With the start of the second half of the school year comes a major time for me, as an administrator, to professionally evaluate teachers on my staff. It’s a task I take very seriously as an instructional leader because I feel it is one of the most solid opportunities to individually grow teachers on my staff.
Because I was trained by well by my district leadership both in a leadership cohort and as an instructional coach, I follow a process that includes three critical steps of 1) prebriefing of the lesson, 2) observation of the lesson, and 3) debriefing of the lesson. I presume this is standard in every district. but I feel pretty sure the most effective part of the evaluation process is one that many administrators minimize or put aside – steps one and three.
Probably the main reason I think the prebrief and debrief are so important to the evaluation process is because this is the time when I truly can open up the teacher to instructional growth instead of accountability — a side that I honestly believe gets me to questions and conversation that really grow a teacher both pedagogically and as a learner.
After studying Stiggins’ work on teacher growth through evaluation, our district created a conversation guide for both pre and post observation conversations. These documents are critical tools allowing the teacher to connect their lesson objective to their lesson activity. Additionally, it guides the conversation toward the departmental best practice, which is often put aside for a shiny one-time classroom performance. The prebriefing is guided by the teacher, and allows him/her to share the lesson learning intent, tools to reach the objective, and measure by which learning will be decided. I find much of my coaching and questions in this conversation to be centered on alignment of activities to objective – especially in respect to the process verbs.
My favorite conversation, however, is the debrief, where the affective levels of internalization occur with good questions about the lesson centered on whether or not the students learned what the teacher intended and how the teacher knows the students reached the intended target. Often times, this is new information for the teacher to process following a formal observation. I complete the debrief by asking each teacher to select one or two specific instructional targets to improve upon immediately – even if they are strong teachers. By the time we finish the conversations, I know our teachers are always pleased with the ability to reflect on their process and set goals to improve.
Without question, the pre and post conversations with teachers are where they get their own differentiated instruction. If we ask it from them in the classroom, shouldn’t we ask it of ourselves as administrators?
1/365 by LucasJLD via flickr; Jumping on the line by Stefan’s Page via flickr