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Self-Assessment and the PTCs

For a couple of years now I have been asking teachers to review their practice against the Practicing Teacher Criteria. This is an ongoing iterative process that I believe teachers should be performing all the time however in this instance the process is formalised as part of their appraisal and discussion and goal setting for the following year.

I think this is a worthwhile process, especially know in my current school where I have 2 years of data to look and and help support strengths and weaknesses in myself and the teaching staff. This in turn will contribute to the PLD plan as well.

So how does it work? Firstly I set up a google form that includes a simple 5 point scale from Sometimes to Consistently for each of the 12 criteria. A definition of each criteria is also included. Also, after ERO visited last year, where they had a national focus review topic related to the attestation for fully registering teachers, they recommended that I include in this process a place for teachers to show evidence to support their ratings on the 5 point scale. This has been included and is a really positive development from previous versions. Here is the full form for you to have a look at.

practicing-teacher-criteria-self-assessment-2016-eoy

The purpose is to capture where teachers are at and whether they are a 2 or a 5 is not important. What matters (on an individual level) is that teachers see where they need to be more effective and over time see progress across the different criteria. It is this growth that is especially important for me. Going backwards in your self-assessment rating is also OK and is often a sign that your knowledge of that criteria and all the implications that it entails has grown thus the scope of your reflection is broader and perhaps more critical.

So what happens to the data?  I pull the data out and create both individual and group spider diagrams (I think sometimes people also refer to these as radar charts). Group spider diagrams can be made for teams of teachers, management, whole school, PRTs etc what ever subgroups you have in your school you can look at the info related to them. These are shared within the leadership team at school, and with individually, along with their collated response to qualify and provide evidence of their rating, with teachers.

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Individual teacher spider showing 2015 and 2016 self-assessments.
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Team of 4 teachers 2016 spider.
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Doc shared with individual teacher with a record of the evidence.

What happens next? I encourage teachers to upload these to their professional blogs in order for them to become an artefact in their ongoing collection of evidence to support their next practicing certificate renewal. The outcomes of the self-assessment are also discussed as part of a teacher’s end of year appraisal checkpoint meeting. As a leadership team we discuss the outcomes and what this looks like across the whole staff and in the teams of teachers. Any trends are identified and we look at how we can support teachers to develop further in the identified areas.

Next steps in the approach? This is yet to be fully completed for this year and as such the review is ongoing. I had planned for teachers to do this twice a year, mid and end, however due to a number of factors I cancelled the mid point review. I question if once a year is enough and I think it is… but only if teachers have an inquiring mindset and are reflective. Also, if there are other ways that teachers are acknowledging their growth against the PTCs as we do via any evidence uploaded to a teacher’s professional blogs, then doing it once a year is a formal acknowledgement of an ongoing process and enough.

I have also thought that including the cultural competencies from Tātaiako would be a very useful extension to the process.

The minor tweak made after ERO’s suggestion was a useful and easy addition to make to the process. I am sure that these minor tweaks will continue to add to the value of this process.

Reviewing our School Values

The New Zealand Curriculum describes values as deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable. They are expressed through the ways in which people think and act.

This year I am facilitating a full review of our school values, a process that is recognised strategically by the Board, along with a review of our school vision, as a priority area. Why? Well here are a few of the reasons. Our desire is to have our school values;

  • visible around the school
  • articulated by learners, parents and staff
  • actively modelled by learners, parents and staff
  • used to frame up/underpin learning, expectations and behaviour
  • provide a starting point in our decision making process.

There is currently little to no evidence of this taking place and this gap has guided our review and development in this area. To start this process we have based the conversations around a set of 3 core questions:

  1. What is important and desirable in our school?
  2. How should our students be thinking and acting?
  3. What is to be encouraged, modelled, explored?

Taking these 3 questions we have had meetings and conversations as a staff, with our parents, at our whānau hui, and what I believe is most important, with our learners. Outcomes from some of these meetings are shown below.

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Students getting their ideas down on paper.
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Our parents prioritising and defining what is important to them. Thoughts from a staff member.

As you can probably imagine this led to a huge number and variety of concepts as the different groups documented what was really important to them. Through a process of grouping similarly themed ideas for each of the different groups and ordering them in terms of their popularity, then repeating that process after all the groups’ ideas were pooled together, a final list of 13 values were put on the table.

There was lots of rich discussion and questioning along the way, e.g.

  • Is that a value or a skill?
  • What does that mean to you as I think of it meaning something different?
  • Isn’t that a concept that sits over the top of those values?
  • Do we really need respect as a value? Is that just a non-negotiable anyway?

values-voting-paperGoing back to the NZC definition was our guiding light and kept us on track. Additionally perhaps the most important aspect of this process was to take a lot of time agreeing on a definition of each of the shortlisted values so that when we communicated these to the students, parents and community there was a clear statement by what was meant by that term. We hoped that this would clarify any misunderstandings.

Perhaps the most challenging part was how best to integrate the thoughts of our whānau into this process. They suggested that manaakitanga (caring, looking out for each other), whanaungatanga (treat everyone as your family) and kotahitanga (being as one, the same, treating everyone as the same) were the values that should guide everybody and everything at school. We have no disagreement with these and without question they will be included in the final make-up.

As we don’t yet know what our values framework will look like when it is ‘presented’ to our learners and community (e.g. represented through a visual form like a local landmark, tree etc, or as an acronym). When we offered the shortlisted values to the community we showed how manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga related to them, without yet knowing how these will be shown by the end of the review and development process.

So where to now? The voting process is drawing to a close so the votes will need to be counted. We are still discussing a number of questions including;

  • If we believe that the students’ voice is crucially important, do their votes count more than others?
  • Or, should it be just a straight vote and the what comes out on top are the ones that are selected?
  • What is the best number of values to have? Is it a case of less is more?

Once decided, they next step is to develop a framework to ‘hang’ the values off. We are currently working with our local iwi Ngati Kauwhata to better understand the history and traditions associated with the local area. We are hoping that this will support us in developing a visual representation of the values.

 

 

A Model of Distributed Feedback..?

An interesting idea was discussed at my principal PLG today related to giving feedback. As the conversation developed the notion of feedback, and how it is delivered and received, could be used as a measure for a truly distributed leadership model. It certainly got me thinking. Not sure what I mean? An explanation is required…

The conversation started after a reflective exercise related to our shared text, Thanks for the Feedback. Using a PAGE template to respond to the text it reinforced what I know already – that giving feedback to staff is not a strength of mine and an area that I need to improve.

I unpacked this further, suggesting that my personality was not naturally tuned in to feedback giving and it was something that felt unnatural and was very hard to do -especially the warm fuzzy type. For me this relates more to the ongoing, informal, just in time feedback as more formalised feedback through observations, and coaching sessions for example, sit more comfortably with me. I know other people are much more natural at providing feedback and it seems to be just part of their how they roll.

There were a general agreement of this and round the table and we could identify with one type or the other, or somewhere in-between.

Then the question was asked, do I need to be? In the situation where I am part of the senior leadership team – do I need to be good at the ongoing, informal, just in time feedback, as well as all other types of feedback?

If someone in the leadership team assumes this role instead (i.e. they are good at the warm fuzzies) – is that OK?

The first question that arose from that was this; Is feedback perceived, either intentionally or not, that it is more important if it comes from the principal? Perhaps that it simply an assumption that I have made.

So, let’s take the scenario where their are 3 people who make up a school’s leadership team. Two of these are great at coaching other teachers and get them to thinking deeply about their practice. They function best in a 1-1 context, listening, prompting and helping to identify next steps. This is their strength – unlike the third member of the team who finds this challenging. However, the third person is great at the ongoing, informal, just in time feedback. They fill the gap the other two leaders leave, giving staff that feel-good factor and acknowledgement. In other words, the giving of feedback is distributed among the leaders, working to their strengths and personalities.

So what would need to be in place in order for this to happen

Firstly, I think you need to know your teachers well. What presses their buttons, how, where and when they like to receive feedback. Perhaps undertaking some kind of personality test or analysis (like the DiSC model I have previously used) to enable everyone to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviours to others and vice versa, is a must.

Secondly, going back to the question; Is feedback perceived, either intentionally or not, that it is more important if it comes from the principal? If this is true, then this will be required to change to a culture where feedback from anyone is sort out and valued. I think this would be a great discussion point with staff – maybe it is just an assumption I have made.

This brings us all back round to the notion of feedback, and how it is delivered and received, could be used as a measure for a truly distributed leadership model. The suggestion is that if you have a truly distributed model of leadership, then feedback given by the leadership team, for whatever purpose, has equal weighting no matter who it is from.

Leadership Goal Elevator Pitch Reflection

The end of the year and my performance management cycle is coming to a close. My principal PLG is a regular forum where we all share progress towards our leadership goals and with the last one for the year approaching we are using the elevator pitch strategy to share progress related to one of our goals.

Now our elevator is pretty slow so we have 5 minutes to make our pitches interesting, memorable and succinct, using a framework of subheadings to guide our reflections;

  • My goals is…
  • I have made impact on students/staff by…
  • My main leadership learning has been…
  • I will continue to work on…

My goal is…

1.2 Performance Objective
Lead the development & implementation of key systems to support improved outcomes for priority learners.

Expected Outcomes

  • Accelerated progress is apparent for priority learners
  • A planned & co-ordinated approach to investigating, planning & monitoring effective practices for priority learners is established
  • Teachers demonstrate the ability to inquire into & adapt their practice for priority learners in an ongoing way

I have made impact on students/staff by…

Students

  • Actively including them in the fact finding and intervention decision making process. Staff were released to capture student voice, work with students to draw learning maps and ask them questions related to learning and what works for them and doesn’t. Some of the outcomes from this include increased voice and choice for learners in their learning.
  • More clarity/transparency for them around what they need to do in order to progress. This was enabled through classroom discussion, learning conferences, access to their own achievement data (e.g. e-asTTle), revised written reporting formats with clarity around next steps, changes to classroom programme (e.g. self managed timetables, workshops).
  • For the majority of priority learner cohorts identified in our achievement plan progress has been noticeable. For example:
    • In reading, 14 students were identified from 2015 data, 10 have made accelerated progress (71%).
    • In writing, 18 students were identified, 10 have made accelerated progress  (56%).
    • In maths, 20 students were identified, 18 have made accelerated progress (90%).
    • Of those who have not accelerated, only 1 student is a real cause for concern as there has been little to no progress, even with increased tiers of support.

Staff

  • Our priority learners were agended into staff, team and leadership meetings, ensuring that their needs were kept on top and that actions to addressing their needs were reflected on in an ongoing and collaborative way i.e. raising student achievement is a whole school responsibility, not just one teachers.
  • TAI practices were re-introduced and further built on, highly valued to acknowledge the importance of an ongoing and reflective professional inquiry.
  • Teachers were expected to make informed decisions about the impact of the teaching based on achievement data, student voice, feedback from colleagues, and critical self reflection including videoing their own teaching.
  • Teachers were asked to consider and discuss the implications of an equity v. equality approach to addressing the needs of our priority learners.
  • Staff increased their professional knowledge and capability around the use of a broad range of assessment tools to inform decisions related to teaching and learning.
  • Conversations regarding priority learners changed to be about learning not behaviour.

My main leadership learning has been…

  • Importance of focusing all changes and professional learning centred around students and improving their outcomes. i.e. don’t do it for me, do it for your learners.
  • Getting the pace of change right and balancing this with the;
    • wellbeing of staff and workloads
    • amongst the other needs across all areas of review and development
    • time for teachers to embed practices
    • culture of growth mindsets, recognising change happens a different paces for everyone.
  • Acknowledging the huge value in the ongoing review of what and why we do things, acknowledging when things haven’t gone to plan, and being flexible and adaptive to change.
  • Giving value/resourcing  to teachers coming together to have professional based dialogue during the school day.
  • Being patient.

I will continue to work on…

  • Gaining a deeper understanding of the staff in order to better recognise, utilise and accommodate their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Providing more effective feedback across a range of forums, in order to support teachers in becoming more effective in their roles.
  • Explore a more personalised approach to TAI, professional learning and appraisal/accountability.
  • Further exploring professional collaborative practices and opportunities.
  • Continuing to prioritise our priority learners but consciously use a gradual release of responsibility model as practices are normalised.

So there’s the pitch. Quite an easy, quick and worthwhile strategy to pull together the key points related to progress towards a goal. I would certainly consider using it with my staff as another reflective approach as part of the TAI process.