14284-educational technology 3580.jpg by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

“We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for”

Although we are leading this project, we want to encourage others to contribute, collaborate and share their stories and ideas with us.  This tool is designed to help solve a real problem that teachers face as we are asked, more and more, to be accountable for gathering our own evidence base of our current practice and using it to inform our choices in professional development.  For some of us, teacher peer evaluation or observation is a new concept for others it’s a part of our day to day practice.   We would all agree that teacher peer evaluation and feedback  can be incredibly valuable to both the teacher being observed and the teacher observing, however in numerous instances observation is met with a negative response.

assessmentAs someone who, before emigrating to Australia, taught in the UK for years, I experienced a lesson observation and teacher grading system driven by external inspectors and summative grading scales.  Although, I know that this feedback spurred me on to develop my skills as a teacher, the process felt far less about me as a teacher than it did about jumping through pre-determined hoops.  These hoops were illusive and impersonal.  Of the many, many times I was observed (and subsequently labelled) not once did someone, or something, ever consider how these observations might inform my progress over time, my preferences and interests as a teacher or even show where my strengths were so that I might help others.  Even though I was awarded a grade for the 20 minutes of observed teaching they witnessed, many of these observations, were devised to appraise the school I worked in, rather than my own personal individual teacher performance.

The result of an observation processes like these is often undue stress and extra work.  Looking back, I know that those judgments did make me strive to prove something, to someone.  However, when I consider the skills I have as a teacher when it comes to tracking student progress over time, against targets and with their personality and interests in mind, I wonder why we don’t afford ourselves the same treatment? We can do so much better for ourselves.

“Assessment systems will provide more valid results if they measure..learning over time, and track learning in different contexts and using different assessment tools.” (Looney, 2010)

The quote above comes from a paper written by Janet Looney.  In it she explores how technology can be used to ‘make assessment happen’.  This whole paper explores and exemplifies some fantastic examples of how teachers use both formative and summative assessment to help their students to learn and develop their skills and interests in a given subject area.  If the way in which I had been observed and assessed had mirrored this process, I would have been afforded many more opportunities to reflect and learn.  I would also have been given the power to make informed judgements of my practice for myself.  As a result, the process would have been far more personal.  I would have had a stake in designing my own pathways for development.

Matt and I are creating a piece of software.  It works with algorithms and fabulously crafted code to interpret the information we, as teachers put into it.  It will take any form of observation of learning: A peer observation, a learning walk, student questionnaire, student data etc. and it will make sure that it collates information so that it can track and trace our development and create a fair picture of who we are and how we teach.  It will automatically create a profile of your teaching and will provide evidence for any profile, standardised or otherwise, you might need to create evidence for.  More importantly however, it will take the data we need in order to ‘jump through hoops’ and make it meaningful and productive.

changes-in-pd-opportuntiesOur plans for this project, our ideas and the possibilities we see for it, are enormous. Reflect Growth is an evolving, complex beast.  She/He/It will develop and change over time because it will be influenced, co-created and shaped by its users. That’s you.  At this stage in the process we want to invite as many of you who would like to join us to help shape the initial stages of our design, our templates, our feedback systems.  I believe strongly that co-created work is the most influential.  The more voices, opinions and experiences we can share the stronger Reflect Growth will become.  The more relevant and useful it will be to us as teachers.  We are seeking educators to connect with.  You can help by:

  • Answering questionnaires
  • Sharing stories of current practice
  • Sharing your thoughts on teacher observation as a process
  • Spreading the word
  • Being a part of the Beta testing team

We won’t ask you to do any of that for nothing.  There will be some exciting benefits to being involved early on.  Apart from the real opportunity to create something that allows us, as professionals, to formulate something powerful.   Let’s work together to join our stories with current research and practice and, as teaching profession, let’s take charge of the way in which we are accountable for our own learning.

Join and Co-create with us!

14284-educational technology 3580.jpg by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic14284-educational technology 3580.jpg by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Looney, J. (2010). Making it Happen: Formative Assessment and Educational Technologies. Thinking Deeper Research Paper, 1(3).
OECD (2009b) Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators (Paris, OECD).


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