Saturday, February 7, 2009

S.O.T.E.L. for Self-Evaluation

I received this week's copy of Education Week and enjoyed the article on a preparatory charter school in Boston for middle school children. Although most the students who enter this school in sixth grade are behind at grade level (less than 1/3 are at grade level for math) by the end of sixth grade they are outperforming other district students and 97% who move onto high school will graduate. They claim the key to their success is "blending tough academics with intense student support in a small, highly structured setting." A caption under a photo of students in uniform dress (khakis and ties) passing to the another class says, "Transitions between classes are silent, reflecting a serious culture."

In the commentary section is an article that contains a quick evaluation list I found useful for appraising my own personal significance as a teacher. The acronym they used was SOTEL which stood for Safety, Objectives, Teaching, Engagement and Learning. When translated these words mean:

  • A climate that's conducive to intellectual risk-taking
  • The lesson has a clear purpose
  • Learning is skillfully orchestrated and artfully differentiated
  • Students are paying attention and their minds are active and involved
  • The teacher is using on-the spot assessment to fine tune their teaching

Sounds like a successful coach's daily practice routine. In the past when I have felt strongly about communicating successfully from an instructional position I would simply engage in the education process as if I were coaching.

Mr. Wiemers in a Time Out in Tulsa, Ok. in 1989
- During a time out SOTEL is essential. The coach must apply on the spot assessment and clearly communicate the team's purpose by any form of differentiated learning available to a group of athletes who are paying attention and about to resume the game that will demand they make on the spot decisions and take risks that will reflect their learning process.

Mr. Wiemers

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