Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Evaluation Area for Improvement

Discuss one "observation" area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

This one's easy!  I just completed my state's evaluation tool's Self-Assessment and PLP indicators this past weekend. Our administration helps us out by giving ideas for what we can pick as our areas for improvement (usually related to areas we are working on collectively as a faculty), and one of this year's suggestions was an area I had already picked as an area of focus for the school year:  formative assessment.

Our district began implementing "strategic teaching" methods a few years ago, and there has been a renewed focus on knowing at the end of each class period which students have met the objective for the day and which ones have not.

I remember as we started hearing the words "formative assessment" in faculty meetings and training sessions how many of us asked, "We have to give a grade every day?" and, "Assessment?  Every day?"

As I have read blogs and articles (many of them via Twitter, of course), my understanding of formative assessment has deepened.  I now realize formative assessment has little to do with "a test" and is not intended to always be a grade.  Oh sure, I remember being taught the difference between formative and summative assessment in teacher ed classes at the undergrad and graduate level, but I remember being confused by the difference between the two at the time.

I have now read how formative assessment and its timely feedback have a huge impact on how much students learn.  I have read how to adjust my instruction daily based on what I learn from formative assessment.

And I have become determined to do a better job of administering and properly utilizing formative assessment in my classroom.

By the end of last year I knew my favorite types of formative assessments were reflective in nature. Tell me how you feel about this topic.  Green light (I got it!), yellow light (I'm a little confused), or red light (HELP!  I'm lost!)?  What parts do you understand, and what areas are unclear?  I have found students are pretty good at articulating where they are having difficulties.  I learn a lot from assessment of skills, too, but I get more information from reflections, I guess because I get a glimpse inside my students' thoughts.

One challenge for me when using formative assessments has been time.  In the past, I sometimes found I gave a formative assessment and it sat on my desk for days before being looked at.  That did neither me nor my students any good at all.  I am finding, though, with the flipped classroom, I have little snippets of time (in between walking around and assisting students) to look at formative assessments and give feedback more immediately.  Students get the papers back the next day in most cases.  In my collaborative Pre-Algebra classes, my partner teacher will pull groups of students who had difficulty with a topic to the back of the room, reteaching and helping students to correct their work.

To summarize, the ways in which I would like to see this area of my teacher evaluation improve are: give more frequent formative assessments, give students specific feedback on their work, and give students feedback in an amount of time that is useful to them.

I look forward to seeing the gains of my students as I work on this area!

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