How can I evaluate my skills as a sexuality educator?
As sexuality educators, we are the tools we bring to this work. How we do what we do and say what we say makes all the difference. A very large part of the effectiveness of our sexuality education programs is based on how effective we are as sexuality educators. It is important to find ways to check frequently on how effectively we are performing in our role. Schedule time to read and stay up-to-date on new information and research about topics you include in your work. Invite a peer or colleague to observe your work and give you feedback. This can help you see what others see, which you might otherwise be blind to.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
Peer review is one of the best ways to gain insight on your skills and effectiveness as an educator. Understanding how others experience your sessions is key to improving and evolving as an educator. Arrange opportunities to observe peers and colleagues in order to learn from them. Invite them to do the same for you, so you can benefit from learning about yourself. You can request that feedback be focused on areas you choose, or leave it wide open. You can also request to not have feedback about some things with which you are already familiar in your style and work. (E.g., “I know I pace a lot, so you don’t need to mention that. Thanks.”) Session feedback can include information about your
- educational process: setting, verbal skills, body language, use of learning materials and equipment, flexibility, timing and pace
- educational content: clarity of goals/objectives or EU/EQs, age/level appropriateness for students, presence or absence of personal bias, relevance, usefulness, and preparation of handouts and other materials
- educational presentation: achievement of goals/objectives or EU/EQs, use of time, preparedness, and flexibility
Some things to keep in mind for giving feedback include
- Make specific rather than general comments.
- Be descriptive rather than evaluative.
- Consider the needs of the receiver of the feedback.
- Focus comments on behaviors that can be continued or changed.
- Speak for yourself; your gift is sharing your perception.
- “You made frequent eye contact with those in front, but not in back.”
- “You explained HIV very clearly and simply, but when you used the word ’should’ I felt uncomfortable.”
Some things to keep in mind when receiving feedback
- Listen without interrupting.
- Ask for clarification if you do not understand something.
- Acknowledge and appreciate the feedback.
- Check “the fit”; if it doesn’t feel right, let it go.
Standards of Excellence
There are various tools that can help you know how you “measure up” as a sexuality educator.
One way is to use already established tools. These describe the desirable attributes for an effective sexuality educator. These tools allow an observer to rate objective characteristics that can be demonstrated by the educator. One excellent example is the Educator Trainer Assessment Tool (ETAT). The ETAT provides a list of criteria for self-assessment or peer review and self-improvement in providing sexuality education. The ETAT was developed by the Northwest Institute for Community Health Educators (NICHE) and is available at: http://www.hcet.org/resource.htm.
A Professional Development Checklist to measure educator performance on a variety of professional competencies is available at Planned Parenthood University. You can also develop rating scales for objective measures of performance. Identify observable behaviors that you deem important for yourself or other sexuality educators. An example for rating educator competency in knowledge of up-to-date content might include a scale like the one below.
Demonstrates a thorough understanding of core content areas.
Demonstrates a substantial understanding of core content areas.
Demonstrates an adequate understanding of core content areas.
Demonstrates a minimal understanding of core content areas.
Remember, we are the tools we bring to this work. Improving our effectiveness through professional development, including self-evaluation and seeking feedback and new growth opportunities, is a large part of our ongoing journey to create and implement effective programs.