Meaningful Evaluations Begin with Appreciative Inquiry
Evaluate Past Successes and Identify Future Opportunities
Successful school districts take accountability seriously and strive to cultivate a culture that values continuous improvement. School boards can model their commitment to these ideas by engaging in regular self-evaluation, in addition to completing timely evaluations of their superintendent. With the focus on technology and data collection, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important component of evaluation—the conversations that occur around performance and possibility.
Effective evaluations go beyond forms, numbers and scales
Many of us think of evaluation as a form that needs to be completed, with numbers or scales to check off levels of performance. Often what is lacking is meaningful conversation about past successes and areas for future growth.
No matter what system you use to complete your evaluations, it should be based on the needs of your district. An effective way to ensure that the conversation is meaningful is to use a model based on Appreciative Inquiry (AI). This model engages individuals within an organizational system in its renewal, change and focused performance. Rather than focusing on problems, AI is built on the idea that an organization that appreciates what is best in itself will find or discover more of what is good.
Use state standards, NSBA’s Key Work of School Boards, or some other set of criteria to get the conversation going and to assess where your board stands. Then create goals to build on strengths and address areas of opportunity. Use the AI process to evaluate progress.
The Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Evaluation Process
Here is a list of questions that you can use in an Appreciative Inquiry-style evaluation process. Use notes taken during the meeting to write a narrative that can be kept on file.
- Prior to reflecting on these questions, review your Position Description and annual goals. Bring suggested revisions to the dialogue session. For boards, it can be goals that were established the previous year, components of the NSBA Key Work framework, or some other mutually agreed-upon standards.
- Thinking about the last year, describe a time(s) when you felt the most excited, engaged and involved in your work as a board member/superintendent.
- What were the key elements that made the above a peak time(s) or experience(s)?
- Are there things you wish had worked better in the last year?
- What have you learned from these experiences?
- (Optional) Again, thinking about the last year, what stands out for you in your working relationship with the rest of the board?
- Which ideas do you have for making the key elements identified above more a part of your everyday work experience as a board member/superintendent?
- What first steps do we need to take to make these ideas/dreams a reality?
- What steps do we need to take to help with those things you wish had worked better?
- What things can the board do to help with these steps?
- What additional comments or observations would you like to make about this past year?
By taking the time to consider these questions, and reflecting on key successes and opportunities, you’ll not only improve your evaluation process, but the overall performance of your board and organization, as well.