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Reflection:
A Key Element in Teacher and
Student Evaluation


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By Cathy Puett Miller

Whew! It's hard to believe the year is nearly over. Thanks for making Education World a part of your success. My greatest hope is that this column helped create powerful learning environments and enthusiastic readers.

Finishing a year of teaching means either sticking our heads in the sand until fall or honestly assessing what we did well and what we can do better. I trust that those of you reading this column will join me in doing the latter. This column offers simple checklists for just that purpose. Although you might not be ready for introspection now (Busy teachers usually wait until after school is out.), scan these checklists now and print them to use one rainy summer afternoon.

Strategies for Struggling Readers

Do you have a question about teaching reading? Click here to send an e-mail to Cathy Puett Miller.

Do you have a reading strategy to share? Click here to post it to the Education World Reading forum.

In this column's "From the Real Classroom" section, you'll also find ideas for helping students evaluate their progress. I promise those ideas will be more fun than standardized and state assessments!

PERSONAL TEACHER REFLECTIONS

Remember, no one will see this self-evaluation but you, so be honest. If you need to, ask a trusted colleague or mentor for input.

  1. How effective -- on a scale of 1-10 -- was your teaching this year?

  2. Review your last evaluation and carefully consider each comment.

  3. Weigh the factors under your control that made you most effective. Use the comments below to inspire further reflection.

"I read aloud to my students every day." The landmark study, Becoming A National of Readers, says "the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children." (See New Ways to Use Read Alouds to Complement Content Learning.)

"I adapted my instruction and curriculum to meet students where they were and built from there." (Read more about small group instruction, for example, in The Use of Multiple Grouping to Improve Student Achievement)

"The most powerful staff development training session or article I found focused on the topic of ________________________________________. " (Visit Education World's Professional Development Channel for tips on reading and math instruction, classroom management, lesson plans, and more. For those of you who aspire to leadership, there's also an Administrator's Desk.)

"I swallowed a common 'fear of statistics.'" I actively used my school's system for evaluating formal student assessments (state curriculum tests, such standardized tests as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, DIBELS, and so on) to adjust and adapt my teaching throughout the school year. (Read how one school system in Spokane, Washington did it in Using Data to Drive Instruction.)

"I made my own job easier by finding creative ways to include parents in the 'learning loop.'" (Read about The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement.)

Click here for a printable version of the personal assessment checklist.

PERSONAL INVESTMENT

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire," said the 20th century Irish poet, William Butler Yates. Now that you've evaluated your skill at lighting fires (or found ideas to use to start a bonfire next year), create a checklist of goals, strategies, and methods you'll commit to use "someway, every day" next year.

Click here for a printable version of the "Some Way, Every Day" worksheet.

Limiting the list forces focus. Post your list where you'll see it every day (the corner of your desk, your daily planner or grade book, next to the light switch as a poster to share with students).

Finally, revisit teaching fundamentals; what you know works. Curricula come and go, but great teaching stays -- in any environment. In the spirit of Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach, remember that "Excellence is achieved by the mastery of fundamentals." Ponder what brought you to teaching in the first place. Ask yourself: "Why am I a teacher?"

FROM THE REAL CLASSROOM

Now it's time for you to encourage your students to reflect. Many children write essays on plans for summer vacation. Try having them write a reflective essay. Collect items from their portfolios or grade folders; share work from the beginning of the year and from the end. Ask them to evaluate how they've grown. Provide then with these guiding prompts:

  • I'm much better at _________________________________________ than I was at the beginning of the year.
  • Now I know my reading (or writing) is better when I ________________________________________________________.
  • What I liked most about this grade was ________________________________________________________.
  • Since Mrs. Smith taught us about _____________________________, I want to learn more.

Encourage students to use their strongest writing skills to communicate their message. Have them add a note for next year's students, including tips for success and what to look forward to. Include their own "great book" recommendations. You'll be amazed at how much you and your students have grown!

Click here for a printable version of the Student Evaluation form.

More Resources

Reading Suggestions
* Becoming Reflective Students and Teachers with Portfolios and Authentic Assessment, by Scott G. Paris and Linda Ayres, 1994, American Psychological Association.
* Promoting Reflective Thinking in Teachers: 50 Action Strategies, by Germaine Taggart and Alfred Wilson, Corwin Press, 2005
* The Courage to Teach: A Guidebook for Reflection and Renewal, by Rachael Livsley and Parker Palmer, Jossey-Bass, 1999

Online Resources
* 7 Habits of Good Teachers Today, by Dorothy Rich
* Through the Looking Glass: Teacher Evaluation Through Self-Reflection by Faith Spitz, Readington Township Board of Education, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey (2001)

Education World Articles
* Professional Development: Following Your Own Lead
* Your Professional Development: Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

About the Author

Known as the "Literacy Ambassador," Cathy Puett Miller uses her library science degree from Florida State University as the foundation of her work. With more than ten years experience as an independent literacy consultant working with teachers, parents, librarians, and non-profit family-friendly organizations, she has conducted research initiatives and best practice studies in the areas of beginning reading instruction, emergent literacy and volunteer tutoring. She currently is listed on the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse Registry of Outcome Evaluators.
Cathy's freelance writing appears in such print publications as Atlanta Our Kids, Omaha Family, and Georgia Journal of Reading, and online at Literacy Connections, Parenthood.com, Education World, Family Network, the Reading Tub, The National Education Association, and BabyZone. She also reviews children's books at Children's Literature Comprehensive Database. Her signature is her passion for connecting children and families to positive, powerful experiences with reading; she believes there is a book for every child.
Cathy lives with her husband, Chuck, eighteen-year-old son, Charlie, and lots of friendly, ferociously read books in Huntsville, Alabama. Visit Cathy's Web site at The Literacy Ambassador.

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