I remember vividly the day that two of my university lecturers came to assess my teaching practice for the first time. I was participating in a professional experience placement at a local high school and they were to observe me teaching a practical dance lesson as well as a theory lesson in health.
I was nervous before the lessons but even more so when it came to the follow up conversation afterwards. I felt like my future career as a teacher was momentarily hanging in the balance as I waited to hear their evaluation. I need not have worried, the conversation was framed positively and my evaluators were as generous with their praise for the things that I had done well as they were with their suggestions for improvement. I left the meeting feeling happy with my progress so far and empowered by the knowledge I had gained and the suggested strategies for implementation to ensure further improvement in my practice.
Whether we refer to it as feedback, advice, assessment or a critique, having your performance judged or evaluated by others can be confronting. Yet whether we like it or not, without feedback none of us would be able to grow, develop and reach our potential.
If you think about it, we are continually receiving feedback throughout our lives. We discover as toddlers learning to walk that balance and correct foot placement are essential to success and if we don’t get it right we fall over. But when we do get it right, we are met with smiles and applause from our adoring parents.
We are given feedback from teachers when we learn to read as they encourage us to “sound it out” as we encounter unknown words. In sport and physical activity, we continuously receive feedback from coaches and instructors who show us how to position our limbs to throw, catch, hit or kick to achieve the desired level of proficiency.
In the workplace we can be subjected to regular performance appraisals as our work product is evaluated against agreed outcomes or targets. In the home we receive feedback from family members after cooking a meal as they express their level of enjoyment and satisfaction at the dinner table. In short, the giving and receiving of feedback is an everyday part of our lives.
While we all receive feedback it is what we do with that knowledge that is of most value to us. Those who welcome critique and see this process through a positive lens are more likely to benefit. Conversely, people who react defensively or even angrily when they receive feedback often view the process of performance evaluation negatively. Those who adopt this mindset are less likely to implement recommended change and thus fail to benefit from the wisdom offered and more importantly, the potential for personal or professional growth.
At Cedars, students and teachers participate in both formal and informal processes of assessment and evaluation. Over the next two weeks, students in Years 3, 5, 7 & 9 will be involved in NAPLAN testing. These tests are often portrayed through the media in a negative light, but regardless of your philosophical viewpoint they do provide a wealth of valuable data, enabling parents and teachers to gauge student progress in reading, writing and numeracy and to target areas that need further development.
Just like our students, teaching staff participate in an ongoing process aimed at continually improving the collective standard of teaching at Cedars. This involves a program of goal setting, lesson observations and professional conversations using the Australian Professional Standards for teachers as a benchmark. This process also has the added benefit of improving collaboration and increasing collegiality.
So next time you are faced with some type of assessment or evaluation, whether it be a driving test, a dance recital or a presentation at work or school, remember that this is actually a good thing, and make a conscious decision to use the information you receive to help you grow and to develop in the gifts and talents God has blessed you with.
“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” – Proverbs 19:20 (NLT)