It’s about that time that back-to-school activities are coming to a close, classes are established, routines are understood, and the weather is finally cooling off.

This also means that it’s about time for observations to begin. By Oct. 1, all teaching staff members must be informed about how their district has decided the important elements that make up the overall evaluation system. This includes the:

• Observation schedule.
• Data collection protocol.
• Function of pre- and post-conferences.
• Scoring system.
• Role of “behind-the-scenes” data.
• Process for developing and scoring SGDS.

If that information isn’t available, be sure to contact the teachers on your DEAC (District Evaluation Advisory Committee) to find out what they advised, what decisions were made, and how to get the information you need in order to be successful.

To prepare for individual observations, consider your individual goals based on last year’s evaluation results and be sure that your designated supervisor knows where to focus when collecting data around instruction. You’ll also want to collect your own data (lesson plans, activity documents, student work, and classroom resources) to share during pre- and post-observation conferences. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your district’s criteria and rubrics so that you can connect observation evidence—and the supplementary data you provide—to the model.

Prepare for a post-observation conference by thoroughly reviewing the data collected by your observer. Is it objective and free from bias or did the observer draw some conclusions without getting a complete picture? Be sure to supplement observation evidence, particularly when observers were only in the classroom a short time or missed a critical part of instruction. Student work is particularly significant and provides insight into how engaged students were during the lesson and whether the instruction met your goals.

Bring your annotated lesson plans, indicating when you were collecting formative assessment data during the lesson and how that might have influenced you to make instructional adjustments (or not) based on the students’ needs. Accomplished teachers assess students in ongoing and subtle ways, and this isn’t always apparent to an observer who drops in to see 20 minutes of a lesson. Lesson adjustment is often a nuanced action that an observer might miss entirely. So be prepared to share this information at the post-observation conference.

Most important, highlight aspects of your instruction that were strong, and indicate one or two areas where you want to push it to a higher level. This doesn’t mean there was something wrong or needs fixing. Teaching is complicated work and highly contextual. Seasoned professionals know how to reflect and identify ways to move from good to great.

Dr. Stefani Hite is an outside consultant hired by NJEA to assist members with the transition to the new evaluation system. Contact her below.

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