More musings on Appraisal

I have just had my first meeting with my Learning Buddy.  As part of the Appraisal Team we have been talking about the whole system for more than a year now, but it has somehow been a sort of abstract concept which seemed to have lots of merits even if it did look like it would be a lot of extra work.  Now that I have actually started the process it has prompted me to reflect a little more on what we have been talking about for so long!   We have been looking at refining/modifying/improving the whole process of Appraisal and Attestation.  The two words (Appraisal and Attestation) need defining and nobody seems to have a really clear idea of the difference between the two.  As a group we have tried to make a distinction between the process of Attestation which is necessary for teachers in New Zealand to renew their practising certificate and is, in effect, a tick box exercise to prove that we are capable teachers,  and Appraisal, which we feel is more how we develop our skills to improve our teaching and our students’ learning.  We think that this should be a robust process but its aim should not be to “tell” somebody else how to do something, it should not be hierarchical and it should not be threatening. We work with our peers, someone we have chosen because we either feel comfortable with them, or because they have skills which we feel can be useful to us in our quest to improve ourselves.  We can share ideas, hold up a mirror for them to reflect on their practice and the can do the same for us.  We can observe and describe their practice in the classroom but encourage them to come up with answers to their own questions.  This is not easy, we are trying to come to terms with the idea of Learning Conversations – for too long we have been used to asking someone for advice on how to do something, waiting for someone to tell us the “best” way to do it – listening, describing and reflecting are not necessarily things we are comfortable doing.  Yet, that is what we are asking our students to do – the new curriculum requires us to encourage our students to be independent learners, learners who reflect on their mistakes, on their work, and who find their own solutions to problems with us on hand to guide them but not necessarily to tell them.  If we can’t reflect on our own learning, how can we expect our students to do it?  We have decided that Reflective Practice is a more appropriate title for what we are doing, we could also call it a Learning Journey, because that is exactly what we are doing – reflecting on our practice, going on a journey of learning.  It also separates it in our minds from the word Appraisal that is used by the Ministry of Education for the Attestation process.  Maybe going through this process ourselves might actually be the key to learning how to getting our students to be independent learners!

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