Self-Evaluation…Necessary Evil Or Embraced Reflection And Growth–You Decide!

Self-Evaluation…Necessary Evil Or Embraced Reflection And Growth–You Decide!


World_Globe_clip_art_hightDo you physically cringe when you hear the word “evaluation?”  Does your stomach get queasy when you’re up for evaluation in your work place or schooling?  Do you stay up at night dreading your appointment running all the worst case scenarios through your thoughts over and over and over again?  OR maybe you are very accomplished at whatever you’re being evaluated for only for the evaluator to feel “threatened” by your performance and you know you have to tread lightly during your meeting…

I used to despise evaluations (sometimes due to my lack of confidence and other times knowing that my skill set and leadership skills threatened my supervisor)!!!

Throughout my experiences in SelfDesign (both as a parent of a teenage learner who home schools and as a student enrolled in the masters program through the Graduate Institute), I have come to appreciate the intrinsic value of self-evaluation.  We have been encouraged to observe for our learning in everyday life.  We are invited to take notice of the emergence of daily wisdom as our being engages with others and the world around us.  We document these observations in a variety of ways:  through written words, artistic expression, photography, conversations.  In addition to periodic observations of our learning, we are asked to complete a narrative self-evaluation upon completing a course.  This daily practice (informally) and “required” assignment (formally) has transformed my thoughts about the process of evaluation.  I intentionally quiet myself and marvel when I experience those “a-ha” moments in life!

To help illustrate what I mean, I will share my self-evaluation I turned in for my recently completed winter course…

I find that the end of every course I engage in at SelfDesign Graduate Institute is bittersweet.  I look forward to new courses and new learning.  Yet, I feel a bit sad when I have to say goodbye to an existing cohort (of peers/faculty) and the spirit of unique community that was created over the past months…

In my own life, I find winters to be quite difficult (physically).  Therefore, to participate in a course meeting in the evening and ending at 9:30pm for me adds a bit more of a difficult dynamic.  Brain fog and fatigue often creep in well before the end time of the class.  However, overall, I am grateful that I didn’t struggle as much as I had anticipated.  I appreciated my faculty advisor’s and classmates’ support during my “off” moments.  Isn’t powerful to be accepted by the communities you are involved in?

I had been forewarned by several colleagues that this particular course was the most demanding of the core classes.  I attempted to go into the term without carrying their experiences as my own.  I did discover, on my own accord, that the course did demand a lot of me.  The amount of material covered and Humberto Maturana’s book pushed me quite a bit.  I found the beginning material very foreign and uncomfortable.  I also found his writing difficult to follow.  I felt like I was reading in circles.  I struggled discerning his heart.

Our faculty advisor had encouraged us to be patient and that part way through we would find ourselves flowing more with the material.  Some days, it felt like I had to wait a very long time!  Indeed, somewhere along the path, the content became more understandable and applicable to my life and the world around me.  I really don’t know how patient I was.  I know I am my worst critic so I will try not to cast judgment.  I do acknowledge that there was a shift part way through the journey and I felt like I really engaged in my weekly work as well as the class meetings.

Even though I was a bit resistant, at first, when it was suggested that we each be responsible to facilitate a section of the week’s work during class; I found that to be a turning point for me, as an individual, and for the class as a group– Tuesday evenings became alive to me!

I think that I am going to go back through the first part of the course, now that I am more comfortable and have gained some understanding.  I would like to gain more from those sections that I found uncomfortable and turn my lens of perspective.  I may even attempt to read Maturana’s entire book at some point (when I have time…)!

I had the unique and beautiful experience of traveling to and serving in Belize during our course just at the time we learned about culture and language.  What an unexpected and profound gift!  I think that was a very rich experience for me to apply my learning hands on in a very different culture.

Overall, I think I challenged myself to stick with the course and its content.  I grew to trust the group and shared even when it wasn’t my first instinct to do so.  I believe I was quite attentive in my observations for learning…

I am grateful for this course and the timing of it in my life.  I love how my path is richer because of my learning and the continued reflections and learning to come.

***I invite you to try this form of evaluation.  Look back over the past few weeks.  What have you learned?  How have you reacted/responded in your daily interactions and responsibilities?  Have you truly engaged in life or are you just gone through the motions each day?  Take time to pause, observe, reflect, and evaluate.  I acknowledge that not all student or work evaluations embrace such an integrated approach of observation. However I wonder if you were to participate in this activity and engagement during your daily routines, if you would discover that evaluations from others aren’t as disconcerting as they once were?

Evaluation…necessary evil or embraced growth?  It’s your choice!

Deb Martens

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