October 31, 2003
(intake 9, M.Ed., Hong Kong)
Improving the Feedback Portion of my Teacher Observation/Evaluation Process
Progress in education is tied inexorably to teacher improvement in the classroom. As Principal I carry a major responsibility in that growth arena. I will be using action research techniques to make the feedback I give to teachers on their methods and learning environment management more effective. This is a rather small segment of the improvement process, chosen for that specific reason. Positive results will encourage and allow for expansion in the future. The previous year’s evaluation forms regarding my performance indicated this as an area that I could make more effective. I agree with these findings. This subjective conclusion on where to improve is given credibility and impetus by these evaluations.
An open and honest appraisal of all the aspects has convinced me that this project is completely feasible. There may be small expenditures involved but these fall quite naturally into areas where spending is under my control and needs only my approval. My position of leadership provides me with the resources and authority to initiate and complete the entire project within the allotted time frame. Support from the school’s Headmaster, the other Principals and the teachers under my influence was relatively easy to get. Time will be the principle expenditure. Having widespread acceptance of its potential value will enable me to devote several scheduled hours per week to the task without risking negative scrutiny from colleagues and staff. The actual implementing of the project should not generate any large amounts of sensitive data or information. I have already taken the opportunity to pledge complete confidentiality with any such information. Computer files will only be stored under security controlled systems. Hard copy documents will be kept in a locked file cabinet in my office.
The self-reflective nature of true action research makes it most compatible with change that is initiated from the bottom up. Individual practitioners evaluate their process or performance, decide on an improvement target, implement a change and then re-evaluate based on results. Evidence used here can be objective as well as subjective and often involves “glimpses” caught along the way. It is much less formal than typical research and its purpose is different as well. “The fundamental aim of action research is to improve practice rather that to produce knowledge.” Elliott [1991:49] “The most important difference is that in traditional research the researcher was required not to influence the situation being studied; in action research, the researcher intentionally sets out to change the situation being studied.” Lomax [2002:123] Altering the plan of action along the way is acceptable and often desirable since there is no fear of contaminating the evidence. “Sometimes things do not work out neatly and require a good deal of creative zig-zagging to get back on course. Sometimes they do not get back on course. Understanding how to deal with the complexities of the situation is at the heart of the process.” McNiff [2000:202] Educational management has typically pushed changes from the top down. I realize this perception gap between “in the trenches” initiated change and the “commander” issued orders for change is a very real and potent deterrent to a smooth, cyclical and ongoing course of action. “... institutional management is interpreted by, for example, Holly, (1984) as ‘top-down’ hierarchical and bureaucratic enterprise involved primarily in maintenance of the status quo. Action research is an ‘alternative paradigm’ pressing for change from the ‘bottom-up, characterized by collegial and collaborative relationships between teachers.” Wallace [1987:98] It is crucial that all people involved see this as my...