Hi everyone! I’m Leigh M. Tolley, Past Chair of the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group (TIG) and Assistant Professor, Secondary Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette). Since 2019, I have been the Program Co-Coordinator of UL Lafayette’s Mentor Teacher Training Program. Through this program, we recruit, train, and support teachers in earning their Mentor Teacher ancillary certification so that they can better mentor K-12 teacher residents, teacher interns (candidates with a bachelor’s degree in another field), and both their novice and experienced peers. My own background in educational evaluation and research in formative assessment has led me to be a lot more aware of the evaluative thinking that teachers use in their daily practice. Over the past year, the adaptations that have been made to teacher preparation and training have reconfigured how teachers’ evaluative thinking is present in ways that are beneficial to educators and evaluators alike!
Asking teachers to be aware of, show evidence from, and reflect on their practice helps to make their implicit knowledge explicit. Experienced educators are able to artfully and quickly craft and deliver outstanding lessons, and shift their teaching as needed in response to their students. However, it can be a challenge for them to clearly articulate to others the myriad judgments and decisions they made in the analysis, design, development, implementation, and formative and summative evaluation processes. Remote and hybrid teaching practices over the past year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have made this even more of a struggle. Below are ways in which I have been able to learn more about teachers’ evaluative thinking:
Opportunities for inservice teachers to discuss their practice and their reasoning behind what they do helps to reveal their thinking and the inherent evaluative methods that are also involved. Giving teachers a space to engage with other professionals about what they do in an authentic way, such as online focus groups or lesson studies, will reveal much more than observations alone.
Encourage teacher analysis of data about their own teaching, rather than focusing on student data only. Part of the requirements for our teachers in earning their Mentor Teacher ancillary certificate is the collection and analysis of data about their lessons, often including videos of themselves teaching. Taking, and more importantly, having the time for teachers to review how they taught a lesson and what other evidence may—or may not—have contributed to student success, will help them to share more about their in-the-moment decisions.
Make conversations and reflections part of teaching, rather than occasional events. Scheduled, regular meetings and check-ins (such as the ones we hold through Zoom) will encourage these discussions to be ongoing among teachers, rather than only occurring once at a single meeting. In turn, this will help to facilitate their sharing about their practice when meet-ups do occur.
Engage with teacher candidates to learn what they have observed as a way to spark discussions and reflection. If preservice teachers are also in the classroom, encourage them to share what they see and have them ask questions about why a lesson was planned or implemented a certain way. Fresh eyes will likely bring in new perspectives!
Involve educators at all levels of expertise in conversations. By discussing evaluative thinking practices with inservice and preservice teachers, we as evaluators can share and encourage the use of evaluation-specific terminology that describes what is already happening in the classroom. This will then lead to shared understanding and stronger, more connected discussions.
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