Finding the right balance for your self-evaluation can be difficult, but peer observation is a great way to get fair and unbiased feedback on your teaching practice.

Probationer Teacher

With the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scottish schools, it would be fair to say that self-evaluation is a big part of what can make a good teacher, a better teacher.

Self-evaluation is a tricky business: we tend to either be too easy on ourselves because we're in denial about our faults or we're too critical of things which may not even be relevant to help us with improvement.

As a probationer who has to constantly self reflect on my teaching practice (and a recent student taking part in the process for roughly four years) I think I have had plenty of practice in self-evaluation. This however, does not mean I am particularly adept at evaluating the most important aspects in my practice to move towards effective improvement.

Self-evaluation through peer observation

It can be difficult to judge your own strengths and weaknesses, partly because it is so difficult see ourselves as others do. Something we think may have gone quite well, could - to another person - be a lesson in need of major changes and vice versa.

This is where the role of peer observation and visiting other stages can be a vital tool in helping teachers to experience first hand some examples of good practice, as well as extending their own professional development by implementing what they have observed into their own classroom.

As one of my targets, I aimed to experience as much good practice within the school I am working in, by carrying out peer observations and working in different stages to help me reflect on my own practice as well as carrying forward different aspects I had observed. It's important to know about the new developments happening in and around your own school as well as the different stages.

Test the flexibility of your teaching style

This year, I've been in charge of a Primary 7 class but found it very useful to travel to Primary 1 and work with a class for the afternoon, and experienced differences in absolutely everything possible!

I worked with a Primary 1 group of children during their music programme to compare the style of communication adopted between teacher and pupil in the lower and upper primary levels.

When working with my own class (P7) it is easier to give instructions and the children are more capable of working independently (to a certain extent), but when working with the Primary 1 children, I found I had to completely change my communication style to meet their understanding.

Although they were able to follow instructions competently, I had to be careful of aspects such as my wording, body language and tone of voice, in order to convey what it was we were learning. It was such a change going from the P7s back down to the P1s, but it was an example of the major differences between the lower and upper stages, and how a teacher must rethink their whole teaching style to meet the needs of the children in their class.

This experience helped me to self evaluate the different styles of communication I use with the kids in my class and how aspects such as tone can change throughout the day in relation to the certain individuals or the amount of children being directly spoken to. 

Put yourself under the microscope

Again, self-evaluation can be aided with the help of our peers. Inviting a trusted member of staff to observe your class and convey their thoughts on lessons can also help us to realise how to improve significant factors in our teaching practice.

The other probationer within the school recently observed me whilst I taught and gave me feedback on the pros and cons of my lesson. It was comforting to know we shared very much the same views although again, she gave suggestions on matters I had not even considered, and perhaps would never have crossed my mind had someone not mentioned them.

Keeping track of your progress

A final way to self evaluate is to keep a personal record of your progress. Since starting, I have taken part in daily evaluations, evaluating both the children's learning as well as my own. This gives me a written record of the progress I have made through out the year, and hopefully the improvements and will give me something to refer back to at the end of the year also.

However we progress throughout the probation year, self-evaluation is a necessary and valuable way to further our practice for the future.