We started using student surveys from Panorama Education to assess five categories that would show us whether or not this new approach was working: Classroom Engagement, Classroom Rigor, Learning Strategies, Pedagogical Effectiveness, and Teacher-Student Relationships.

The data we gathered from students supported our theory that two teachers teaching two classes is just as effective as one teacher teaching a single class. For instance, one of the areas we wanted to maintain when moving to a co-teaching model was the strong teacher-student relationships that are so critical to our students’ experience at school.

What were the results?

Between the first survey in the fall and the second survey in the spring, our students’ favorable perceptions of their relationships with teachers grew by three percentage points. The adjustment to the co-teaching model and larger rooms took time, but with support and approaching things differently, teachers also were able to excel in Pedagogical Effectiveness.

Greenwood’s Teacher-Student Relationships.

Using big classrooms to personalize learning is counter-intuitive, but sharing this data has been helpful in validating our approach to our community and shaping the school’s unique approach in learning.

Inspiring Teachers to Improve

The Panorama survey data sparked reflection among our teachers and shook up their preconceived notions of what student engagement means in the classroom. My colleagues Heather Thomas, vice principal, Academic Learning, and Mary Gauthier, the executive director of the Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning, worked with teachers during one-on-one conferences in which they talked about what worked well according to the data, and also came up with actionable strategies for improvement.

Heather and Mary had each teacher highlight three things they were most proud of, three things they found surprising, and three things they would like to improve on. As these sessions took place throughout the year, we saw improvements in the areas teachers were working on. Approaching the survey data in this way showed us as a community that we are on the journey toward improvement together, and that together we are indeed able to move the needle.

Moving forward, this data collection through student surveys will help us to do even more to empower our students to take charge of their own learning in ways that will directly benefit them as individuals.

So far, we have tested the effectiveness of combining two grade levels of the same subject in a single class, as well as the same grade in a dual-track class. We found in both cases these approaches work for our students.

In the future, we hope to experiment with mixing classes of related subjects, creating an interdisciplinary environment. Another new theme we will be working on in the coming year is being sensitive to gender identity and related issues. We want to take a closer look at how gender relationships impact learning and relationships between students and teachers.

We’ll also be looking into different personality types—such as introverted versus extroverted students—to see how we can better serve our students’ wide range of social and emotional needs. Our mission through all of this will always be to follow our students’ natural interests and abilities to help them succeed.

About the Author:

Jonathan Tepper is the executive director of Information and Learning Technology at Greenwood College School in Toronto, Ontario.