Tag Archives: RTOP

How Reformed is Your Teaching?

NOTE: This is an update to my Grading the Teacher post where I introduced the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) rubric.

How often in your teaching do you:

  • show respect for student’s prior knowledge and misconceptions?
  • engage students in exploration before your presentation?
  • allow student questions to guide your lessons?
  • engage students as members of a learning community?
  • promote strong conceptual understanding?
  • make connections to other disciplines and the real world?
  • represent phenomena in multiple ways?
  • have a significant amount of student-to-student talk?
  • play the role of “teacher as listener?”

According to the original RTOP rubric, those are just a few of the many characteristics of a reformed, inquiry-based classroom. But why are these characteristics important? And what are some examples?

Thankfully, I just discovered that physics teacher Drew Isola has edited the original RTOP rubric to create a more self-reflective guide to reformed teaching. In his version, he includes a description of what each criterion means, why it is important, and asks the teacher to give examples from his/her own teaching.

As we start a new year, think about the ways in which you can incorporate more of these teaching strategies into your classroom. (The PDF version above is posted on Scribd. You can access the MS Word version here. More information about the original RTOP rubric here.)

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Grading the Teacher

In the comments to my previous post, Lee asked:

Frank, can you post your teacher evaluation? I have an end of the year one I could share with you as well if you are interested. I like your idea of offering the evaluation more than once. Here’s a link to my evalation: http://trampleasure.net/lee/index.php/430

I never understood why teacher evaluations are typically given at the end of the course. It makes more sense to do it early and often so your current students can benefit. After all, they are the ones who are taking the time to give you the feedback.

The first time I ask for feedback is right before parent’s night. It’s real simple. Everyone gets an index card or scrap of paper. I ask students to write down the things that are working for them on one side, things that aren’t working on the other. I compile the responses, share them with the class the next day, and respond to any concerns. It’s great for them to see what their other classmates think.

I also incorporate some of the positive responses into my Parent’s Night presentation along with photos of the class working in lab and whiteboarding. Here’s an example from several years ago:

(Note to physics teachers: I used to do Hooke’s Law with hanging weights, but kids got caught up in the mass/weight issue. Then I tried using force probes, as shown above. Now we use regular spring scales because it’s simpler. And simpler is better.)

Later in the year, my students do more formal teacher evaluations using Google Forms. This evaluation is one I’ve used for a long time, tweaking it each year. I have put a copy of the evaluation form in My SBG Files public Google Docs folder for you to use.

Finally, I think teachers should grade themselves and each other. One great instrument for this is called RTOP (Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol). The RTOP rubric assesses how well individual lessons use “reformed” teaching methods like whiteboarding, inquiry, using multiple representations, and student reflections on their own learning.

While RTOP was created for evaluating individual lessons, look at the descriptors and ask yourself how often do you do those in class? Everyday? Once a week? Once a month?

The RTOP website has videos of lessons with sample scoring, links to research papers about RTOP, and photo galleries of reformed teaching methods being used in class.

And if you are truly brave, video tape one of your own lessons and watch it. Truly eye opening!

Now matter how you do it, continuous reflection is a teacher’s best tool!