How can a principal fairly and accurately observe and evaluate my work in subject areas in which they do not have experience? Ex: World Languages, AP mathematics, AP science

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JNewblom 3 years 1 Answer 630 views 0

Answer ( 1 )

  1. This is a good question, and it’s important to make sure you, as a professional, have confidence that an observer is giving you the feedback you need to grow and improve. When this question is raised, most evaluators will respond, “Well, no matter what age your students are or what subject you teach, you still use the same best practices, so even though I taught high school math, I can still look for those basics of good teaching in a Spanish IV class or during first grade literacy instruction.” That is somewhat true. Certainly clear objectives, engagement, varied instructional activities, strong assessment, differentiated approaches, strong rapport with students, and a well-managed learning environment are important in any classroom. Still, to ignore the fact that teaching music calls for some specialized skills and instructional approaches by an instructor that are different from, say, teaching chemistry or second grade math, is to miss the point of high quality observation and feedback completely. High quality performance evaluation at its best happens when the evaluator understands the best practices you are striving for that are unique to your particular discipline or the developmental level of your students. This does NOT, however, mean that every discipline/grade level needs its own special rubric. It simply means that effective practices for “engagement” in a visual art studio class may look different from those in a kindergarten class, and the observer should be looking for a teacher to do different things to accomplish that engagement in these different settings. Rather than be frustrated by feedback that misinterprets or misses the mark, a strong professional takes responsibility to help his/her evaluator understand key practices in his her discipline. For example, if you teach a world language, helping an evaluator understand that you are striving to conduct as much of your instruction as possible in the target language is helpful so that the evaluator can watch for this and give appropriate feedback on whether you are successful. If you are an instrumental music instructor, helping a non-music teacher evaluator understand the different parts of a successful rehearsal or passing along some of your unique disciplinary standards and discussing how you strive to help students master these may lead to richer feedback from that observer. A choral teacher might explain what solfege is and why it is used. A physics teacher can discuss in pre- or post-observation conferences, the lab skills that students struggle to master all year and how she/he threads them across many lessons for reinforcement so that an observer can notice that effort and detail for the teacher how it was working in lab groups. Visual arts teachers may help their observer understand what makes a productive studio environment and how they balance critique with encouragement and modeling with productive struggle by student artists. These are just examples, but if you consider the core best practices in your own discipline, you will likely think of several you’d like to make sure your evaluator understands as he/she enters your classroom to observe. Sharing these ahead of observations in a conversation, conference, or even an email with a little context for your instructional goals are great ways to make this happen. I’ve also seen departments in larger middle/high schools use some of their time together to create some lists/examples or resources to help observers who did not teach in their discipline understand the current best practices in their field that they are trying to use as they teach and some things they’d like an observer to help them know about whether these are successful or not. The mere creation/curation of some of these documents/resources for evaluators has helped groups of teachers have valuable dialogue together about quality practices and often moves departments toward more consistency across teachers.

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