The Teacher as an Evaluator
Teaching, like learning, is cyclic. It is a continuous process. It has no beginning, middle or end.There are three aspects to the teaching cycle: planning, implementing, and evaluating. Teachers approach these tasks as a one step at a time process. But ,in actuality, these three aspects of teaching are so interrelated that the teacher weighs all three aspects at one time. Effective teaching requires that the teacher be involved in all three phases of the cycle.
Planning involves developing learning objectives, designing the method to achieve the objectives and deciding on the assessment to determine if the objectives have been achieved. There is no set order in designing the plan. Sometimes a teacher begins with the objective and moves to the method. Other times the teacher has an assessment and determines the objective and method to be used. Other times a fantastic activity (method) is discovered and the teacher plans around this. When the teacher walks into the classroom, a plan is prepared. Experienced teachers have the plan laid out in their head. The rookie teacher needs to write it out. This lesson plan, written or mental, is the backbone of good teaching!
The implementation of the plan involves putting the plan into action. Success often rests with the ability of the teacher to manage students and the classroom environment. Motivation is an instrumental factor. Students need a reason to become engaged in an activity. The simple desire to learn or “its fun” motivates many students. The drive for good grades motivates others to become involved. Motivation is the deciding factor in becoming successful as a teachers over time. It is this element that a teacher needs to uncover over time. What motivates a particular student to learn? Experienced teachers have learned good motivation techniques. These teachers have also learned that different things motivate different students (different strokes for different folks).
Teaching, like learning, always ends with a question. When teachers have completed a lesson, they ask what worked and why. This is evaluation. It is an attempt to find the answer to questions, such as: Were the objectives clearly stated? Did the objectives really state what was to be accomplished? Did the method or activity fit the objective? Was the motivation adequate? Was the assessment fair? Did the assessment actually measure what was to be achieved? Did the students learn? What did the students learn? Teachers are constantly evaluating the answers to these questions. Evaluation leads to growth. This growth leads to improvement in future planning and implementation. The lesson can then be improved or “junked.” The teacher has found the value in each aspect and can improve the cycle.
This final role of a teacher- to evaluate- is vital to a teacher’s success. It is this role that allows the teacher to discover the worth of their work. Teachers must find the value in what they do. Most fields of endeavor have some measure of success. The salesmen have their list of sales per month. The assembly line worker has the number of products produced. The lawyer and doctor have their number of clients or patients. Teachers have the student he taught twenty years earlier who comes up and shakes the teacher’s hand and says; “Thanks, Mr M. You inspired me.” (That’s more than a Rocky Mountain High!) In recent years, standardized tests have been become the measure of success for teachers. Unfortunately, the politicians and others have used these tests solely to evaluate teachers and schools without taking into consideration all the other factors involved. True and fair evaluation must take into account many factors. This assessment is a comparison score. It is not an evaluation of the student’s work. The scores could be used by teachers or the school district to help diagnose curricular or learning problems that need to be addressed. Other factors can then be weighed to evaluate the programs.To use a standardized test as a critical evaluation tool for promotion or graduation is disgraceful.
Evaluation is a subjective process. Teachers and administrators evaluate lessons, textbooks, programs and students. They even evaluate each other. Evaluation attempts to find the value in. It is a process that must take into account many factors. These factors will vary depending upon what is being evaluated. For example, evaluations of textbooks take into account reading level, graphics, durability, coordination with school curriculum, and cost. Other factors that might be contemplated are multicultural slant, teacher ancillary materials, technology integration, interdisciplinary integration, and weight or size of the book. There is much to be considered when evaluating.
Evaluations of students present similar difficulties. There is no one factor that should be used to find the value in a student. Each student is different. Many of the problems teachers face with students have never changed. Kids are kids. But what kids have been exposed to has changed drastically. Students learn everywhere: home, street, school. Some of today’s schools are the same as their grandparents were educated in fifty years ago. Even the paint is the same. Ventilation on a hot day can be brutal to the learning process. Peeling paint and ugly water stains add the dementia of the learning process in primitive schools. Technology in a classroom with a single painted-over outlet offers a real challenge to modern learning practices. Environment is vital to the evaluation process. The availability of learning resources seriously impacts the learning process. Evaluation is a subjective process to find the value in a student amidst all the distractions of learning.
There is no standard that says the teacher is perfect. Teachers are human. The difficulty with evaluation is that it is often confused with assessment. Assessments are used as tools to evaluation. When a student scores an 76% on a history test, it is just an assessment. This same student may well have provided the class within a magnificent insight into the causes of World War I the previous day. Based on the test assessment, he is an average student. Based on the discussion, he is a genius. The teacher must be aware of many factors to find the value in this student. Evaluation is not just a series of test scores, or quiz grades or turned-in homework. It is an accumulation of many things within an environment in which a teacher must make a subjective judgment. Teachers are not always right. They can make mistakes.
Teachers return to planning and implementing with new insights or values that evaluation has given them. Teachers are continually planning, implementing and evaluating. There is rarely a time that all three are not active. They are melted into the teaching cycle. Evaluation is the emulsifier of the cycle. It is what keeps the teacher on target: leading students to learning.
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