Page: 66-80 Author: Žák, V. Key words: professional competence of the teacher, competence in self-assessment and criticism, quality of teaching, quality of physics teaching, teacher observation, instrument of self-evaluation
This methodological study forms part of a project with the strategic goal of contributing to the professionalization of teachers by getting them to reflect critically on their own teaching in order to improve its quality. Following from this strategic goal, this text has two main aims. The first is to present the research instrument itself, which is intended to structure critical reflection on professional performance (quality of physics teaching). The second is to present research findings that testify to the potential of this instrument as a means of assessment of level of reflective competence in a particular teacher and a way of developing that competence.
Competence in reflection on own performance is one part of the professional competence of the teacher which should contribute to maintaining and improving the quality of teaching. Specifically with regard to the quality of physics teaching, a standardised observational tool on teacher capacity for critical reflection was constructed in the Czech Republic in the years 2003-2005. This instrument involves 26 indicators (parameters) of the quality of physics teaching, which were drawn up on the basis of expert investigation. For each parameter a four-step observation scale was constructed; the individual steps expressing the level of fulfilment of the given parameter were defined verbally (typically in a few sentences).
In the context of the goals mentioned above, the question which the research project sought to answer was whether the self-evaluation of their teaching by selected physics teachers differed from evaluation by a trained independent observer (the researcher).
In terms of methodology a quantitative approach was selected for tackling the research problem, with the data gathered by the method of teacher observation. Ordinary teaching was observed directly in classrooms and any participant element in observation was reduced to a minimum. The standardised instrument mentioned above was used. The performance of three physics teachers was studied (total of 22 teaching hours) at gymnasiums (academic secondary schools) in the school year 2012/13. Experienced teachers were chosen on an availability basis. The observations were directed to identification of characteristics (level of fulfilment of parameters of quality of physics teaching) of both specially selected lessons, and then of teaching in seven to eight lessons viewed as a whole (average characteristics calculated).
The assessments by the teachers themselves and the researchers turned out to be similar (the same in 86% of cases). As regards the 14% disagreement, here the more frequent cases involved the teacher identifying more positive parameters of quality of teaching than the researcher, who did not register them. In this context we cannot reject the hypothesis that teachers rate their own teaching more positively than the researchers, but generally it can be said that there is no striking difference between the assessments of teacher and researcher.
It also turned out that the differences between teacher self-evaluation and evaluation by the researcher are comparable to the differences between two trained observers whom we consider experts. From this we can deduce a certain level of professionalism in the teachers in the sense of the level of their competence in self-assessment and critical reflection. Evidently then, one function of the instrument may be to help in the assessment of the level of reflective competence that a teacher has reached. We can also see the instrument as valuable in providing a certain structure (schema) and vocabulary for the development of this competence.