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Teacher Inquiry, Apprasial and Portfolios for Staff

April 11th, 2014 No comments

This year we have recrafted our approach to teacher as inquiry (TAI) and its relationship to the school’s performance management process for teachers. There had always been a relationship between the two but now rather than being two separate systems and/or sets of documents, they are one in the same with a professional blog/portfolio being the container for all the important bits such as reflections, evidence and next steps.

Why have we done it this way? The approach is based on the underlying philosophy that a well planned and responsive TAI allows all teachers to demonstrate, first and foremost, the attributes of being an effective teacher of their students, and secondly, to show how they are meeting the various Professional Standards, Registered Teacher Criteria and Tataiako Cultural Competencies. So our starting point for an effective performance management process is an effective TAI, not a checklisty/compliance approach. It is strongly embedded in a ‘teacher agency’ professional autonomy approach too.

What does it look like? We retained all the successful things that were part of the previous inquiry approach. These included:

  • Three in-school PLG meetings each term dedicated to teachers sharing progress towards their TAI targets
  • Funding for each staff member to purchase professional texts and resources to support their TAI
  • Personal Learning Opportunity (PLO) release for staff to research and/or visit expertise and sites of best practice related to their TAI

We also added in some additional components to inform our theory of action:

  • Release for staff to deliberately gather student voice.
  • Videoing of teaching for analysis.

Finally, we clearly set out the timeframe so that Term 1 was put aside for the focusing and teaching inquiry, terms 2 and 3 for the learning inquiry, and term 4 is all about summarising, sharing and celebrating progress.

You can check out this diagram to see what the process looks like over the first couple of terms in the year.

What did we get rid of? Nothing has been removed completely i.e. appraisal meetings, observations and walkthroughs still feature, it is just that hese have been streamlined and aligned to TAI. The major change that we have made is that the focus of the teacher’s TAI is the focus of their goals – their are no unrelated goals. Additionally, the term ‘goal’ is used quite broadly – there are no actual documented goals, rather there is a theory of action and falling out of that are the actions (i.e. goals) a teacher is working towards achieving.

So how does fit with performance management/appraisal? Individual teachers still have an appraisal document (overseen by the school’s  Teacher Performance Appraisal Procedure) which like any, summarises the process, their position at the school and provides a timeline. But that is all it does, everything else, including reflections, observation notes and professional learning  is in the portfolio.

The ‘usefulness’ of the TAI blog i.e. its ability to show how teachers are meeting their inquiry expectations, professional standards (PS), registered teacher criteria (RTC) and cultural competencies (CC) – all for their ongoing development, appraisal and registration purposes, is based on the approach that every time they post to their blog (evidence, a reflection, student voice etc), teachers critically reflect on which of the PS, RTC, CC they are meeting and show this in their blog.

tchr-inquiry-web

This is done by using the labels feature in Blogger (our logical tool as a Google Apps for Ed school). Labels are like tags or key words related to a post. Teachers can use labels to show which of the PS, RTC and CC they are meeting. By approaching and setting up a blog in this way, teachers will essentially create an index, allowing them and their appraiser the ability to find evidence of progress and achievement against the PS, RTC, CC as well as their inquiry. The appraiser can also jump in there and add comments, post observation narratives, images and video too.

Tbroughtout the process, teachers need to ask themselves these questions:

  • What professional standards am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What Registered Teacher Criteria am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What cultural competencies am working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What aspects of TAI am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?

There is a full breakdown of how to set up a blog as described above and also how to make it private and readable by only those you choose.

What are the implications? This process puts the PS, RTC, CC into the everydayness of a TAI. Therefore teachers need to have a good grasp of what the PS, RTC, CC  are, what they mean and what they look like in practice. For us that means unpacking certain elements of these and listing the everyday teaching and learning approaches and strategies that reflect that areas to bring them to the forefront of consciousness.

To date the other major implication, which is not at all exclusive to this context, is the questioning of staff to each other to encourage us to continue, to force us to be honest, to suggest alternative interpretations and to prevent us from getting stuck.

Finally, this has not been an issue at all for us, part it has been questioned how this system would work if there was a question of competency with a staff member. While this has not been tested I do not see it as an issue. The process includes a ‘measure’ against the professional standards and other relevant criteria and when combined with the day to day observations and conversations that take place in a school, there is plenty of scope to identify an issues of competency.

What have been the outcomes to date? Here are a couple of screen shots of the portfolios to date.

TAI-blog

TAI-blog2

What next? The system is established and time is required to allow the portfolios to develope and show their potential as teacher use them to show progress towards their TAI targets.

The challenge for me is to ensure that I regularly get into the blogs and provide encouragement and feedback/feedforward to teachers, supporting them and acknowledging the great work that they are doing.

Walking the talk with Professional ePortfolios

August 19th, 2012 No comments

The last couple of years have seen me do a bit of thinking and presenting in the area of eportfolios. Most of that has been when I am working alongside schools rather than in them. So now as a principal at Kumeroa-Hopelands School I am faced with the coal face of implementation. At this point in time we are not in a position to consider implementing eportfolios with our students. However as part of the school self-review, performance appraisal system was reviewed and updated which gave us a timely opportunity to have a go.

Step one was to co-construct with staff the relationships between teacher inquiry, the Registered Teacher Criteria, the Professional Standards and the cultural competencies as described in Tataiako. Staff created a model, using an inquiry model as central to their thinking and adding on the competencies and criteria to show how they all came together. This was a hugely worthwhile self-review process especially when teachers articulated the reasons why they placed or showed the relationships between the 3 areas. Justifying their choices painted a really interesting view on their beliefs about teaching and learning. An example of this is shown below.

As to the reason why we did this is pretty simple, I believe that an authentic and rich teaching as inquiry approach to teacher practice will demonstrate all of the registered teacher criteria and the cultural competencies and in doing so will provide all of the reflective evidence that teachers require to demonstrate their competency. Especially relevant when two of your teachers are PRTs.

KHS Performance Management Graphic

KHS Performance Management Graphic

Step two for me was to use the outcomes of the review clarify the processes, relationships and key areas of the performance management process. I think in pictures so created a graphic to show these relationships. Central to the performance management is teachers engaging in teaching as inquiry. This relates directly back to their performance agreement which in turn relates back to the annual and strategic goals in the charter which in turn relates back to the teachers analysis of student achievement data both formal and informal. The key relationships to me are that the whole process is supported by relevant professional learning and development and that all relates to improving outcomes for learners.

Step three saw this feed into a matrix which showed the relationship between the performance standards, RTCs, teacher inquiry and Tataiako (big thanks to Regan and staff at Koputaroa for some great work here). This provided a more linear and usable view.

Step four involved transferring the all elements to an online space which for us is a Google Site. This best demonstrated by having a look at the basic empty site template which illustrates the matrix and how there is an expectation that staff are aligning their reflections to the PS, RTC, TAI and Cultural Competencies.

So what have we learnt so far?

  • Having an online space to collate all of this documentation for both registration and appraisal purposes has many benefits including anytime, anywhere access, the ability for mentors to provide feedback, and the ease at which evidence can be linked to, uploaded or embedded.
  • That we have lots of ongoing unpacking to do around the relationship between our practice and the PS, RTC, TAI and Cultural Competencies. At the moment we are skimming the surface of acknowledging these in our practice and require more practice and support in getting this right.
  • Acknowledging that teachers reflect in different ways and through different methodologies. For example would you prefer to simply list the cultural competencies as outlined in Tataiako and reflect against these on a given schedule? Or would you prefer to reflect as and when required and then indicate if these reflections demonstrate or fit with the competencies?

And where to next?

  • Engaging external expertise, especially in the area of Tataiako, to deepen our understanding of the Cultural Competencies.
  • Develop some kind of micro self-review system so that we can clearly identify areas of weakness and where we need to develop further.
  • Review the whole set-up with staff towards the end of 2012.

Appreciative Inquiry

June 8th, 2011 No comments

As a national facilitator for the ICTPD programme, I am in a privaledged position, seeing the best of what is happening in schools around NZ. In most schools, teaching as inquiry is used to guide practice, in varying degrees, from the casual “our teachers are constantly inquiring into what they do” to the formalised approach and expectations that the inquiry is documented, mentored and reflected upon.

I favour the formal approach, prioritising teaching as inquiry and embedding it within a schools PLD programme. We know that the NZC outlines teaching as inquiry as being integral to effective pedagogy, well supported by research and it shouldn’t be left to chance.

As teachers inquiry into their practice they focus on 3 questions:

  1. What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at?
  2. What strategies (evidence-based) are most likely to help my students learn this?
  3. What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for future teaching?

Often this is interpreted as a deficit model, looking at under achieving students or a weak curriculum area within a class or school. Without question these students are priorities for any school and the responsibility to progress these students is non-negotiable.

However, an alternative approach to this is appreciative inquiry, which when embedded in classroom practice has the same intent of raising achievement and outcomes, but takes a different approach:

AI is based on the assumption that organizations change in the way they inquire — an organization that inquires into problems or difficult situations will keep finding more of the same, but an organization that tries to appreciate what is best in itself will find more and more of what works well. Source

AI is framed around a four step process…

  1. DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well, focusing on strengths, best practices, and values.
  2. DREAM: The envisioning of future states and processes that could work well in the future, given the nature and capabilities of the organization.
  3. DESIGN: The planning, design, and prioritizing of processes and aspects of the organization that could realize the dream.
  4. DESTINY: Implementation planning of the proposed design and action planning to strengthen the capability of the system to sustain ongoing positive change. Source

This table compares a problem solving approach/deficit model to a AI approach, adapted here from a Wikipedia entry. The difference is in the way questions are asked about a situation, envisioning the future and building on what works rather than fixing what doesn’t.

Problem Solving Appreciative Inquiry
Felt Need: Identification of problem/s Appreciating: Valuing the best of what is
Analysis of causes Envisioning what might be
Analysis of possible solutions Dialoguing what should be
Action planning (treatment) Innovating what will be
Basic assumption: A problem to be solved Basic assumption: A miracle to be embraced

What could this mean for you as a teacher or school leader?

  • Both approaches of inquiring into practice have the same intent of improving achievement for both student and teachers.
  • Elements of AI can be embedded into a traditional inquiry into practice where  teachers identify their course of action i.e. What strategies (evidence-based = the best of what is… successful…) are most likely to help my students learn this?
  • AI is known primarily as a process for managing institutional change, so look at the potential of using it beyond classroom practice to the greater goals of the school i.e. appreciative inquiry could work brilliantly when visioning and looking at long term strategic direction for a school, complimented by classroom based teacher inquiries.
  • If you are a high functioning school and consistently have great achievement data try AI to really focus in on why this is happening and how you can build in it
  • Consider trying an alternating scenario where you have a more common deficit inquiry approach one year followed by an appreciative approach the next, or any similar schedule
  • Are your teachers lacking motivation or engagement in unpacking what they are not doing well…? Celebrate success through an AI approach to professional knowledge building

One ICTPD cluster has shared its approach to appreciative inquiry and drafted templates to mould the NZC teaching as inquiry into an AI framework. Have a look on the Te Apiti cluster site to find out more.

This post has only skimmed the surface of what is a really interesting and relevant context for approaching teaching as inquiry with direct links to effectively pedagogy. I would encourage you to explore it further.

Delicious is always a great place to start your search. Try the tags appreciativeinquiry, appreciative_inquiry and appreciative-inquiry & watch the video below:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqHeujLHPkw

More on Registered Teacher Criteria and Professional ePortfolios

April 26th, 2011 2 comments

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?

Learning@School 2011 ePortfolio Workshop

February 25th, 2011 4 comments

ePortfolio presentation with more emphasis on professional portfolios for teachers for Learning@School 2011 workshop.

Registered Teacher Criteria and ePortfolios

July 29th, 2010 13 comments

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..?