In my work in the education technology sector over the past several years, I’ve had the chance to talk with many school leaders across the globe about using data effectively to manage teacher performance. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that, in order to deliver useful data, you typically need software to manage the process and host the data securely. As always when purchasing technology, prioritization is key. In the case of performance management applications, school leaders often need aggregated data to make high-level decisions, while teachers need more actionable, practical data. The main tension that can arise when selecting a performance management application is that someone’s needs might be left out.
At the recent EdSurge Tech For Schools Summit in Austin, TX, a couple of school leaders shared with me their disappointment that they hadn’t come across any web-based applications that provided them useful, aggregated data on teacher performance. However, it was interesting to hear that 96% of participants (a majority of whom were teachers) said that our team’s application, in fact, provided great actionable data. The tension here behind school leader and teacher needs is obvious.
If you’re looking for a performance management application, I find these three considerations critical when conducting a search:
1) Pick software that treats feedback as the most important data point.
Research tells us that feedback, whether quantitative or qualitative, is critical. The Gates Foundation worked on a project called “Measures of Effective Teachers” in which they had observers watch videos of teachers in the classroom and rate how they did on a range of practices. They also surveyed the students. According to Bill Gates, “...teachers in the program told us that these videos and these surveys from the students were very helpful diagnostic tools, because they pointed to specific places where they can improve.” The best performance management applications help deliver feedback-rich, qualitative data directly to the teacher.
2) Pick software that supports great coaching > software that supports data visualizations.
While data visualization like graphs and charts can have awesome power, it can also be lifeless, static, and lack any real meaning to individual teachers. If the goal is to provide specific feedback to the teacher, coaching is usually the best method for delivery. Dr. Atul Gawande once said, “Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.” You’ll want to ensure that, whatever software program you select, it supports coaches and coaching best practices. Performance management software that supports coaching ties qualitative feedback to a common piece of evidence like a lesson plan, sample student work, or video of teaching.
3) Use video as your source of data.
The team at Insight ADVANCE has become obsessed with the power of video in coaching teachers. According to Dr. Michael Moody, our founder and the former chief academic advisor of DC Public Schools, “Video continues to show great promise as a method of getting support closer to classroom practice while also offering opportunities to support the growth of those who observe and coach teachers.” The Harvard Graduate School of Education recently conducted a study called “Best Foot Forward” which sought to answer whether or not video really improves the classroom observation process. Their answer to this question was a resounding “yes,” and a critical component of that answer was that video provides actionable data. Without video, school leaders’ feedback is anecdotal and ungrounded. It can be perceived as unfair, if not unproductive. However, once you add in the video element, teachers and school leaders both have a common piece evidence on which to base their conversations and coaching.
If you have other recommendations or thoughts on this topic, we’d love to hear from you. Send us a tweet at @InsightADVANCE or leave a comment below.
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