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NYC Helpline: How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Assessing Your Year  Lisa Peterson

The first year of teaching can be exhilarating, heartbreaking, and simply very, very tiring. As you approach the end of your first year, you will want to assess your own growth as a teacher. Even as a ten-year veteran I need to reflect upon what has worked and not worked over the year; and I find that the process makes me better able to meet the challenges of the following year. By taking the time to assess your own performance this year, you can apply the lessons you have learned to your second (and hopefully much easier!) year.

I like to assess my year in two ways: What have the students enjoyed? What have the students learned?

To find out what my students have enjoyed, I ask them to write me a letter evaluating the year. I usually ask them to include the following information:

  • What is the most important thing you have learned in my class? Why?

  • What parts of my class have you enjoyed? What made these things enjoyable?

  • What parts of my class haven't you liked? Why didn't you like these things?

  • What advice do you have for me for next year?

These letters can sometimes be a little painful; after all, kids don't hesitate to tell you that you yell too much, that you are boring, and that you need a breath mint after lunch. However, I usually find that the positive comments far outweigh the negative. If you have students write these letters each year, you will also be able to see improvement. In my earlier years of teaching, students always wrote that I yelled too much, but over the years, that comment has virtually disappeared.

It can help to remind students of the various activities you have done during the year before they write the letters; otherwise, they tend to write mostly about more recent activities. Although you can probably predict what activities appealed to your students based on their reactions during class, I always get a few surprises. The simple act of asking kids what they think gives you a lot of insight into your own classroom.

I also find it interesting to evaluate what students have learned and retained over the course of the year. In many cases you can do this in conjunction with finals. However, if your students are too young, or your school doesn't customarily give finals, you can create a Jeopardy-type academic tournament for a fun culminating activity.

For an academic tournament, I like to have students create their own review questions. I usually divide them into groups by topic, and have the groups brainstorm a list of review questions about that topic. I type up the review questions, adding some of my own if necessary. Then the students choose teams and work in their teams to ensure that everyone knows the answers to all the review questions. Of course, if you don't have time for this process, you can generate review questions yourself. I usually find that the better my teaching for a given unit, the more detail the students have retained.

As you consider what your students have enjoyed and what they have learned, you can reflect on the following:

  • What did my students learn the most about?

  • Why were they able to understand and retain this particular set of skills and information?

  • What strategies can I incorporate in my teaching to help my students retain more?

  • What parts of my class did my students enjoy?

  • What made these activities enjoyable?

  • What strategies can I incorporate in my teaching to make my class more enjoyable for my students?

  • Where can I go to get help and ideas?

Good teachers are constantly evolving. Hopefully, by asking and answering these simple questions we can think about our impact on students and continually improve our practice.



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