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Your Teaching Philosophy: From Theory to Practice

Learn how to take your teaching philosophy from theory to practice.

When studying education, you may have had to write a teaching philosophy statement – a document of several pages to include what you stood for and how you would incorporate what you had learned into best practices, particularly about assessment and evaluation. 

But then, once you were in the classroom, you realized that the teaching philosophy statement was a good guide, but it had little to do with many practical teaching elements. 

Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone! 

Once in the classroom, the realities of teaching become exactly that reality! So, the focus shifts to being practical and finding approaches, including assessments, that can work in your situation. 

This blog post will discuss how you can adapt your teaching philosophy beyond what’s written on paper and put it into practice in the classroom.

Teaching Philosophy from Theory to Practice

Here are six ways to shift theory to practice regarding assessment and evaluation in middle school. These teacher tips range from small organizational tips to more impactful approaches to grading.

Organization

The most challenging assessment task is staying on top of grading and then staying organized with record keeping. Having an option and a backup option is always a good idea. Using a Google Sheet and then having a paper option is ideal. Check out this post with tips and tricks for taming the grading load

Ministry Guidance

Use the documents provided by your school board/district or the Ministry of Education in your area. In Ontario, this means using the Growing Success document, which establishes various guidelines for assessing and evaluating students’ work and skills. Plus, it provides the curriculum expectations, learning skills, and language to help when giving feedback or writing report cards. 

I’ve put together Ontario report card comments, which help immensely with writing report card comments. All of my Ontario report card comments resources are on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD

Student-Centred 

One option to ensure students are at the centre of evaluation is to include chances for them to assess their own work as a first step. They can check against an answer key or rubric or use peer feedback. This way, students can pinpoint their strengths and areas for improvement. 

This is helpful knowledge, especially if you plan to conduct student-teacher conferences while finalizing evaluations.

Another option is to hack your grading by providing feedback that is specific but manageable to complete. One way I’ve found to be successful is using two stars and a wish as a streamlined feedback process. The two stars represent what the student has done well for the task, and a wish is one area for improvement. Find more grading tips in this post with 8 Ways to Efficient Grading Success.

You can also have students design their own assessments with guidance and feedback from their teachers. 

Repeat Opportunities

Evaluation must be more than a one-and-done approach to assessing skills. Remember, the goal is to evaluate growth and mastery, not just that students can do the task on Tuesday. This can mean formative and final evaluations or even repeat assessments to check student progress and ability to master skills tied to curriculum expectations. 

These assessments can be daily but don’t need to be formal. Exit or entry tickets are excellent options that are simple to deliver and assess but provide a great deal of data for teachers to review. 

Differentiation and Support

Of course, teachers must ensure students with a formal individual education plan (IEP) are provided with the necessary support for their learning. But this also applies to those students who are informally identified since the process for a formal IEP is often long and expensive for students and their families.

This is where the thinking that what’s suitable for a few is often suitable for many applies. Provide all students with different forms of assessment or ways to gather evidence of learning. If you’re teaching English, it doesn’t always mean that a formal evaluation has to be an essay or even a written assignment. Here are some ideas for differentiating in the classroom. Following the strands in the provided curriculum can guide you to different options; however, you might also consider conversations, observations, and student-directed 1:1 meetings.

Choice boards are a fantastic way to scaffold assessment for students. When you create a choice board ensure that the tasks are varied by skill and ability. Students usually gravitate towards the tasks that meets their needs. 

This Full Year Creative Writing Bundle comes with 9 unique differentiated creative writing choice boards – Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Back-to-School to help all students be successful. I photocopy the seasonal and holiday choice boards double-sided to give students a variety of options.

Caring Adults

This part of an assessment philosophy doesn’t specifically tie into a student’s grade in the class. Keeping the student’s caring adult (parent or guardian) up to date about progress or areas of need ensures teachers’ peace of mind. 

Try to contact a student’s guardian before the report card is sent home; administrators always mention that there should be no surprises when the report card is sent home. And while this might seem like a no-brainer, it’s an essential step in the assessment and evaluation process.

And don’t make caring adult contact just about less than positive aspects; send the sunshine notes – short emails to indicate when someone has done well! Those types of emails significantly impact students, their adults, and you as you send them!

Finally, set your boundaries, especially with email! You could put an out-of-office reply for emails outside your organization that indicates that you’ll be in touch within a specific timeframe. Be reasonable with this timeline, but also take into account your responsibilities. 

Another option is to provide a Google Form as part of your auto-reply to get insight into the issue before returning contact, which will help you avoid a series of back-and-forth messages or calls. 

You could ask what time of day is best for a call (sticking with your school hours) and what number or email is preferred, which can save time from searching for relevant contact information. You could provide space for an open-ended response or multiple-choice options for topics.  

A Final Word on Teaching Philosophy

Having a plan for assessing students’ work is excellent, but even more than having a set plan is making sure you include some flexibility. Responsibilities and timing will inform how much and when you can complete things. 

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same goes for your complete teaching philosophy. Give yourself room to grow and change as you gain more knowledge and experience. Use the strategies provided, but give yourself grace, too.

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