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Friday, January 17, 2014

The Teacher Assessment Cycle: Becoming A Better Teacher

Wouldn’t you like to be the first person to know if your lesson was a flop or your students misinterpreted your words or intentions?  Whether you like it or not, your students are continually evaluating your teaching materials and instructional style.  Their opinions travel quickly to peers, parents, tutors, advisors, and school administrators.  Frequently, the last person to hear this feedback is often the actual teacher.  In fact, this negative chatter, and exaggerations can turn a minor incident or criticism into a big ordeal.  What’s more, the spread of negative gossip can create lasting misconceptions.

Listen to Your Students Ideas and Opinions:
Allowing your students to evaluate your classroom materials, assignments and approaches can provide the needed feedback right to the source – you, the teacher. You will be surprised at the value of your students’ critiques.  My students have inspired some of my best materials.

How Can Teachers Gather This Information?

·     Utilizing a questionnaire with a Likert Scale can allow you to assess your students’ feedback quantitatively.   This can be done for assignments, projects, lessons and more.
·     Offer a suggestion box, where students can anonymously submit their feedback.  Weekly, you can review the comments, and if needed, discuss the advice with the class.
·     Allocate 10 minutes a week for students to discuss their ideas, favorite lessons and materials as well as critiques and concerns. 

How Can Teachers and Students Benefit from The Teacher Assessment Cycle?
·    Students know what is “cool” for their generation, and they can help keep you abreast of the motivating fads.
·    Students can discover how to be mindful of what they are learning and to generate and share their creative ideas.
·    Students will learn the value of accepting feedback.
·    Students can be empowered participants in the design of the curriculum.  In fact, if your students feel that they have a voice in your approach, they will be more motivated to complete the work. 
·    Students come to your class with a wealth of experience and knowledge, and they are their own best experts.
·    Students can develop their critical reasoning skills.
·    Students learn through example, and they will often imitate the behaviors of their teachers.  Therefore, if you listen to your students, they will be more apt to listen to you. 
·    Students can learn communication skills.  If inappropriate or hurtful words are expressed during an evaluation, you can use this as a lesson tool.  Teach your students how to turn negative criticism into positive advice.   The class can practice how to communicate their feelings in a way that gets their message across without hurting the recipient’s feelings and also achieving their desired outcome.
·    Students might make you aware of issues that you innocently overlooked.  For example, just yesterday when I was working with a student, Maddy.  She had to complete a portfolio assignment for her math class, and one of the requirements was to make the presentation as colorful as possible.  Maddy was troubled, as she did not have access to a color printer, while many of her peers did.   She was afraid that she would be graded down for this and spent a lot of time hand coloring the images, knowing that her attempt to mimic a color printout was second rate.   At the end of the assignment, the teacher allowed Maddy to rate this project and make recommendations for the future.  Maddy was pleased to communicate her concerns and shared that some students in the class could not afford a color printer.  In another instance, I learned that, “some Native American Tribes consider it to be taboo to show students animals such as snakes or owls.”  This was valuable feedback, because I often use images of animals in my lessons and was innocently unaware of this offensive behavior.

Clearly, accepting student evaluations will help you to be a life-long learner, an expert on your students’ needs as well as better, kinder, teacher.  I would love to hear your feedback.  If you would like a free copy of Dr. Warren's printable assessments, CLICK HERE
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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