Evaluations: What to Expect

I know there is some stress and anxiety that accompanies a Site Visit Observation. To help you feel as comfortable as possible I urge you to review the site evaluation form prior to each visit, so you are familiar with the criteria that is being evaluated. Expectations are for your position as a Student Teacher, not a veteran teacher.

Site Visit #1: Review the Professional Dispositions and Evaluation Form #1 criteria, complete the Pre-Observation Self-Reflection form. *Send me your completed Self-Reflection 48 hrs. before visit.  

Site Visits #2, #3, #4: You will prepare a lesson plan and deliver it (see attachment for more details on what to expect). The academic content area is not as important as the preparation, planning, delivery, and reflection. Those are transferable skills that demonstrate teaching ability across content areas. *Send me your completed Self-Reflection, and Lesson Plans 48 hrs. before visit.

**Site Visit #4 will also include the Professional Dispositions evaluated in #1 and the Content Standards for your Education Program. Please communicate this to your Cooperating Teacher so they complete the appropriate Content Standards section. Additionally, please review and complete a Self-Assessment on the Site Visit #4 Evaluation form. *Send me your completed Eval #4 self-assessment, Self-Reflection, and Lesson Plans 48 hrs. before visit.

My objective at the observation is to look for good work to build on; my goal is to support you in honing your teaching craft and reflecting on future growth. During our post-observation review, I will be sharing with you the positive aspects of your lesson, and areas of improvement that I observe. The purpose of my feedback is to let you know your strengths and skills you are performing well, and what areas have room for growth. I encourage you to approach your observation with a positive mindset, and be open and receptive to hearing critical critique, in the context of professional growth and development.

Finally, I will be sending you a post-observation Reflection to complete and send back to me as part of the evaluation process.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns not addressed. Please remember that my role is to support you in becoming the best teacher you can be! Find attachments here.

“Every teacher needs to improve. Not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”  ~ Dylan Wiliam

A note on Self-Reflections

The Pre-observation Self-Reflections you will complete and send me before and after each site visit informs me on areas you may need particular support, areas of strength, and gives me a more complete picture of progress and demonstrates competence in reflective teaching. This is also a practice of high quality teachers, and will be required in your BTSA program to clear your credential. Self-reflection can feel uncomfortable, but is a valuable exercise in growth and development, and will help you become a better teacher.

**This informs the Reflection component of your evaluation and contributes to Professionalism criteria.**

A visitor is coming!

Please inform your students that a visitor will be coming (me), and give them a brief explanation of the reason. If they are aware of a class visitor hopefully disruption will be minimal. Also, they will not be nervous that they are being watched if you explain that I am there to watch you :-). Finally, when they are included in the loop of classroom happenings they can feel that they have some ownership of the class community, it is not just the teacher’s classroom.

Site Visit #1

In preparation for your first site visit evaluation, please review Site Visit #1 Evaluation (15wk / 16wk) criteria so you know what to expect. I will plan to observe for about an hour teaching block, or one academic class period. You do not need to prepare and deliver a formal lesson plan the first visit, but I need to observe you working and interacting with students. Please send me your completed Self-Reflection 48 hours before the visit and plan for the following:

  1. Schedule to have your class/students covered for up to 45 minutes following the visit so we can review the observation together.
  2. We will review your completed Self-Reflection in our post-observation conference.
  3. We’ll discuss your planning and reflection sessions with your Cooperating teacher. *You should be meeting regularly with your Cooperating teacher for planning and feedback (2-3x weekly).
  4. Please review What to Expect and Tips.
  5. *Optional: take the Free CVI (green button, should not take more than 5 min.) and review your results. This is a motivation assessment index, and is useful to better understand what drivers inform how you operate in a professional capacity.

Also, please communicate with your Cooperating/Mentor Teacher and make sure they have a copy of the appropriate site visit evaluation form. Find Professional Dispositions and video resource. Please find additional GCU COE forms located here and here.

*Video recording: I do not video record observations unless requested, but I encourage you to use that as a personal reflection tool at some point during your student teaching. It is really helpful to see things that you cannot really be aware of when you are actively teaching, but are able to notice on a video. There is a release form in the Student Teaching manual appendix or on the GCU COE website.

*FYI, all site visit evaluations are scheduled. I will not be dropping in unannounced.  🙂

Great teachers have high expectations, clear objectives, are prepared and organized, engage students, form strong relationships, are masters of their subjects, and communicate often with parents.         –  Richard Leblanc

A note on… Co-teaching

A note on Co-teaching: As you begin to take on responsibilities in the classroom you will need to develop a good communication plan with your Cooperating Teacher. I encourage you to sit down together with the calendar and map out progressive increased classroom and teaching responsibilities, making sure you will have the required time of 100% teaching/planning according to GCU protocols for student teaching, and then gradually transitioning back. It is especially important to define clear boundaries and expectations for when your Cooperating Teacher steps in to assist, support, or re-direct during your teaching time.

**Additionally, please make sure you are scheduling regular planning and feedback sessions with your Cooperating or Mentor Teacher. If you are student teaching in your own classroom, work with your Mentor teacher to schedule observations. Ideally, they should be coming in to provide observations for you.

*Single Placements: 5 weeks of 100% planning and teaching (with Cooperating teacher’s guidance).

*Dual Placements: 3 weeks of 100% planning and teaching in each placement (with Cooperating teacher’s guidance).

Professional Communication

Professional communication involves a prompt response and appropriate language. Address the person by name and/or title and end with your name. Use formal sentence structure, mechanics, and grammar, and avoid text and slang language.

Generally, a professional response time is 1 business day (M-F). It is better to respond timely even if you do not have all requested information or answers. This lets the sender know you got the communication and will be following up more completely later.

Professionalism is one of the evaluation criteria during your student teaching placement.


Dear Student Teachers,

How was your week? What successes did you have? What did you find a challenge? Any surprises – pleasant or otherwise? 🙂

Any burning questions or priority concerns regarding students, your Cooperating or Mentor Teacher, other?

You can use the ‘contact‘ tab in the menu to respond. Have a great weekend!

**Thoughts to reflect on**

**What did I learn about my *strengths* this week? How can I use this knowledge to help me be successful in the classroom?    

**What did I learn about my *challenges* this week? How can I use this knowledge to help me be successful in the classroom? 

**What did I learn about who I am and my development as a teacher?

**How do I feel about myself as a student teacher and about the work that I am completing?

Placement Dates & Online Classes

Some of you may have noticed that your physical start date at your placement school and your online class cohort dates are different. This is not cause for alarm. GCU attempts to match these dates as closely as possible, but due to varying school calendars they often do not align exactly.

Your required student teaching days begin the day you start at your placement school. If you are fortunate to begin during prep week at the start of the year, and working with your Cooperating teacher, this time counts. Your four (4) official evaluations will take place on a suggested schedule that work within the actual time frame you are student teaching. They will be uploaded and submitted within the time frame of your online class so the scores can be included in your online class grade.

Due to school schedules, it’s possible your student teaching days at your placement school may extend longer than your online class dates. This is alright. This should not delay completion of your online class, or your official graduation if you are graduating during the term. Your final Time Log will be submitted when you have completed your required days.

Factors that influence when you start at your school include the district’s or school site’s preference, your availability or your Cooperating or Mentor Teacher’s preference. As soon as you have contact information for your Cooperating or Mentor teacher, please touch base and discuss your start date with them. You can also contact GCU College of Education (COE) if you have any concerns.

Nearly Done!

You are Nearly Done! This is the time to re-check the To Do list and make sure you are on target for getting your credential. I also suggest putting in requests for Letters of Reference/Recommendation from site Admin. and your Cooperating or Mentor teacher, if you have not done so already. You will email me your scanned Time Log when you complete your required days of placement.

*You may want to export your work and evals from Taskstream or Loudcloud to save. Your evaluation comments and self-reflections are a good resource to build into your resume and employment portfolio; articulating your teaching skills and professional strengths.

**As long as you have the links to the Google folders I shared with you, you may still access them. You can also save the Google docs to your own folders.***You can join our San Diego Facebook group for continued ongoing education and teaching resources.

P.S. You may continue to receive Weekly Reflections&Resources from me for a few weeks as students are on different cohort schedules.

The Curse of Knowledge

The Curse of Knowledge: When you suffer from the curse of knowledge you assume that other people know the things that you do, and this cognitive bias causes you to believe that people understand you a lot better than they really do. A strong base of content knowledge makes us blind to the lengthy process of acquiring it. Implications for teachers:

  • We do not remember what it is like to not know what we are trying to teach.
  • We cannot relive the difficult and lengthy process that learning our content originally took.

We assume that our lesson’s content is easy, clear, and straightforward. We assume that connections are apparent and will be made effortlessly. Assumptions are the root cause of poor instruction. And acknowledgment is the first step to recovery!

Lifting the Curse: 7 Steps

1. Emotion

Barbara Fredrickson, a champion in the field of positive psychology, has studied the effects of mild positive emotions on desired cognitive traits like attentiveness and ability to creatively solve problems. In what she coined the broaden-and-build theory, Fredrickson found that pleasant and mild emotional arousal before experiencing content leads to greater retention. A quick joke or humorous movie can serve as the positive emotional stimulant. So learning is easier and the Curse of Knowledge is potentially circumnavigated when injecting a bit of emotion into your lesson.

2. Multi-Sensory Lessons

Though Howard Gardner’s influential work states that we each have a preferred learning modality, new research highlights the fact that effective lessons need not be unisensory (only kinesthetic, only auditory, etc.) but multi-sensory. Multi-sensory experiences activate and ignite more of the brain, leading to greater retention. So use a multisensory approach in your lessons to make learning easier.

3. Spacing

Blocked practice is ancient and is no longer considered best practice. An example of blocked practice is cramming. Though it feels like learning, blocked practice results in learning that is shallow, and the connections quickly fade. The preferred alternative is the opposite of blocked practice: spaced practice.

Exposing yourself to content and requiring your brain to recall previously learned concepts at spaced intervals (hours, days, weeks, or months) makes the content sticky and results in deeper retention with solid neural connections. As spaced practice is the way that you learned the content you teach, it makes sense to employ the same technique with your students. So thinking of your content as a cycle that is frequently revisited makes learning easier for your students while helping alleviate the curse.

For more information on spacing content, check out Make It Stick or 3 Things Experts Say Make A Perfect Study Session.

4. Narratives

Everyone loves a great story because our ancestral past was full of them. Stories were the dominant medium to transmit information. They rely on our innate narcissistic self to be effective learning tools — we enjoy stories because we immediately inject ourselves into the story, considering our own actions and behavior when placed in the situations being described. This is how we mentally make connections, and if students are listening to a story interlaced with content, they’re more likely to connect with the ideas. So connecting with content through a story is at the heart of learning and can help alleviate the stress associated with the Curse of Knowledge.

5. Analogies and Examples

An analogy is a comparison of different things that are governed by the same underlying principles. If understanding a process is what we’re after, looking at the result of the process proves informative. An analogy compares two unlike things by investigating a similar process that produces both. Said differently, an analogy highlights a connection, and forming connections is at the core of learning.

Whereas an analogy compares similar processes that result in different products, an example highlights different processes that result in similar products. Copious use of examples forces the brain to scan its knowledge inventory, making desirable connections as it scans. So learning is easier when analogies and examples are used to facilitate mental connections.

6. Novelty

New challenges ignite the risk-reward dopamine system in our brains. Novel activities are interesting because dopamine makes us feel accomplished after succeeding. Something that is novel is interesting, and something interesting is learned more easily because it is attended to. So emphasis on the new and exciting aspects of your content could trip the risk-reward system and facilitate learning.

7. Teach Facts

Conceptual knowledge in the form of facts is the scaffolding for the synthesis of new ideas. In other words, you cannot make new ideas without having old ideas. Disseminating facts as the only means to educate your students is wrong and not encouraged. However, awareness that background knowledge is important to the creation of new ideas is vital for improving instruction. Prior knowledge acts as anchors for new incoming stimuli. When reflecting on the ability of analogies and examples to facilitate connections, it is important to remember that the connections need to be made to already existing knowledge. So providing your students with background knowledge is a prerequisite in forming connections and can make their learning easier.

Making It Easier

By incorporating facts, highlighting novelty, liberally utilizing examples and analogies, cycling our content, telling content-related stories, making our lesson multi-sensory, and harnessing the power of emotion, we can make learning easier for our students.

Further resources: The Curse of Knowledge has been variously described in articles by Chip and Dan Heath, Carmen Nobel, and Steven Pinker, and also in books such as The Sense of Style and Made to Stick. It has been applied to a variety of domains: child development, economics, and technology are just a few.