The language of evaluation can be tricky, when you're attempting to communicate what is good and recognized as good in a teacher, and making suggestions for improvement at the same time. Using the right language can make all the difference in the teacher accepting new ideas, or rejecting them due to seeming disapproval. Written prompts that work to convey a positive message as well as defining an attitude of assistance and coaching will get far more mileage out of a teacher than will an attitude of tearing down and criticizing.
Acknowledgment of Achievements
It is always good practice to know the goals and prior achievements of teacher evaluees. Providing recognition for success up front can offset any misconceptions about the evaluation at-hand. Ask a teacher before evaluation what her professional goals are, both short- and long-term, and what achievements she can be credited with to date. Acknowledging these achievements when offering suggestions for improvement will make your suggestions far more likely to be accepted. Additionally, you'll enhance the process by providing the teacher with a vehicle of strength from which to draw.
Recognition of service to-date is also an important and motivational practice when there is a need to act quickly on an evaluation. While a teacher may need work or honing of skill in one area, there may very well be another experience in which he can take pride, offsetting any negative feelings of failure related to suggestions for improvement. Recognize this effort when outlining the need for improvements.
Using standardized commendation prompts provides legitimacy and adds consistency to an evaluation process. Prompts such as “Uses technology to support and supplement learning” and “Plans instruction carefully and strategically to support scaffolding” can apply to a broad range of teachers. More vague prompts, such as “Plans instruction” and “Makes technology available to students,” leave room for specific suggestions while acknowledging that practice exists and can be expanded upon.
Language of Recommendation
Recommendations and references are a necessary component when seeking out new professional opportunities in the teacher evaluation process. The more focused and specific the language, the stronger and more legitimate the recommendation will seem. Using verbs that fit the task and naming the specific task, such as “Manages and organizes the classroom effectively throughout collaborative learning assignments,” provides information on degree of skill and effort as they align with the teaching task.
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