where can you get resources or information to help you implement this in your class?
- What additional strategies or actions might help you close the gap and grow your teaching skills for this identified improvement area?
Think about additional potential growth areas: Determine what data you already have for the growth area your evaluator identified. But it’s also important to remember that this person probably doesn’t see you teach every day, every week, or even every month, and so what they see is only a snapshot of your classroom reality—and though that snapshot may be accurate, it isn’t the whole picture of your daily teaching.
As you consider your evaluator’s feedback, ask yourself questions that might help you further examine your instructional practices to find growth areas:
- What specific evidence is my evaluator drawing on? Is it just one class, or might this be a pattern of teaching across all of my classes?
- What additional evidence do I already have (teaching videos, student work, written student reflections, etc.) that would help me with a more comprehensive review?
- What additional data might I need to collect? What might the data look like (teaching videos, student work, etc.)?
- What factors might be influencing my teaching and learning gaps?
- What resources might I need to further refine and improve my teaching practice for this area?
Analyze your data: Select an appropriate analysis tool. For example, if your teaching growth area encompasses using formative assessments to gauge student understanding, you might gather student work samples and analyze them using an analysis of student work tool such as this one developed by the Michigan Department of Education.
You can also gather and analyze data about your teaching by video recording a class session. Reviewing the footage can help you identify issues related to your growth area that you may need to address. Harvard’s Teacher Video Selfie is a handy guide for analyzing your videos of your teaching. And the Hawaii Lab Cohort’s Evidence Analysis Record can help you notice and describe data patterns and articulate your next steps to support your students’ learning.
Reflect on and extend your teaching practice: Take time to reflect. What did you learn from analyzing the data? What next steps might you take to work on your growth area?
Feedback can greatly influence our learning and growth as teachers. The purpose of teacher evaluation feedback is to guide you to improve your teaching, and engaging in the above steps can help you make sense of that feedback and then act on it.