How leaders can quickly gather if teaching is improving in ways that advance priorities and goals

Great teachers facilitate great student learning experiences. That’s why leaders invest time, money, and effort into improving teaching. But how can leaders know if their efforts are paying off? How can we know if teaching is actually improving in ways that advance priorities and goals? Our partners are right to ask us these questions.   

In this blog, we offer three tips for gathering quick and actionable data on teacher practice. These tips for creating impact measures as part of a short, non-evaluative classroom observation form can be tailored to any district priority or school goal.   

  1. Objectivity – A measure that ensures that anyone using the tool would respond in the same way. For example, if a school is working on increasing participation from all students, they might be tracking: How many students participated in class today? This is too subjective, as one observer might consider any raised hand a sign of participation, whereas another might consider a student speaking to be participation. To measure participation objectively, we could instead ask: How many distinct students spoke in a one-minute random sampling of the class? This would help to ensure that any individual asked to respond would respond in the same way, facilitating greater objectivity and consistency over time. See the table below for a few additional examples of objective measures. 

    Less Objective

    More Objective

    Did students collaborate with each other during class?   During class, students were mostly working  

    • Alone: independently without talking to peers or teachers  
    • In pairs or small groups  
    • In whole group format (teacher leading/facilitating)  
    Were students engaged in the lesson?  In which of the following ways did students participate in the lesson? [select all that apply]  

    • Verbally (discussion, sharing with a partner/group)  
    • Non-verbals (thumbs up, fist to five)  
    • Written work  
    • Technology  
    Is the teacher asking high-level questions?    Capture three questions asked by the teacher during today’s class.  

  2. Periodic checks to analyze growth over time – A baseline analysis prior, or a first measure shortly after the start of a continuous improvement effort, followed up at periodic intervals throughout the effort. Some schools may choose to do this once per quarter, or at the beginning, middle, and end of a school year. This will answer the question: is teacher practice changing? From there, you can course-correct if needed, setting your approach apart from the typical end of year reflection that doesn’t allow for real-time intervention.
  3. Transparency – Data and goals should be shared with stakeholders. Teachers can’t improve upon their practice if they don’t know what they’re trying to improve. Schools opt to do this in different ways. Some share individual feedback to specific teachers, while others share schoolwide or grade level trends.  

Utilizing impact measures that are objective and transparent on a periodic basis should result in a more effective continuous improvement process and can be included in any strategy to improve teacher practice and student learning. 

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