Making the Evaluation Process Easier for Everyone

checklist-443126_960_720As a media specialist, the evaluation instrument can be daunting. It’s very long, dense and sometimes hard for administrators to understand. In the past, I feel like much of my evaluation conferencing has revolved around me explaining the standards/elements and breaking down what they look like for the person who observed me.

After my first year as a librarian, I learned that if I wanted to have better evaluations, I needed to make the process more user friendly for my administrators. Much of what we do as media specialists is behind the scenes and can’t be observed by following us around for 45 minutes at a time. It’s important to collect artifacts of what we do everyday. However, collecting evidence is only one part of making the evaluation process easier – we must also curate it into an easy to use format for principals and assistant principals.

To do this, I have kept a professional portfolio each year, for the last 7 years, showcasing my work with teachers, students and my extended PLN. I’ve used multiple platforms to organize and present this portfolio, including Google Sites and Weebly. I generally create a page for each major standard (1-5) with the elements (a, b, c, etc.) listed on each respective page. Then I post entries for each artifact I collect during the school year on the page(s) for the standard(s) it represents. Many of my artifacts are repeated throughout as they fall into more than one category.

Over the years, my portfolio system has proven extremely helpful for administrators. I can share the link with them at the beginning of the school year and they can follow it all year as I update it frequently. Then, when I sit down for an observation or evaluation conference, the administrator feels more prepared to discuss my strengths and areas for growth.

I recently sat down with one of my Assistant Principals and had my summative evaluation for this school year. She thanked me profusely for my portfolio site, commenting that it helped her to keep track of all that I do. It felt good to know that I had some control over my evaluation, since much of what is on the rubric can’t be seen in a 45 minute visit to the library while I’m co-teaching a class or running programming. As she and I talked, I shared with her an idea I had to make better use of my portfolio idea – a way to make it less work on me and geared more toward reflection and sharing. Next year, instead of having a separate portfolio site where I house evidence and artifacts of meeting my standards, I am going to use this blog!

I have created categories for each standard (1-5) and will simply use the blog to post and reflect on what I’m doing in my work with students, teachers and outside of the building. For each post, I can easily include pictures and videos. I will then mark the post with the appropriate category (Standard 1, 2, 3, etc.) so that when my administrator is working on an evaluation, she can search my blog using the standard she is looking for and pull a curated list of all of the posts that feature work meeting that standard. Up to now, I have been posting on both my portfolio site and then reposting on my blog, so this new system will mean I only have to post once, but I still get the same effect.

I’m so interested in how other media specialists curate and share what they’re doing with their administrators! I’d love to hear from you if you have great ideas on this!

Fairy Tales + Kinetic Sculptures + Rube Goldberg = Awesomeness! (Part 2)

IMG_2775 (1) IMG_2744 IMG_2514 IMG_2512 IMG_2508Last month, I partnered with the Art I teacher to work on a unit that mixed literacy and kinetic sculptures. We took the unit she had already created and breathed new life into it by challenging students to be inspired by picture books and also add in aspects of Rube Goldberg design. You can read more about the project here.

So, the students finished their sculptures and have uploaded all of their work to SeeSaw. We used this platform to showcase all of their efforts during the Engineering Design Process because 1) it’s super easy to use from both a browser or mobile device and 2) it allows the entire class to see, comment and discuss each others’ work. It also helped Ms. Rubino (partnering Art I teacher) and I to assess student groups along the way, ensuring that they had better products in the end.

Click here to see photos and videos from the project!

Our project has now ended, but the learning has not stopped. Ms. Rubino and I have started to reflect on the unit, taking note of what worked, what didn’t work and ways that we can improve this for next time. We had challenges along the way, including both of us being out on different days, which meant the students were on their own a lot.

Some of the things we’re thinking of improving on for next time include:

  1. Taking more time to introduce SeeSaw; making sure students understand our intentions for using it to share work and create dialogue about that work – We found that students had no problems uploading their work to the platform, but there was very little commenting about each other’s evidence.
  2. Being clearer about the requirements for the final product; having a rubric that students can use to assess their efforts – Our intentions were for all students to have a kinetic sculpture that had both kinetic properties and evidence of Rube Goldberg design. What we got instead, were sculptures that had one or the other. The idea of Rube Goldberg design was lost on many students, with most of them creating moving sculptures that might have one cause and effect relationship, not a series.
  3. Sharing beyond the classroom – Our initial idea was that we’d have students share their final products through videos which we’d feature in a bracket style competition for the school and community to view and vote on. We both believe strongly in creating products for authentic audiences, not just for the teacher. We wanted to create a March Madness type of competition, but we ran out of time as Ms. Rubino has another entire unit to cover before the end of the school year.

If you’d like to hear more about this project or get specific information that we used, please contact me!