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Team Evaluations: Even Your Best Friend WILL Tell You

Try this little test:

  1. If your slip were showing, would you want someone to tell you? It you had a run in your hose, would you thank the person who pointed it out? It you had spinach between your teeth, would you die if a friend suggested a visit to a mirror?
  2. If your answers were “yes,” “yes,” and “no” continue reading. This article is tor you. You’re the type of person who can “take it” when someone points out your lack of perfection. You’re the type of person who wants to be your best and appreciates it when others help you in your quest. You’re the type of decent who can benefit from team evaluation.
  3. Team evaluation is simply an arrangement where docents who share tour chores also share the evaluation of each other and of the tours. It’s an easy arrangement to plan, and its benefits to both the docents and the tour are immediately apparent.

Although many institutions assign docents as individuals, docent teams are used by some museums, zoos, historic sites, and nature centers quite successfully. In one model, as soon as they complete a training program new docents are made a part of existing “day” teams. A typical team might consist of from three to ten docents, depending on the tour participant numbers usually booked by the institution. The team would be responsible for all tours scheduled on their day. A corps of substitute docents is available to replace a team member who must be absent during any given week.

Members of the docent team take turns with the various parts of a successful tour. One docent contacts the teacher to exchange specifics about expectations of both the teacher and the museum. Another docent is responsible for greeting the touring class or group, handling the beginning logistics for entering the museum. A third docent, already in place in an orientation spot, welcomes the class and introduces museum rules, tour goals, the theme of the tour, and the other docents. The class is divided among the docent team members for smaller group touring and, following the individual tours, returns to a central location where a team member conducts closure procedures. Immediately after the tour group leaves, the docent team meets for team evaluation. It is during this time that individual team members help themselves and their co-workers improve the tour.

The evaluation meeting can be as formal or informal as the team desires, but predesigned structure ensures that the experience is a positive one and that specific areas are included. Some docent teams use a check list as the basis for their evaluation, assigning a different docent each week (or for each tour) to lead the discussion. The discussion should be held in a quiet place where the team will not be disturbed. Coffee, tea, or a soft drink (and maybe cookies?) make the evaluation time a pleasant conversation with friends rather than a chore to be avoided.

Beginning the evaluation with quantifiable measurements helps the group ease into the process and provides for a transition from the role of teacher to that of learner. This beginning section might include the following items:

1. School and teacher name, grade, number of students

  • Was the teacher notified by phone?
  • Did the teacher receive a pre-visit packet of materials?
  • Did the students appear prepared for the visit?

2. Number of docents touring, group size

  • Was the group size appropriate?
  • Did the teacher or the docents assign groups?
  • Did the students wear nametags?

Following a look at the group dynamics indicated by some of the above questions, and the obvious discussion of what was positive and negative about that part of the tour, docent teams can examine tour specifics with these questions:

3. What was the tour goal?

  • Was the goal met?
  • If so, what helped make the goal attainable?
  • If not, what could have helped?

4. What were the specific objectives of the tour?

  • Did the students achieve these objectives?
  • If so, what did you do to help the students achieve?
  • If not, what could we have done differently?

After considering the broad goals and objectives of the tour, team members can move more easily into a discussion of their individual performances with questions such as these:

5. Did I attempt to include every student through the careful use of eye contact, body language, and open-ended questions?

6. Did I avoid mannerisms and vocalizations that distract from my message?

7. Did I select objects and exhibits that were appropriate for the tour theme and the age of my audience?

8. Did I allow students to contribute to the tour, or did I do all the talking?

The success of evaluation such as this depends on the honesty of the individuals involved. Teams that are serious about improving their performance, and about providing every student an optimum tour experience, will see this “after the tour” dialogue as an essential part of the tour. They will allow the necessary time for exploration and discussion. They will avoid becoming “proprietary” about tour components or techniques so all aspects of the tour are open for consideration. If individuals on the team are uncomfortable about some aspect of their performance, they will ask other team members to observe and offer suggestions.

These are not easy things to do. Human nature doesn’t leave us much room for self-criticism, and even less for criticism from others. However, working as a member of a team makes it easier to accept and offer constructive help. With practice, many docents become quite comfortable with “letting their best friends tell them.”

Jackie Littleton, Associate Editor

Littleton, Jackie. “Team Evaluations: Even Your Best Friend WILL Tell You,” The Docent Educator 6.4 (Summer 1997): 18-19.


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