Study: Schools may have tech, but they’re not using it

Are students using mobile technology in their daily lives? Undoubtedly yes. Are they using similar tech for learning in the classroom? Not really, according to recent research based on classroom observations.

The new study, conducted by the accreditation organization AdvancEd, put observers inside U.S. and international classrooms for about 140,000 observations during a three-year period. Observations rated lessons using a rubric (outlined somewhat in the research summary) that took into account things like engagement, behavior, and resources used on a scale of 1-4.

Inasmuch as a basic rubric can adequately capture a classroom environment, reported results were not encouraging from a tech standpoint. Half of all classrooms were not using any tech to “gather, evaluate and/or use information for learning,” and even fewer classrooms were observed to use tech for problem solving or collaboration. The study noted the fact that almost half of observed classrooms were using tech for gathering and evaluating information wasn’t particularly surprising since it’s “the most superficial use of technology, most easily implemented and least time consuming.”…Read More

Performance Matters introduces classroom observation tool for K-12 districts

Being observed in the classroom can be a nerve-wracking experience for teachers. Yet, observations that paint a fair, accurate picture of teachers’ strengths and areas of need can play a crucial role in their professional growth. To make the observation experience easy and efficient for both observers and teachers, Performance Matters announces Truenorthlogic Observation.

Truenorthlogic Observation is an intuitive, online solution for conducting classroom observations, collecting evidence and sharing feedback. Going far beyond simple scripting tools, it gives K-12 districts the tools to configure, customize and streamline the observation process, eliminating the need for onerous paper-driven processes.

With Truenorthlogic Observation, districts can design observation templates that match existing observation instruments, rubrics and ratings scales, and highlight desired teaching practices. School leaders can easily schedule formal observations or classroom walkthroughs, or start one on demand. They can also see how many scheduled observations are on the calendar and which teachers have not yet been observed.…Read More

The benefits of adding video to teacher evaluations

A Harvard researcher shares her national perspective on improving professional development

One of the biggest challenges in K-12 education is finding an effective and productive way to evaluate teacher performance. In a world where technology is rapidly reshaping the classroom, it’s natural to look to its potential, especially considering that many schools now have the technology to do classroom observation via video. However, these same schools aren’t yet convinced whether the investment will change status quo evaluations. To find out, in 2012, the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard, where I work, piloted the Best Foot Forward Project (BFF), a study that grew out of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project.

BFF began with pilot programs in large districts in Georgia and North Carolina as well as Relay Graduate School of Education. In an effort to gather data from large and small districts in both urban and rural areas, we then expanded the study to include Los Angeles Unified School District, the state of Delaware, and a number of districts in Colorado.

We randomly selected half the teachers to be in a treatment group that would take videos of themselves in the classroom. These videos were then passed along to their principals for evaluation purposes. We also had remote peers provide our treatment group teachers with formative feedback on their subject matter. The control group did “business as usual” when it came to their evaluations.…Read More

How peer video coaching is completely changing how our teachers teach

Peer-to-peer video comments are changing how one district’s teachers think about their practice

A new era of professional development is sweeping into districts across the country, and just in time. For many districts, the days of after-school PowerPoint-driven lectures not differentiated by content, expertise, grade-level or delivery, not to mention daylong workshops on an obsolete topic, have recently given way to face-to-face coaching programs and professional learning communities. And in St. Vrain Valley School District, where we serve 32,000 students in seven towns northwest of Denver, we’ve gone one step further.

We’ve augmented our professional development program with an online video coaching platform for classroom observation through one-on-one coaching and collaborative study teams. As one of nine exemplar districts designated by the U.S. Department of Education to be “Future Ready,” the integration of video coaching is an extension of our pledge to empower educators through personalized learning. But our decision also created some cognitive dissonance as we migrated to video coaching.

Hard questions lead to the right answer…Read More

Making classroom observations more efficient — and effective

A custom web-based system is making for more thoughtful classroom observation

Instructional leaders need to know what is happening when the bell rings and the door closes — in every classroom, in every building, every day. And the best way to do that is through careful but effective classroom observation. The challenge, then, is how to design a customizable, user-friendly system to observe classroom teaching that doesn’t seem like a top-down affair.

Just over five years ago, my organization, the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center in Kansas, set out to do just that, and to date, 13,572 teachers have been observed in 726 schools. This includes over 150,000 observations and over 6.5 million data points.

First, here’s what we know: Quality of teaching is the number one factor affecting student learning; collaborative dialogue is the number one factor affecting quality of teaching; and collaborative dialogue requires data.…Read More

Classroom observations may hurt teachers more than they help, study says

Classroom observations — one of the most widely-used forms of teacher evaluation — might be setting teachers up to fail

Teachers might be at a disadvantage during classroom observation of their instructional practice, which is one of the most widely-used tools for high-stakes job performance evaluations. And whether or not students have a history of high classroom achievement could be the reason why.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) indicates that evaluations based on observing teachers in the classroom often fail to meaningfully assess teacher performance.

The study, published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, adds to the ongoing policy debate over when and how teachers should be evaluated.…Read More

Comparing the leading classroom observation tools

Different observation tools are available to suit various needs.

Policy makers in states from coast to coast are demanding more rigorous teacher evaluations that lead to real improvements in instruction—and school systems are changing their practices as a result.

Central to this effort are software tools that help school leaders record their observations during classroom walkthoughs and share this information with teachers to foster their professional growth.

Many programs include free apps for conducting walkthroughs using a mobile device—though not all solutions can be used both online and offline. Other features to compare include the software’s flexibility (can it be customized to meet each school’s evaluation needs?) and what sharing and reporting capabilities it includes.…Read More