Performance Review – Not just for Grownups!

Performance Review – Not just for Grownups!

I have been listening to Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.  There are so many gems in there for everyone – people who need support and uplifting, and those who are their friends, families, and cheerleaders.

As she discussed growth for executives in the corporate world, I was thinking that there is so much more we can do to support kids in developing Confidence, Tenacity, and Skill.  At this time of year when Final Report Cards are being handed out, it seems the whole year is boiled down to a few letters and the notion that you did, or did not do well.  This simplistic snapshot undervalues the notion that students are in school to learn, not just perform.

The research is very clear.  When we create an environment where kids understand how learning happens and believe that through strategic effort and targeted support they can succeed at a greater rate, kids truly do perform better.  (For more information on this, listen to my Webinar: How Mindset Impacts Learning on ADDitude Magazine online. Regardless of the value and practice of formal grading, there is much more we can do as educators and parents to help kids reflect and evaluate their performance.

Performance Review

Medical centers regularly conduct Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) conferences.  These are recurring reviews of mistakes occurring during the care of patients. The objectives of a well-run M&M conference are to learn from complications and errors, to modify behavior and judgment based on previous experiences, and to prevent repetition of errors leading to complications.

In many corporations, Performance Reviews are conducted once or twice a year to give employees the opportunity to learn what behaviors and attitudes they need to improve or modify and to remind them what is expected in the workplace. And many schools use the Danielson Framework beginning with an Initial Planning Conference, an in-person individual meeting to reflect on the previous year and discuss areas of development for the year ahead.

Although students are often given a rubric at the beginning of the school year to show them what their grade is made up of and are given periodic feedback in the way of graded assignments and tests, these cannot have the same impact as a safe, private, honest discussion between teacher and student.  Research confirms that when it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people more likely to report them and grow from them.  Imagine a student being able to openly discuss why it’s hard to get their work done, why they struggle to stay focused in class, the challenges they face in taking notes or knowing their best way to study for an exam.  And also, the support and pride they will feel by having their efforts and improvements that are not visible in grades, acknowledged and encouraged.

I recognize that there is considerable time pressure on teachers regarding curriculum that must be covered.  However, in an effort to help students take more ownership, responsibility and pride in their growth, I believe we must integrate time for broader feedback directly to students and allow time for their reflections as well.  While most teachers would, of course, welcome this discussion with a student, without the formal mechanism and regularity of this discussion for each student, my concern is that it only happens when, and for whom, there is a problem to address.  These meetings can be brief and held throughout the year or clumped at focused times, as long as they are preplanned and for all students. I suggest these conversations be held at a scheduled time twice a year, without the presence of the parents.  Many students may feel more stressed and shut down with their parents present.  Parent – Teacher Conferences often do little to help a student improve and can create more tension in the home.  The student is not present to share their reflections or concerns.  Parents are often not able to effectively communicate what they have learned, or may share in a way that is not as helpful as possible.

Here are some areas that I believe would be helpful.  Of course, modifications need to be made based on grade or subject. These are intended to be “talking points”, not scaled measures.

  • Feedback on the quality of homework (accuracy, presentation, etc.)
  • Feedback on participation (level and content)
  • Willingness to take chances and learn from mistakes
  • Feedback on Group work (level of participation, leadership, initiation)
  • Student’s perspective on their best method for learning/studying
  • Student’s requests for support and/ or insights and feedback
  • Student’s management of materials
  • Student’s goals for upcoming quarter [Note: These should be based on process/effort such as organization, time management, study habits, etc., not Academic scores. I will be writing an article soon based on my Goal Setting Workshop]

Note: I know some of the schools that I have consulted nationwide do have more comprehensive, informative reporting systems. If you would be willing to share them with me please either email me or post on my PTS Coaching Facebook page. I am happy to pass them along to those interested.

Also: As I often remind educators and administrators, classroom teachers are in the best position to raise these self-discovery discussions since kids often don’t want to “go there” with their parents.  It is through this safe connection that students often show their greatest growth.


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