Self-assessment Tools for Novice Teachers Training and Development Program at the Language Center (CL) of the Espírito Santo Federal University
Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Brazil
The elaboration, adaptation and administration of self-assessment tools for use with novice teachers during their practicum at the Language Center (CL) of the Espirito Santo Federal University grew out of primary needs for supportive approaches to teacher training and development. By far, the student teachers who apply for trainee teacher positions in the two-year teacher training program outnumber our management and mentoring staff. Being our team of supervisors short-staffed, we are constantly seeking for support. Thus, these tools have been complementary to novice teacher follow-up, rather than a replacement to other forms of supervision, such as classroom observation or one-to-one feedback.
The self-observation checklists, were first implemented in 2010 and have been in use ever since. After so many years in regular use, these self-monitoring tools turned out to be a significant component of young teachers’ professional development and an aid to help us trainers with our daily overload of pre and in-service supervision responsibilities.
We have been EFL teachers and teacher trainers at the Language Center (CL) of the Espirito Santo Federal University since the Center was instituted in the late 1980’s as a university extension project. The Center’s object is twofold: first, to give trainees in-service experience to develop their teaching skills and, ultimately, to become better professionals; second, to give the community inside and outside the university an opportunity to learn foreign languages at a low cost.
In the light of the available literature, self-monitoring or self-observation “refers to a systematic approach to the observation, evaluation, and management of one’s behavior for the purpose of achieving a better understanding and control over one’s behavior” (Amstrong and Frith 1984 in Richards 1994, 118). Besides our own practical reasons, we have also listed a few ones based on Richards’ (ibid., 119), which are summarized as follows:
(1) Teacher training programs should mark the beginning – not the end – of professional development. The amount of time they spend in professional development is relatively short in comparison to the length of their teaching careers;
- Self-monitoring provides an opportunity for teachers to reflect critically on their teaching. The skills of self-enquiry and critical thinking are seen as central for continued professional growth;
- Self-monitoring can help narrow the gap between teachers’ imagined view of their own teaching and reality – a gap that is often considerable;
- Self-monitoring shifts the responsibility for initiating improvement in teaching practices from an outsider, such as supervisors, to teachers themselves (although it does not obviate the need for objective evaluation of teaching).
The term self-monitoring, however, “implies checking on something relative to an existing standard or expectation (…) Self-observation implies a professional curiosity – watching, listening, and thinking without necessarily judging” (Bailey et al., 27). Our expectations, then, must not exceed that of what our reality is: The Language Center as an institution that regularly takes onboard undergraduate young Letras students with no previous teaching experience at their starting point of professional training.
If we were to rate our challenges in relation to interacting with inexperienced undergraduate student teachers, we would probably start off by expanding reasons 2 and 3 stated above. ‘’Self-enquiry and critical thinking’’. These are paramount skills and key to personal and professional growth, and so is bridging gaps between imagined views and reality.
By looking into the many different definitions of reflective teaching available in the teacher cognition literature, we shall add, from an empirical perspective, that reflecting critically demands above all, some good level of maturity.
In this sense, taking into consideration the idiosyncrasies of the Language Center as a teaching context, the maturity component is central to the effective engagement of young teachers in not only thinking about teaching, but also in questioning the goals and values that guide his or her work, and in consciously examining his or her assumptions about teaching. In general terms, young student teachers applying for a teaching position in a language school program, with no previous teaching experience, need guidance towards reaching a basis for reflection. By providing them with self-observation practice tools, we believe we have, to a certain extent, opened a lifetime process for learning, development and growth.
We have adapted the original “Teacher self-observation checklist” (in Richards 1994, p.135-37), separated it into 5 (five) versions, and assigned them according to the following groups of respondents:
- Group A: Trainees entering the TT Program;
- Group B: Trainees on their second semester in the Program.
These checklists or inventories are self-explanatory (Appendix 1). There are several statements listed under categories, e.g. Learning environment, Classroom management, Self-concepts, Approach, etc. Each checklist item must be rated according to the frequency with which the respondents employ them. Once they get through completing and sending the forms by indicating which teaching practices were used within a specific time period we schedule individual debriefing meetings so as to relate their perceptions of their teaching practices to our own notes collected during classroom observation.
Accordingly, the debriefing also works as a complement and a follow-up to other forms of supervision, such as classroom observation and one-to-one feedback. So far, self-monitoring has confirmed that there are practically no areas of teaching that cannot be bettered through self-enquiry and critical thinking. Their use on regular basis in our teaching context has proved to be a simple but effective way to help us supervisors, mentoring staff and young trainee teachers narrow the ‘considerable’ gap between teachers’ imagined view of their own teaching and reality.
Bailey, K. M. 1998. Learning about language assessment: Dilemmas, decisions, and directions. Boston: Heinle and Heinle.
Richards, J.C. (1994). ‘The teacher as self-observer: self-monitoring in teacher development’ In Richards, J.C. The Language Teaching Matrix.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 118-143.