Professional growth using Tripod Education Partners at ISB
First part of the pilot September – November 2018
- The end of of an era:
For the past 15 years, myself, along with many colleagues have been subjected to endless and meaningless classroom observations.
This old fashion process, an administrative chore, has never shown the real strengths of a teacher but most importantly has never really given a specific real feedback which would encourage teachers to grow professionally and reflect on their own practice.
Tripod Education Partners has launched a new service for teachers in which, students evaluate their teachers by completing meaningful surveys.
For many years now, surveys have been used to evaluate teachers but perhaps not in the teacher’s best interest, it seems however that Tripod is using a different approach and is focussing on teachers’ practices.
“… Unlike many student survey instruments, which focus on providing information to states or districts, the Tripod “direct-to-teacher” model is targeted at individual educators, who can arrange to stage the online, anonymous surveys of students at any point during the school year. Teachers could conduct them just after school begins, to gauge students’ initial impressions of educators’ classroom approaches, or later, to get a sense of students’ overall satisfaction over time.”
Before starting this process, I was trying to evaluate, looking at formative and summative assessments from my classes but also taking in consideration, the 7 Cs presented in the Tripod framework of effective teaching, what particular aspect of my practice could be improved. The Tripod’ 7Cs framework of effective teaching concentrates its evaluation on 7 specific areas, Care, Classroom Management, Challenge, Consolidate, Clarify, Captivate and Confer. I kind of knew there were some areas where I would not necessarily need to improve or reflect upon such as Care or Classroom Management, I thought about the other categories where I was not so sure about my efficiency.
I started teaching foreign languages at ISB in August 2018 and it has been so far quite challenging to “incorporate” the cultural aspect of a language in my teaching without being able to reach directly with the spoken language itself in an attractive and interactive way… When in my previous school, I was just able to reach out with the spoken within the school, the streets, the environment, coming to China was a big chock and a big change in terms of fostering opportunities for students. Indeed, I know have to think about very different ways to create these ” real life situations” opportunities for my students to practice their linguistic skills. I was then thinking that my main areas for growth would surely evolve around the Captivate and Challenge areas of growth but the students’ surveys told a different story.
I was really apprehensive during the process, not because I do not think I am a good teacher but because it is always hard to receive feedback, even more from students, perhaps it is quite difficult to sit on the other side of the fence for once. I guess the fear of being assessed over a longer period of time by students is by far more intimidating than being evaluated at a set date by a Head of Department or Principal, but it is also far more interesting and formative.
I was quite happy with my results to be perfectly honest, and the one I expected to get the lowest score, I got the highest, quite funny how it turned out really. My classroom level profile showed that I scored High on 6 areas / 7 and it was one area that I did not even consider in my reflection pre survey. My lowest score ( medium band ) appeared in the Consolidate category which came as a surprise. It seems that students do not feel that my planing goes along with their needs, perhaps they feel they should be doing more? Perhaps they think some of my activities are somehow too kinesthetic? It feels that sometimes students are reluctant to accept that learning can be fun, they seem to be much more comfortable at filling in grids and tables of conjugation than to take part in a “blind date” situation… I certainly need to think about ways to ensure that they are clear about our objectives, link daily teaching to previous / future knowledge… Perhaps my formative assessment also needs to be adapted?
My Goal: To ensure that students understand continuity and can link previous and current knowledge in order to apply it in new contexts.
How to achieve my goal: Create more personal and meaningful formative assessments.
These are the strategies I put in place in order to achieve my goal. I created feedback sheets for both writing and speaking assessments which indicate the level for each criteria of the assessment as well as a specific feedback on strengths and weaknesses. I think it allowed students to understand what they do well and what they need to work on. Also I ensured there were more opportunities for formative assessments, especially before a summative one so that students would feel more confident and more prepared. I have also allowed students to retake exams or tests, especially when they are related to tenses and grammar, emphasizing on practice rather than grade or level. I really wanted to work on “consolidate” as it was my weakest score when I first did the surveys. Although I put these in place, it does not seem to have made a huge difference as it went down from 298 to 292. It becomes clear that I still need to work on that and perhaps I need to get involved with some colleagues and get feedback on my practice or to be able to see what they do in their class to consolidate learning.
Today I was able to check my results for my second survey and I was a little bit disappointed to be completely honest. Perhaps I should be embarrassed but maybe other teachers have experienced the same situation. I almost feel like I failed somehow to meet my goals as the area where I scored 298 ( consolidate ) and needed my attention has scored even lower this time as it is down to 292… In fact all my components have scored lower ( apart from confer ). I mean, I know that it is not a massive drop but it is quite upsetting and it is difficult not to take it personally and distance yourself from the numbers. What appears to be the reason behind “my drop” is mainly orchestrated by one student who has given me the lowest score on most questions and although I have a guess of whom it might be, I can’t help but wonder why…
To be brutally honest, I do not feel that this is a totally accurate way to assess teaching and teachers. I feel that results are often linked to whether or not the student like the teacher, and some of the questions are not related to teaching but to feelings or perceptions. I am not entirely sure that students have enough training to understand what the question means in reality, I am not confident that they are answering with a non biased approach and I am not convinced they actually understand the importance of those surveys. On both occasions, I heard many laughing and making comments out loud about the questions that were asked.
On a positive note, I am glad that overall, students are aware that I care about them because for me this is the most important factor. If I care about them, I care about their progress and their growth and they see me as an approachable adult.