I am sure you were all aware of the commotion in New Zealand over awarding the Supreme Halberg Award for 2010 to the All Whites football team. http://tinyurl.com/4vghe24.
The problem appears to be confusion over evaluating performance of individuals and teams. This confusion is present in education just as it is in sports awards.
When it comes to evaluating anyone or team I am always reminded of these lines from F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
This quote always reminds me that in evaluating performance we need to consider where we have come from to where we are now. We need to ensure we are not comparing apples with oranges. In education terms, we need to know where are students are at before commencing their study, so that we can track their performance over time. We need to ensure our performance criteria are clear, and observable and integrated with our learning goals.
I used to teach evaluating personal performance to students, who were going out into industry to be placed in business. As part of their assessment process the students self-assessed their own portfolios. It was essential the students understood the concepts and principles of evaluation and had the opportunity to practice their knowledge and skills.
We always used the same practice exercise, evaluating oranges. The students were asked to identify four characteristics of an orange to be exported to Australia. We asked students to ensure their criteria were objective and observable. Naturally, students chose characteristics of size, shape, colour and smell. Then we tested our criteria. I would have a bag of oranges and hand out one to each group. They evaluated and graded the orange according to a pre-agreed points system. I always had one apple to evaluate as well.
It always amused me that the students were so consistent in their grading. As we lined up our oranges from best to worst, it was clear our criteria had served us well. Inevitably, the apple was last, and the poorest performer.
Those same skills can be applied in any situation where we evaluate another person's work or performance. This is particularly relevant to student assessment, and why we must take great care with designing assessment items, marking schedules and feedback mechanisms. It is important to our students that any evaluation of their work or performance is fair, and valid. Here are a few questions to help you with evaluation processes.
In any situation, where we evaluate we need clear criteria. Whether we are assessing student performance, the performance of a colleague (peer observation of teaching), our team performance or our own performance, we need clear and agreed criteria.
The criteria can help us to establish student progress over time. Our evaluative criteria can inform a short diagnostic assessment at the commence of a course, to establish the knowledge and skill levels of students. Tracking progress over time helps us determine who has made the greatest progress in a year or semester of study.
So before you start off on your next task, assessment or project take time to establish a clear set of evaluative criteria. These will serve you well, in evaluating the performance or yourself or others.
Diana Ayling is an academic adviser and performance developer in Auckland, New Zealand. Using a 6 dimensional model Diana seeks to improve individual performance through learning. See http://6dnz.wordpress.com.
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