I’ve been having some interesting conversations over the last few weeks with my buddy Steve. Basically, the conversation has focused on a simple question:

How do teachers know whether they’re good at what they do?

We’ve been trying to figure out what types of data could provide information to help us understand what good teaching actually looks like. Part of that discussion involves asking students to provide part of the data.


But browse through an article, Why Kids Should Grade Teachers, from The Atlantic that discusses the power of student feedback. And you may not agree with all of it. I get that. But the idea still makes sense to me. Kids spent months in our classrooms – their perspective is important in helping us understand the impact we’re having on them, good and bad.

I’ve attached a couple of quick sample surveys. Feel free to adapt them for content and age levels.

But there is other information that can also be useful to answering the original question. We can use all sorts of data to get feedback about quality instruction.

One of the most useful is to use a rubric.

We use lots of rubrics as part of our instruction. We know that a rubric can give us great information about student learning and performance. And we need to start using rubrics to help us measure our own performance.

But what does that rubric look like?

Check out the TeachingHistory version. They’ve put together a very useful tool. (They also have some other handy instructional tools – be sure to check those out too.)

Are there other things you can use to help figure out whether your lesson sucks?

Get another set of eyes
Admin types can be a bit scary but if you find a colleague who is willing to observe your instruction or preview your lesson plan – especially one from outside your building – their feedback can be incredibly powerful. Make it clear that everything is on the table and full disclosure is required. You’ll need their notes and observations are important pieces of data.

Let’s go to the video tape
It’s both exciting and scary to watch yourself teach. There are so many different things we don’t notice when we teach because well . . . our focus is always somewhere else.  Exciting because we see what we do well and scary because we see what we don’t do well. In a perfect world, there should be a couple of cameras (and camera person) who will capture both you and your class. Non-perfect world? Tripod in the back corner. Don’t be afraid to use iPad or other mobile device.

Watch the video a couple of days later – but view it with a specific goal in mind. Watch for appropriate questioning skills, wait time, use of primary sources, classroom management skills, assigning groups, etc. Write down your thoughts for future reference and reflection.

Take notes during class
It’s also important for you to be self-aware during the delivery of the lesson. Just because you’re busy delivering instruction and facilitating learning, that doesn’t mean you can’t also record what worked and what didn’t work. Either actually record these thoughts down on paper and pencil, on your mobile device, or mentally keep track of this stuff. At the end of the day, reflect a bit on these notes..

Use the rubric. Ask your kids. Grab some video. Get someone to observe. And get better!