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Developing self-evaluation

Deputy head

Paul Ainsworth

has just published a book on

developing self-evaluation in schools. He writes here about how to tackle self-evaluation in all its forms


N YOUR school the subject of self-evaluation may be a hot topic. Senior leaders will talk about the “SEF”

(Ofsted’s self-evaluation form) and this may have been developed into a task called the mini-SEF for middle leaders. It is likely there will be some kind of self-

evaluation process across the school perhaps consisting of observations or learning walks among other evidence. This may be implemented by looking at the work of a single department or faculty in a fixed period of time. Self-evaluation can be an issue which can be tackled

by any member of the teaching staff in a school. Teachers who have good knowledge of self-evaluation will be at a distinct advantage when it comes to looking for a promoted post in a school. Conducting your own self-evaluation of your practice is also one of the best forms of CPD as by its very nature it is completely personalised. So what is self-evaluation? In essence it is asking

yourself the question, how well am I doing something and then using some form of data to validate your conclusions. Many teachers may have been introduced to the work of Donald Schon who used the term the “reflective practitioner”. The mechanism that he suggested to reflect on teaching is called “double loop learning”. So what is this mechanism? Well the first loop (or for many people a single

loop) is the action the individual is engaged in – i.e. the teacher’s teaching. Many people do not go on to consider a second loop, which is to consider how effective the action, in this case the teaching, is. If the

Leadership Q&A

How should I address the issue of parents arriving and requesting immediate meetings with staff?

PARENTS ARE passionate about their children’s education and want to have regular updates on their child’s progress. However, if they turn up at school requesting to see a member of staff immediately, communication between parent and teacher may become somewhat problematic. Occasionally, a refusal to deal with

a request straight away can lead to the parent becoming angry or even aggressive.

Procedures for parents making

appointments with staff

There are no government policies directly dealing with meetings between parents and staff. A simple solution to the problem is an appointment

system for parents looking to discuss a matter with a member of staff. The Warwick School in Surrey operates such a procedure, but allows parents without an appointment to wait to see a member of staff if it is convenient. Alternatively, they may be offered an appointment at a different time. A number of schools have also begun to operate

headteacher’s “drop-in” sessions to which parents can come along without a prior appointment.

Sample visitor policies

With an increased focus on safeguarding, many schools operate strict policies, pressing parents to sign in even if they are well known in the school. They may also be asked to wear an identity card while walking through the school site. Foxfield School in the Wirral asks parents to

follow agreed signing-in procedures and methods of communication. On its website and in its newsletter

to parents it stipulates: “If parents wish to discuss issues with staff they can do so via chat books and letters, or request that staff phone them. Discussion cannot take place in class in front of pupils or during lesson time.”

Can an aggressive parent be removed from the school premises?

If a parent becomes aggravated at the refusal of a staff member to see them immediately, it may be necessary to remove them from the school premises. Section 547 of the Education Act makes it an

offence for a trespasser on school premises to cause or permit a nuisance, and allows for the removal and prosecution of any person believed to have committed the offence. The penalty for a person convicted of the offence is a fine of up to £500. A parent of a child attending a school normally has

implied permission to be on the school’s premises at certain times and for certain purposes. However, if the parent’s behaviour is unreasonable, this permission may be withdrawn and they become a trespasser. Many schools pride themselves on maintaining

a good relationship between pupils and parents, and having a clear procedure in place will help manage expectations on both sides.

• Answer by Caroline Cochrane, specialist researcher for The Key, the national guidance and support service for school leaders in maintained schools in England. The Key is offering a free trial to all maintained schools in England until May 28. To sign up for free resources and guidance go to

second loop is considered at the time it may not be returned to. Double loop learning is when we reflect on the process to become a reflective practitioner. Most teachers do reflect on their teaching. We all try

and analyse why a lesson went badly or why a group of pupil behave poorly for us, even though there can be a temptation, especially when we are tired, to purely lay the blame at the door of the young people. The difference between this type of reflection and

self-evaluation is having an evidence base to draw upon. Having an evidence base or data set implies that the teacher has planned before the lesson or module of work that they are going to evaluate their practice. Such a thought may scare you off but hopefully the following two examples will show you that by working on your

own or with a trusted colleague, self-evaluation can be a manageable process.

Are they off-task?

An experienced geographer wanted to discover how effective his use of kinaesthetic learning was. He had two questions; the first was whether this style of learning affected the level of on or off-task behaviour of the pupils in his lesson. The second was whether there was a difference according to gender. He worked with a young senior leader who wished to develop his skills of lesson observation. In discussion they decided that during the lesson

each pupil in the class would be observed for one minute and at 10-second intervals during this time a judgement would be made as to what the pupil was doing? Were the pupils on-task listening, on-task writing, on-task discussing, or off-task? The lesson was 70 minutes, so this process was

repeated for each pupil in the class. The 12 judgements on each pupil were then collated and analysed according to how long the lesson has been running and also according to the gender of the pupil and were cross- referenced with the lesson plan. The two teachers then discussed the findings. They

were both very intrigued as to how the pupils behaved at certain points in the lesson. They quickly saw that there was little difference between the genders of the pupils and their behaviours. The original intention was that a more traditional lesson would be observed in a similar style but the on-task behaviour of the pupils was so high they chose not to do so and the geographer was pleased that this style of learning was effective in reducing off-task behaviour.

What do they think of the marking?

One teacher was getting frustrated by the lack of attention pupils gave to his assessment of their work. At the same time, the college principal was consistently observing that pupils were not bothered by superficial comments of praise, instead they wanted to know the grade they were working at and how to improve this. The teacher decided to conduct some self-evaluation of his pupils’ views on the marking they received. The teacher chose a coursework-style assignment

where all the pupils had achieved their key stage target level. The pupils’ exercise books were randomly divided into three piles. Each group would receive a national curriculum level and a comment. One group would have their work ticked and only

a single word comment would be given – good, very good or excellent. The second group would receive a positive sentence

about the piece of work, complimenting them on their high standards, their improvement or even their presentation. The last group would have a formative comment

explaining what the pupils needed to do to reach the next level without any praise. A questionnaire was designed to gather the pupils’

opinions consisting of three questions. The pupils had to read the comment and circle two of the following which described how they felt – proud, confused, confident, pleased, unsure, disappointed, happy or worried.

SecEd • April 29 2010

The pupils then had to circle a word describing

their feelings on the lesson – very negative, negative, positive or very positive. Finally the pupils were asked to explain what type of comments they liked to receive. The teacher explained to his class that he was

researching their views about marking and assessment of their work. The pupils were asked to prepare carefully by considering what they had learnt and also to consider more deeply what impact these assessment comments had on their own learning. Then without discussing with their neighbour they were to read the comment and complete the questionnaire. There was little difference in how the pupils felt

about the lesson. For all three styles of assessment the pupils broadly responded positively. However, even though all the pupils had achieved

their target level there was a noticeable difference in the pupils’ reaction to the comment. For the single word assessment comment, all the pupils circled positive words. For the encouraging sentence, most of the words circled were positive. Yet for the formative comment just over half of the words circled were positive. When the pupils’ free responses were analysed

they were grouped into three sections. Fifteen of the pupils wanted to receive teacher comments which were purely praise or encouragement. Twelve pupils wished to receive formative comments on how they could improve, but they all wished this to include praise too. In contrast only three of the pupils were prepared to accept formative comments that did not include praise. The teacher felt that the major benefit of this

self-evaluation was not the actual findings but the attentive manner in which the pupils engaged with the assessment. The teacher found that pupils often gave assessments a cursory glance in their eagerness to begin the next task or project. During that lesson and subsequently, however, pupils readily discussed their reactions to the marking of that piece of work and other assessments they had received. On that day, teacher and pupil alike all reflected on their learning.

Next steps

These are two simple examples of how you can evaluate and then reflect on their own practice. In addition to observation or questionnaires, there are many other self-evaluation tools which you could use, such as analysing the data on pupils’ performances in assessments or a pupil focus group to gather pupils’ opinions. Later in the summer term why not consider a

simple question and try your own self-evaluation. As well as these skills being useful for improving your practice as a teacher they could also prove invaluable if you are looking to make the move to a middle leadership role.


• Paul Ainsworth is a vice principal and the author

of Developing a Self-evaluating School: A Practical

Guide (Continuum International Publishing, 2010) which has more ideas for teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders in how they can develop their own and their school’s self-evaluation techniques. Email

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