Carol Ann Tomlinson
One to Grow On
The Evaluation of My Dreams
leaders do well
In the education job that exists always in my dreams—and sometimes in my reality—here’s what I’d encounter in terms of evaluation.
Framing the Ideal Feedback
My dream evaluator would also give me—or
any teacher he or she evaluated—helpful
My ideal evaluator would care deeply about
feedback. This ideal leader would
to model that
the work I do and would have a vision for how
n Communicate clearly and respectfully.
that work, done artfully, contributes to the
When feedback is framed as a compliment to
betterment of people. He or she would visibly
my capacity to grow in professional practice,
pursue his or her own personal and profes-
and when I understand the feedback clearly, I’m
sional growth. This evaluator would work from
positioned to move ahead.
the belief that no teacher ever finishes growing;
n Call my strengths to my attention and help
everyone has the capacity to improve. When
me build on them. I’m often less aware of my
excellence is at the core of “how business is
strengths than of my weaknesses—and I suspect
done here” and when growth toward expertise
many teachers are the same. Capitalizing on my
is the path everyone in a
assets helps me compensate
school walks, then feedback
from school leaders is more
energizing than enervating.
n Point out opportu-
nities for me to continue
to develop in my work.
Showing me just what I
might improve—and where
and how—gives me a
roadmap to more effective
n Be descriptive and
specific, so that I’m aware
of what this observer is
seeing and thinking—and
that change is in the service
what I can do to improve.
of labor that seems meaningful and important.
Precision in language helps a supervisor and a
n Mentor me. This leader would know a lot
teacher share an understanding of goals. It helps
Carol Ann Tomlinson
is William Clay Parrish
Jr. Professor and Chair
of Educational Leadership, Foundation,
and Policy at the Curry
School of Education,
University of Virginia
in Charlottesville. She
is the author, with
Marcia B. Imbeau, of
Leading and Managing
about what I do on the job (and continue to
teachers focus their efforts.
learn about it) and would also know a good
n Provide feedback that’s personalized to me
bit about me (and continue to learn more). I’m
and is delivered while there’s still time to act on
more open to change my practice as an educator
the suggestions. Good feedback gives me infor-
when the person recommending the change
mation that I can both understand and act on.
knows well the content area I teach within—
n Deliver formative feedback and support
and cares about me.
for growth before any summative evaluation.
n Watch me work often so that he or she
Formative assessment reduces teachers’ anxiety,
would have a multidimensional sense of both
diminishes the sense of threat, and increases the
what I’m doing and how I’m doing. When
likelihood of success when it’s time to move to a
someone has a robust idea of what my job
more judgmental stage of evaluation.
involves, I’m more likely to believe their
n Acknowledge my progress when it’s
feedback is a fair representation of my job
merited, even while pointing out my next
developmental step. People typically need
© GREG MABLEY