Self-evaluation may be the only way to improve quality of teaching

Self-evaluation? How can Greek schools overcome the ingrained mentality of decades and take a closer look at their own shortcomings? Can schoolteachers – who tend to think of themselves as irreplaceable civil servants – assess their own performance? «Who better than teachers themselves know their own shortcomings? Self-evaluation is a dynamic way to develop schools,» stresses Cambridge University Professor John Macbeth, who has developed a self-evaluation system in Britain, worked as a consultant in other countries in Europe and is coordinating two international programs of which Greece is a part. In Greece, the national coordinator of this program – currently being applied to three Athens schools – is Patras University Associate Professor Giorgos Bagakis, with the Center of Education Research (KEE) participating in one of the three. «The basis of the program is to create a framework in every school, in which teachers can strive to constantly improve the quality of their work,» said Macbeth in an interview with Kathimerini. «The introduction of self-evaluation must be done with slow, steady steps. It has to be gradually ‘built’ into a school. In Britain, it took us 10 years. We started with a very small number of schools,» he explains. The basic parameter of the system is cooperation among teachers, schools and administrators, as well as the participation of students, and gradually, parents. For example, a teacher can sit in in the class of another colleague and discuss his or her observations afterward. The process unfolds in specific steps, explains Macbeth. These are: 1) Find a colleague you respect and feel you can learn from; 2) agree on a time for and on the duration of your visits to his/her class; and 3) agree on the focus of your observations. As the implementation progresses, students and their parents are gradually included in the process. «What is impressive,» says Macbeth, «is that when students are given the freedom to give more than the obvious and beyond the bounds of their roles, they can be very mature and perceptive and can help enhance the performance of their teachers.» Beyond cooperation between staff members in individual schools, it is also important to promote cooperation between different schools. This is the second phase of the self-evaluation program and the stage at which it becomes extended. The establishment of specific aims and benchmarks for each school is the basic means, while some of the objects are, for example, improvement of the curriculum, teaching methods and the school environment. Things in Greece, says Bagakis, «look very positive so far. Self-evaluation is focusing on individual schools, giving the right amount of room for groups of teachers to progress at their own pace and on objectives of their own choice. It takes time and support from research centers,» he adds. Self-evaluation is one of the many steps forward that the Greek school system has, at long last, to take.

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