Facilitate Collaboration: Enable Anytime, Anywhere Learning
Posted by Sam Cook on October 17, 2017 at 11:17 AM
This post is part of TeachBoost's series called "From Vision to Reality: Pulling the Right Levers for Transformational Instructional Leadership." Check out all the posts in our series, then subscribe to our blog to have posts delivered to your inbox as we publish new pieces.
We’ve covered the importance of technology for centralizing your work around a common vision, helping to streamline the process, and tips for norming feedback within your organization. Continuing where we left off, we will discuss how technology can assist with common collaboration and the benefits of using video in the classroom—One being peer-driven learning.
To ensure staff take up a program focused on professional growth, a cultural shift needs to take place from evaluations conducted to or at teachers—to an inclusive process with and for your staff.
“We learned to make it so the teacher is at the center of the activity” says Linda Rosenbury, founding Principal of Brooklyn Urban Garden School.
Technological platforms for evaluation make feedback accessible by all your staff-anytime and anywhere, which makes them ideal for fostering collaborative learning and celebrating success across your district.
“We don’t think of TeachBoost as an evaluation tool”, adds Rosenbury, “It’s not just where ratings are housed, but a place for teachers to showcase their best work and progress.”
Within her school, Rosenbury has designed a process where teachers and leaders collaborate on a single observation—one that can be replicated at your school/district. First, the school leader captures information in a form and shares this evidence with their teacher. The teacher can review this and then perform a self-assessment within the same document, creating their preliminary next steps and uploading any supporting evidence. Once the observation is complete, a final observation report is generated that subsequently draws on all the data submitted by both teacher and leader. This jointly-generated observation facilitates teacher involvement throughout and endows them with ownership in this process.
Benefits of Video
Harnessing mobile technology is an excellent way to fit in ad hoc observations in a time-pressured environment—and any laptop or tablet can be used to achieve this.
“Teachers, coaches, and administrators can also utilize video, both for private reflection and collaborative feedback”, advises Eric Sandberg in his guest post, The Power of Video in Teaching.
The advantages of video recording in the classroom are exceptionally diverse: it’s time-friendly, can increase capacity for observers, is accessible for reference at any time, can enable remote-coaching, provides opportunities for norming, and allows for the creation of a library of "good practice."
On this subject, Rob Lewis, Principal within Grants Pass SD7 in Oregon, offers his insight around video:
“I see great benefits in being able to capture a lesson so both the teacher and administrator can review it—allowing for intentional instructional improvement much like athletes when watching game video to improve their practice.”
With such a tool, leaders can provide feedback with time-stamped comments and add next steps that are grounded in your instructional framework. Post-observation conversations between teachers and leaders centred around video recordings empower both to have a meaningful conversation about the way forward, mapping out a path for growth in partnership. It should be noted, however, that video cannot replace in-person observations, but should instead be embedded into the fabric of your instructional program.
Peer Driven Learning
Many of the school leaders we work with (or have talked to) have found success in trialling new methods of evaluation and coaching. Arizona College Prep Academy instituted a peer-driven model to co-exist alongside their traditional principal-led evaluation program. This teacher-centric implementation encourages staff to embrace a greater engagement and ownership of their professional development.
“Teachers regularly interact with the platform, actively participate in the observation and coaching process, and understand that they have a voice," says Charlene Mendoza, ACPA's founding principal. “Now it's easy for all stakeholders at ACPA to understand instructional strengths and areas for growth, as well as celebrate and scale their successes."
Technological programs that have the capacity to manage multiple rubrics can permit a multi-layered approach to evaluation such as this. While Mendoza’s formal Principal evaluations are conducted and shared with teachers in the app, her teachers are performing peer visitations and coaching sessions. This data is stored in one user-friendly place, and is accessible by all staff at all times.
After experimenting with a blended formal evaluation/peer-driven strategy, Mendoza shares that:
"Teachers have gained tremendous insight into their own practice by observing their peers… That's what tipped the scales toward making it standard practice to conduct peer observations at ACPA."
If finding time out from classrooms is problematic for your staff, video observation could be an easy win here! Recording of lesson segments for later viewing provides your teachers with the time to engage in a peer-coaching approach and to provide their colleagues with considered, non-evaluative, constructive feedback and discussion.
Using video is a powerful inclusion in any instructional leadership program, but its introduction will require very careful planning. If piloting the use of video feels like a great next step to take, involving your teachers in designing a new system will encourage their participation. Before embarking on this project, there are some issues to anticipate:
- Do your staff have access to the appropriate technology?
- Do you need to address any technological training needs of some/all staff?
- Who would be accountable for the implementation and operation of this aspect of the program?
- What are the concerns of your staff about the use of video? How would you begin to attend to these issues and inspire your teachers to embrace this new approach?
- What legal issues are there regarding the recording and storing of video that would need to be addressed?