Reflecting on others reflections of my teaching sounds kind of meta, but that is what I am going to do in this blog post. Reflecting on my teaching happens in several ways: notes to myself scribbled on the margins of papers, notes on my iphone, this blog, discussions with colleagues, and the more formal reflection that comes from National Board Certification application/renewal and applying for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Today I received the following scores from three reviewers for my PAEMST application and was told that my application was not good enough to be a Presidential Awardee.
Reviewer 1

Reviewer 2

Reviewer 3


Dimension 1

3

2

4

Dimension 2

3

1

4

Dimension 3

3

1

3

Dimension 4

4

2

3

Dimension 5

4

3

4

Note that 1 = Fair, 2 = Good, 3 = Very Good and 4 = Excellent.
I was told in the email that came with my scores (direct quote) that, "If you reapply these comments may be helpful." Note that Reviewer 1 gave a total score of 17, Reviewer 3 gave a total score of 18 and Reviewer 2 gave a total score of 9. That's quite a bit of variability. Some of the scores are not even "adjacent". (For example, 1 and 2 are adjacent scores, but 1 and 3 are not adjacent scores.)
At first I was very confused, if three different teachers gave these scores to the same assessment done by the same student, teachers and parents would have a right to be concerned. When I score AP statistics exams, there is a rubric that needs to be consistently applied to be sure that similar papers receive similar scores. Looking at discrepancies in these scores, I would conclude one of two things. Either Reviewer 1 and Reviewer 3 followed their scoring notes, rubric and benchmarked examples (their scores are very comparable) or Reviewer 2 followed the scoring notes, rubric and benchmarked examples. Based on the table, it appears that reviewer 2 should have plenty to say regarding my areas of weakness. So, I went to Reviewer 2's comments.
Here is what reviewer 2 had to say about Dimension One: Mastery of Content Appropriate for Grade Level Taught. "Perhaps all misconceptions could have been addressed before the students brought them up. You did not address them until the students did." I typically anticipate student misconceptions as I plan my lessons. However, to purposefully mention misconceptions before students have a misconception robs students of an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Essentially this comment is telling me to wrap my students in bubble wrap and steer them away from anything that might harm their understanding of mathematics. That will not happen in my classroom.
Moving on to Dimension Two: Use of Instructional Methods and Strategies that are Appropriate for the Students in the Classroom and that Support Student Learning. Reviewer 2 states, "You are not discussing instructional methods, strategies or tools. One strategy was indeed wait time and building on prior knowledge, but you used many others." Score: 1 = Fair So, I used many strategies that were evident in my video, but I guess I didn't talk about them enough. Since I had already maxed out on the number of words for this section, I guess I need to also learn to write more succinctly. Writing more succinctly will make me better at "use of instructional methods". Really? (Head scratch.)
Now for Dimension Three: Effective Use of Student Assessments to Evaluate, Monitor and Improve Student Learning. Here is where it gets confusing to me. (I should say more confusing. ) Reviewer 1 states "Teacher described a variety of appropriate formative and summative assessments." Reviewer 2 states "You didn't discuss any forms of formative assessment or q & a. Very good." "Variety" and "didn't discuss any" seem like opposites to me. Do I need to improve in this area or not?
The comments by Reviewer 2 are even less helpful for Dimension Four: Reflective Practice and Lifelong Learning to Improve Teaching and Student Learning. "good. This is very good. You did not discuss professional development, per se." However, Reviewers 1 and 3 mention my blog and actions I have done related to professional development. They also mention me helping other teachers to improve on their own teaching. This leads me to wonder what Reviewer 2 had in mind as the definition of "professional development".
Finally, Reviewer 2 saves his sparsest comment for Dimension Five: Leadership in Education Outside the Classroom. Comment: "This section is very well done." Score = 3. Then, Reviewer 2 states "Please note that the overall quality is poor. It is often very difficult to hear. Also, the lesson starts in the middle so we don't see the explanation." Neither reviewer made any comment on video quality being poor or difficult to hear. This makes me wonder if this reviewer needed a better computer or speakers. It also leads me to wonder if his analyses and scores were impacted by his frustration with the overall "poor" quality.
Let's summarize. Overall, reviewers 1 and 3 indicate that I am doing a Very Good or Excellent job in each of the five dimensions of teaching and there are no comments from Reviewer 2 that "may be helpful". Although the letter sent by Charlie Wayne, Educational Assessment Specialist, says "We invite you to reapply for the PAEMST Program in the future and look forward to hearing from you again," I do not plan to apply again. Applying for this award four times and not receiving it has been enough for me. I don't need to apply for an award to reflect on my teaching. I just need time, space to write my ideas, and colleagues to share them with.
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