Teaching proficiency Self-evaluation as a basis for lesson development

Working on self-evaluation questionnaires in study groups encourages mutual learning from each other.
Working on self-evaluation questionnaires in study groups encourages mutual learning from each other. | © Goethe-Institut/Felix Rettberg

Good teaching requires standards that have to be maintained and achieved within the context of quality assurance and development. Self-evaluation makes it possible to analyse the current status of an institution in relation to the standards applied – and then implement measures based on the results to combat any deficits identified, improve teaching quality, and continue to develop strengths.

Various examples are used to demonstrate how self-evaluation can be carried out using a questionnaire, as well as detailing the organisation of improvement strategies.

Analysis of the current status using self-evaluation

To convince colleagues that a process of continual quality assurance and development is a good idea, it is essential to provide in-depth information concerning targets and the individual steps of the process as a whole at the outset. It must be clear to all those involved that looking critically at the current status and identifying any deficits is not to be seen as grounds for subsequent sanctions, but pursues the objective of constantly improving the work carried out by both individuals and the institution as a whole. It is only possible to achieve this goal if everyone works together.

The basis of an analysis of the current status conducted within the context of quality assurance and development could be the standards applied by the institution itself, or self-evaluation questionnaires drawn up on the basis of these standards, in which for instance certain aspects of those standards are highlighted in the form of questions. Here are some examples of possible questions in a self-evaluation questionnaire:
 

Standard: Lessons are student-oriented and activity-based, as well as offering variety when it comes to communication style and teaching method.

Questions relating to this standard in the self-evaluation questionnaire:

  • Are the learning requirements and interests of the students (previous knowledge, learning experiences etc.) taken into consideration in the lessons?
  • Do the lessons facilitate integrated learning (learning through all the senses)?
  • Are different media and varying social forms used in the lessons?
  • Do the students have sufficient opportunity to speak in the foreign language themselves?

Standard: A differentiated and up-to-date image of Germany is put across in lessons.

Questions relating to this standard in the self-evaluation questionnaire:

  • Is socio-cultural material an integral part of lessons?
  • Are socio-cultural passages from the textbook complemented with current texts (e.g. newspaper articles, material from the internet)?
  • Are cultural differences a subject of discussion in lessons?

The self-evaluation questionnaire can be completed individually or in study groups, and is all the more effective the more teachers participate in the project.

When forming study groups, it should be regarded as important that staff from all departments that contribute to fulfilment of the standard are involved, as this makes it possible for experience values from different perspectives to be taken into account. Working on the evaluation questionnaire in study groups not only means that employees taking part in the self-evaluation process are dealing intensively with the standards, but it also encourages mutual learning from each other as well as a team spirit, which helps all participants to identify more strongly with the institution.

Comments provided by staff can also be complemented by questionnaires for learners, allowing student perspectives to be incorporated into the evaluation too. As regards the timeframe of this self-evaluation phase, it should not be too long – or too short – but it should always be followed consistently and strictly. If the timeframe is too long, there is a risk that the study groups will fall apart; if it is too short, the result may turn out to be too superficial. For example a timeframe of one year is planned for the self-evaluation phase within the context of quality management for “Language courses and examinations at Goethe-Institut centres abroad”. However there is a shorter timeframe at many institutes.

Setting milestones in which status reports are fed back from the individual study groups, for example through conferences, is also recommended. Other standards for which it would be possible to verify compliance by means of surveys include for example:

  • Teaching staff are in a position to deliver the learning material adequately (depending on level, age and target group).
  • The teaching materials used are in line with current professional recommendations.
  • Pronunciation training is a core element of teaching.

Planning and implementing measures

In view of the statement of full compliance, the likely outcome of a critical analysis of the applied standards and current status will be that certain standards are not yet or only partially being fulfilled, or that there is still plenty of room for improvement. These suggestions for improvement must now be worked through in a further step and formulated into a measure. All staff must be involved in this step as well.

Improvement possibilities within the framework of the current status analysis and any deficits and development potential identified within the individual quality areas can be discussed in study groups – the same groups as before or different ones. Furthermore specific strategies are formulated. Ideally any implications relating to finance, time availability and personal circumstances are taken into account. Here are some sample questions in an evaluation questionnaire including the relevant planning of measures:

Planning of measures

Lesson content quality area: Socio-cultural studies
Identified deficit: not enough socio-cultural material included in lessons

Measures:

  1. Further training on the subject of socio-cultural studies in lessons
  2. Subscribing to a daily newspaper in German
  3. Creating a collection of links to websites that are of interest for teaching purposes
What costs will be incurred per measure?
When will the measure be implemented (immediately, in six months time, ongoing)?
Who is responsible for which measure?

When the study groups have finished planning measures, they should present the outcome to all those involved in a final conference. A priority list for the measures may also be necessary if it is unlikely that the measures can all be actioned at the same time.

But even then it is important that employees can follow the implementation of the measures by providing them with regular reports – because people only stay motivated to continue their active involvement in the quality development of their own institution if the results of their efforts are made visible.

Finally it is worth mentioning that self-evaluation and planning of measures is of course not intended to be carried out on just one occasion. They only become an effective quality assurance tool if their use is regarded as a long-term process and repeated at regular intervals, for instance every three years.