Category Archives: Teachers

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.

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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.

More on Registered Teacher Criteria and Professional ePortfolios

In a previous post I discussed some initial thoughts around a potential relationship between the Registered Teacher Criteria and professional eportfolios. I mentioned teaching as inquiry in the post but not in any great detail about how it might work and look.

So inspired by conversation, feedback and other people’s thinking let’s make that step by taking the Teaching as Inquiry framework, central to effective pedagogy as outlined in the NZC to underpin the process. By starting with teaching as inquiry (TaI) and using it as the foundation for professional appraisal and teacher registration, we are reinforcing the core focus of teaching (and therefore the appraisal & portfolio) to achieve improved outcomes for all students.

Inspired by how Rocky mapped her thinking out I have played around with how the 12 criteria align with teacher inquiry shown below using the graphic from Timperley’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Educational Practices Series, p. 26-27). The orange text boxes are the original cycle, with the pink boxes the 12 criteria matched to the best fit stage of the inquiry. The exception being criteria 1, 2 and 3 which to me are more global and integrate throughout hence how they form a mini-cycle in the middle. (I like this graphic over others as it includes specific reference to role of leaders in schools.)

 

Secondly below using the slightly different cycle graphic from Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). Both of these examples are indicative only, and you could argue that some of the criteria fit better with another stage in the inquiry. Would be a good activity to complete with teachers if you were heading down this track…

TaI is a cyclic and ongoing process as teachers continually reflect on their practice within a whole range of levels from micro to bigger global objectives. The diagram is represents that way. I am fully in favour of formalising and in some way recording this process, integrating it into teaching and learning and the school’s professional learning programme. Appraisal systems in place are not always naturally ongoing, responsive, immediate… they are generally summative, ‘completed’ a couple of times a year rather than being living and formative. An exception to this would perhaps be the mentoring of a PRT

So I would want to use the RTC in a cyclic and ongong manner too… and reference it within a professional eportfolio.

So what might that look like in practice when it is captured and shared within an eportfolio?

You could take an approach similar to this Mahara/MyPortfolio template. While this approach is very functional and mirrors a traditional ‘filling out a document’ approach, its strength would be in the ability to provide feedback to the teacher within MyPortfolio but I have a lot of unanswered questions regarding its use. In a worse case scenario, this approach could just become something you complete when your rego is due or within the performance management process, you just share it with your appraiser when required. It doesn’t directly reinforce the benefits of TaI nor show an ongoing cycle of reflection and next steps.

If I were in a postion to lead this in a school then I would favour a blog/journal approach rather than a page. Whether using WordPressBlogger or the blogging capacity within MyPortfolio, the tool is not important rather the ability to tag (or label or categorise) your entries and display these tags as either a list or cloud. This then becomes your blog index allowing you to select the posts which relate to and provide evidence towards the appropriate registered teacher criteria.

What is also really important to note that in this approach you don’t go out and write a post on “how I have achieved and reflected upon Criteria 4”. Instead your ongoing reflections, inquiry into practice, involvement in professional learning and development, mentoring, obvservations, staff meetings, teaching practice and so on, are blogged/reflected on as and when they happen, and any association with the criteria is noted.

It also removes the ‘timed’ appraisal. The mid-year, end-of-year, or other times for appraisals are a bit old schoolish. It’s a bit like waiting until the end of term to receive your child’s portfolio, out of date and past its usefulness in order to really contribute to new learning…

To me it is a bit of a no brainer, one system that caters for a record of teacher inquiry, clearly linked to registration criteria, evidence, authentic appraisal and reflection. And just to add one more to the mix is how the culmination of all of this within a professional portfolio can be central to a professional network. Why is it that we tend to be so protective and private when it comes to all of this stuff… sharing it with an audience has so many potential benefits…

How does your school manage this/these process(es)? Silos? I am always or the look out for examples of professional teacher eportfolios, with reference to TaI and RTC or not. Do you have any to share?

Registered Teacher Criteria and ePortfolios

Further to my thoughts on whether teachers should have their own eportfolio, I have spent some time reading up on the Registered Teacher Criteria which have begun to progressively replace the existing Satisfactory Teacher Dimensions this year.

The Criteria are designed:

  • to describe the essential professional, relationships and values required for successful teaching.
  • to promote quality teaching for all learners
  • to guide the professional learning and the assessment of teachers as they work towards full registration
  • for the assessment of teachers to maintain a practising certificate/full registration
  • to guide career long professional learning and development
  • to provide a common language for professional reflection and dialogue
  • to promote the status of the teaching profession
  • to strengthen public confidence in the profession

It is suggested that evidence against the criteria can be gathered a number of ways including;

  1. Observation: formal with structured feedback and next steps.
  2. Discussion: including meetings, structured mentoring, critical self-reflection.
  3. Documentation: collections of evidence including reflective journals, analysis of learners assessment, records, PD

Needless to say, an eportfolio would be the perfect container for bringing all of these elements together. What a great opportunity for school leaders to ‘encourage’ staff to create an online space as an authentic collection of evidence and critical reflection to demonstrate successful teaching.

I do have a couple of questions/challenges for the NZTC:

  1. Instead of providing (i.e. Word templates) which use a text based solution for teacher self-assessment against the criteria, why not provide an online tool that allows teachers, school leaders etc. to access, revisit, comment on where teachers are at? Sure, lots will do this using Google Docs, but how could we be more proactive in getting teachers online, creating PLNs, and using the tools we all expect our students to?
  2. Why is there no mention or modeling of how this evidence will be collated? How exciting would it be if the NZTC gave us access to an ePortfolio account using Mahara through myportfolio or similar. Or is the old process i.e. evidence is text based, printed out, highlighted and sloted into clear files still OK?
  3. My concern is that we have a new set of criteria, so change going to happen already, but we are not going to make the most of it. Why not grab this opportunity to move this process into the 21st Century with the use of some collaborative learning tools?

Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaint at all regarding the criteria, gathering evidence, critical reflection and discussion. I can see them dovetailing quite nicely with a Teaching as Inquiry approach. My questions are more process based about packaging this up in order to ‘present’ your professional outcomes.

And… it is not all doom and gloom. If you watch the Part B of the introductory DVD, portfolios do get a mention. I just couldn’t catch if there was an ‘e’ on the front…

Also, I wasn’t able to attend any of the provided workshops for this, so maybe these points were discussed..?

Planning Mind Map

I’ve been teaching a while now and I have never found the perfect way to plan and organise the learning that I am intending to get through in a term. I have always found it really hard to show the links between learning areas and contexts which mirrors they way that they are actually taught and facilitated in the classroom. The degree of integration and intertwining of ideas and concepts is really hard to get across in your traditional table form. That lineal approach doesn’t really suit me nor does it represent what actually happens.

So this term I decided to try a different approach to my planning and unit overviews which was more suited to the way I think and approach planning learning over a term. Most importantly it needed to show the links between different projects with much more clarity than a Word or Pages document.

I have this vague idea or concept that if a teacher plans their units of work separately and in isolation to each other then that is how they are more than likely to be taught in the classroom. Having a way of planning that encourages you to see the big picture and integrate concepts and themes together is surely going to encourage a more authentic integrated curriculum delivery. Maybe someone has done some research on this somewhere…

The exploration started with using FreeMind, an fantastic mind mapping program, free, and  available for Mac, Windows or Linux. I have been a long time user and supporter of Inspiration in the past but I am just loving FreeMind and what I can do with it. Even better is that FreeMind files are a supported format for uploading, editing and sharing online on such sites as MindMeister.

Here is an example of what my planning overview for the term is looking like. It is a work in progress, as any of my planning is, taking direction from the students as and when required. It gets squashed up a bit when it is embedded but you’ll get the general idea. Just in case my appraiser is reading this… this isn’t the only planing I do! Comments appreciated!

Networking, links & teachers.

Today I had a really good discussion with some other staff from school. We were discussing the best solution for pooling together the wealth of information teachers often collect individually to help facilitate a new learning context, especially web links and tools.

The discussion came about from the teachers’ use of forums, used to generate discussion around their personal goals, progress and feedback from mentors, of school and EHSAS cluster goals.

The forums are starting to be used for more than just of goals, and teachers are throwing in web links and ideas, not directly related to the forum topics. You know what it is like, throw a bunch of teachers in a room and they’ll talk shop, jumping from one idea to the next with a bit of personal news thrown in. Transfer this to a forum environment and you know what I mean.

Does this unorganised jumble of links needs to be addressed? Reorganised to allow easier access to the links? Or should we just leave it as is?

Some other questions raised:

  1. Do teachers want to have a list of elearning resources (i.e. web links) gathered for them before a context of learning is about to begin?
  2. Do teachers generally find these resources a week before they need it, when the plan it, or just in time?
  3. How do they access or find them? Word of mouth? Delicious? RSS? Googled?
  4. Should we expect teachers to understand RSS? subscribing? news readers?
  5. Do we need to teach specific skills related to the use of online forums?

Lots of questions and to be honest, we came up with no one-answer-fits-all solution, or if there even needs to be a solution.

What is important is that teachers are engaged and active with online forums to support, improve andss share their classroom practice. That is just great!

Creating and Strengthening the Links between Parents, Teachers and Others

Futurelab is one sight that I often visit even though their RSS feed from their Projects page zips into my Google Reader automatically.

I recently revisited a project named My-E, which initially caught my interest after reading the project pdf:

The central aim of this project is to pilot an idea which aims to strengthen the ‘personal learning networks’ of young people – creating and strengthening the links between parents, teachers and others significant to the child’s learning – and to encourage dialogue within this network that will form the basis of more personalised learning pathways.

While the My-E project is directed at 5 & 6 year old students, it has a number of commonalities with the underlying themes and aims of this ePortfolio project. In fact the whole ePortfolio project was initially based around the idea of creating a community of learners, fostering a greater shared understanding for learners, their parents and staff of formative practice.

Our ePortfolios can facilitate, as described in the My-E pdf:

how digital technologies can be used to document, enable and enhance meaningful two-way home-school dialogue

and additionally dialogue between students.

I looked forward to reading the results of the project which begins classroom trials in August of 2008.