Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
~ William Arthur Ward
This past month, ReVision Learning Partnership celebrated its Five Year Anniversary.
I wanted to take a moment to stop and reflect upon the importance of those around me who have helped keep its vision and purpose alive.
I started with the simple idea of creating professional learning that could impact the way educators enVisioned what they do and, more importantly, why they do it. I sought to provide professional learning for educators built on the understanding that best practice is best realized in collaborative, supportive relationships.
What I understood, and continue to know for certain, is that reaching that very goal required cooperation and commitment, hence the “Partnership” in our very name.
Upon reflection, there are three primary reasons why ReVision Learning has been able to reach this milestone and is continuing to plan for its next five years.
We have forged partnerships with several organizations with a common mission and purpose. Those organizations that have been open to and continued to maintain collaborative, supportive, learning focused relationships built upon a foundation of not only mutual benefit but mutual trust are the ones that have helped us make a difference. Organizations such as the CT Association of Schools, ReVIEW Talent Feedback Systems, the BERC Group, and Professional Learning Maps and Amplify Education (a new growing relationship) support our purpose as they too demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that learning is at the center of all they do with and for their clients.
Clients as Partners
We view our relationship with our clients as one of partnership. There is no ivory tower approach that is applied in our work with clients. Instead, we approach each new commitment with a school, district, or State Department of Education as a partnership in learning for all members of the educational community. While we base each of those relationships on the quality products and services we have developed over the past five years, we collect and collaboratively analyze personalized data about existing practice and engage a learning cycle that allows on-going feedback to be the focus. It’s not just customization, its personalization.
Contributing Consultants as Partners
Lastly, it has been the Contributing Consultants who have provided a pivotal partnership in maintaining our vision. Each day that these amazing educators engage with their clients, they do so with the intent of impacting that person’s life as a professional. Because of their commitment and the partnerships they forge with the educators they serve, they are never satisfied with just delivering the content or doing the job, and, instead, are motivated to support each individual towards change in themselves and those they serve.
Ultimately, these partnerships all help to deliver on the dream of ReVision Learning Partnership.
I want to thank our partners, our clients and our Contributing Consultants for keeping that vision alive. I am deeply grateful to all of you for the impact you have had on the thousands of educators served by ReVision Learning Partnership in the past five years.
Please know that I am honored to be working with you as colleague and blessed to know you in this life as a friend.
At ReVision Learning Partnership we want to ensure evaluator capacity focuses on high quality feedback. Teachers deserve to trust their observations. School administrators need to know evaluators can deliver feedback focused on student achievement. Taxpayers should demand an effective teacher for their children.
For the last half decade schools have “ensured” evaluators calibrate against some video. This approach has severe limitations. At ReVision Learning Partnership we want to focus not just on calibration but on evaluator capacity. The difference may seem subtle but school districts find the two approaches worlds apart.
In fact the 2015 MET Program Guide, Seeing it Clearly: Improving Observer Training For Better Feedback And Better Teaching noted how a simple test of agreement will never do:
developing these competencies is largely a matter of repeated modeling and practice. To master a skill, you need to see how it’s done, try it yourself, and learn how you did.
ReVision Learning Partnerships has joined forces with ReVIEW Talent Feedback System to rethink video based professional learning. We now provide video based calibration but focus more on capacity building than score agreement. First and foremost, pre-scored, videos provide insight to an evaluator’s understanding of the teaching framework being used within a state or by the individual district. Yet just getting a report of agreement does not help an evaluator grow.
The innovative Video-Based Calibration modules in ReVIEW Talent Feedback System take agreement scoring to the next level. Evaluators using our system receive high quality feedback from our talented coaches using the ReVision Learning Supervisory Continuum. We coach your administrators by giving them the same narrative report teachers deserve.
Feedback and modeling. It drives everything we do at ReVision Learning.
How Does It Work?
ReVIEW Talent Feedback Systems Video Based Calibration modules can work with any framework or rubric. If you are new to ReVIEW we conduct a norming activity to your chosen framework. Then we can add your rubric directly to our system or simply have evaluators upload their completed feedback reports. Next your evaluators are assigned a normed video to score. They write the report directly in ReVIEW or upload the report. A ReVision Learning coach will then score the report against the RVL and send the evaluator a detailed report. As a district you get a snapshot of agreement and data that we can use together in behaviorlization activities.
How Does This Benefit My District?
You learn early in the process how well an evaluator can recognize practice inherent in the teaching rubrics. You will evaluate whether or not they can record evidence from a piece of classroom instruction to ensure that ongoing training is targeted, personalized, and impactful.
Your district also gets access to data that can help you shape professional learning moving forward. While our Collegial Calibration approach embeds our coaches into the classroom we truly believe we have built the next best thing with ReVIEW Talent Feedback System. As a district leader you can be ensured that not only are you meeting the state guidelines for calibration activities, but also that your evaluators receive coaching that increases their capacity to deliver feedback designed for growth.
Want to Learn More?
As teachers we have all been there. Stuffed into a dimly lit room with a speaker droning on while bullet point after bullet point in a useless PowerPoint flies by. Educators often have no escape from mandated professional development. They get rewarded not with learning but a certificate of showing up. A badge of being able to sit through irrelevant details that do little to support our learning.
These memories, or nightmares more likely, came rushing back to me as I prepared a recent session I will facilitate at the12th Annual Summer Leadership Institute for CT Association for Public School Superintendents. CAPPS, using a framework developed by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation has rightfully been stressing student-centered learning in their work.
If we know to hold these truths for children, why do we forget this lesson when talk about teachers? Simply put, learning is learning and the need for personalized learning does not end once a person receives a diploma.
Personalized Learning for Students
The CAPSS diagram suggest that in order to ensure students have the knowledge, skills and disposition to succeed in college, career and civic life, they must be exposed to “deep learning”, typically centered on 21st Century skills and learning should be:
- “Personalized” i.e. recognizing that students learn and engage in different ways and that students benefit from individually paced, targeted tasks, that start from where the student is, formatively assessing existing skills and knowledge and address student needs and interests.
- “Student-Owned” i.e. incorporating student interest and skills and allowing for student to support their own as well as others’ progress in learning;
- “Competency Based” i.e. driven through clear demonstrations of proficiency in content and/or skill, and,
That learning can/should happen:
- “Anytime, Anywhere” i.e. occurring beyond the school day and even school year and well beyond the four walls of a classroom.
Personalized Learning for Adults
Let me begin with the simple tweak I made and then reinforce its importance. When I found the graphic, all I did was ask the question, “If I replace student with educator would all of the explanations about the need for personalized learning fit in the context of the adult learner engaged in professional learning? I think you know my answer is yes, but let me outline why.
What professional learning providers and, more importantly, the district decision makers who hire those professional learning providers have to begin to understand is that learning is learning is learning. In fact, research in adult learning supports the idea that it must be personalized, competency based, educator owned, and on-demand.
- “Personalized” i.e. recognizing that educators learn and engage in different ways and that educators benefit from individually paced, targeted tasks, that start from where they are in their current practice, formatively assessing existing skills and knowledge and addressing their professional learning needs.
- “Educator-Owned” i.e. incorporating teacher or administrator interest and skills and allowing for the educator to support their own as well as others’ progress in learning;
- “Competency Based” i.e. driven through clear demonstrations of proficiency in content and/or skill, and,
That learning can/should happen:
- “Anytime, Anywhere” i.e. occurring beyond the school day and even school year and beyond the four walls of a classroom.
See what I did there…
The argument that we should expect that educators should be fully prepared to meet the expectations of their professional responsibilities rings false. No one is perfect at all aspects of their work regardless of industry or profession. When it comes to teaching students of the 21st Century, the complexities of that responsibility requires constant attention and professional learning and the best teachers are those who never stop engaging in that learning. Same is said for those administrators charged with leading the creation of, and sustaining environments for that learning.
Four main points that professional learning providers and district/state decision makers need to focus on:
- Educators will forever require on-going, targeted learning that begins where they are and allows for a formative assessment of how they are progressing towards or improving their knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Professional learning designs that are not first built upon confirmed needs of the educator cannot and will not have an impact.
- Educators need to self-assess and self-address their own application of adult standards of performance and generate professional learning goals in ownership of their growth. This, in combination with routine and meaningful formative feedback can support adult learning.
- Educators will need to understand how their own learning needs translate into professional learning plans that map towards new levels of learning and that can be accessed routinely through open lines of communication and feedback from others. Tools and resources such as Professional Learning Maps become the best way to understand needs and applying to a cycle ensure the types of policies and structures for an organization to sustain on-going growth.
- And, finally, educators need to be able to access feedback in multiple environments and venues, not just in a hard chair in the cafeteria of their school surrounded by 90 of other members of their educational community.
More information can be found about the CT Association of Schools conference at the following link:
Doing it right means so much more than getting it right. A lesson we have learned working with evaluators across the country, especially with teacher evaluations. At ReVision Learning we know the challenges of observing teachers, collecting evidence, and analyzing our notes against attributes and frameworks. We realize then taking all of this information and translating into evidence based feedback statement is a highly challenging endeavor.
For the last two years ReVision Learning has toiled away on a system to meet this challenge. We wanted to create a model for feedback or, better put a thinking frame evaluators could utilize to organize and deliver essential information to teachers.
From this work, and with a nod to Jon Saphier for his inspiration, came ReVision Learning’s Claim, Connect, Action – a simple and direct model of structuring feedback to teachers.
Evaluators employing the Claim, Connect, Action learn to make claims against specific attributes, connect those claims to observed feedback, and provide actionable feedback using the key levers in a chosen framework.
Jeff Wallowitz, Principal of Webster Elementary School in West Hartford CT worked with ReVision Learning to employ Claim, Connect, Action for the past year. Jeff notes:
Through all my work and professional development with ReVision Learning, one area stands out as having the greatest impact on my ability to provide meaningful and effective feedback to teachers. As “Claim, Connect, Action” became more clear to me, I began to feel its profound impact on all teachers and not just the professionals who had an area that fell in the “developing” range.
At its heart observational based feedback begins with a claim. A statement that we then justify with evidence collected during observation, a design of an artifact, or the demonstration of learning captured in student work. The Claim, often rooted in language taken directly from instructional framework indicator represents high leverage areas for continued growth.
In our implementation of this model we have found the focusing the claim directly on the attributes we seek in teachers improves instructional capacity. In fact Jeff Wallowitz notes:
First, I must mention that Claim, Connect, Action acted as a magnet which drew me into the language of our instructional framework. In order to make claims and connections, I found myself truly analyzing the language within the framework’s indicators in order to better articulate to my teachers what I had observed during my observations. I felt myself becoming more clear and precise, I knew my messaging was more consistent, and I was taking advantage of opportunities to educate my teachers about the framework and the powerful connections to their teaching practices.
Too often evaluators fail to make clear connections from what they saw in the classroom to the claims they want to make about a teacher’s practice. Simply put, they were not being trained to validate their claims about practice within their feedback. Instead, they were trained to provide a rating based on the rubric. An incomplete endeavor at best.
In our model we connect observed evidence to the narrative claims and not tagged lists of scripted evidence. Instead, ReVision Learning trains evaluators to connect to evidence they might observe in a variety of sources. We observe teachers using question maps, and floor diagrams, as well the classroom dialogue. This diverse evidence is then rooted in the claims we make against a designated rubric.
When your only goal is scoring against a rubric you do not connect to the classroom practices of teachers. This is especially true of those rated effective or highly effective who were not often provided feedback rooted in observed practice.
The Connect and the Action portion of our framework addressed what appeared to be the most challenging aspects of teacher feedback for administrators. The challenge for many principals was making clear connections between the claim (what they wanted to share with a teacher about their practice related to a teacher performance standard) and the related evidence from the observation or an artifact.
Additionally, and in many ways as a result of, administrators were not providing clear, actionable feedback for improvement based on their observations. This was especially true with those teachers they were citing as “Effective or Highly Effective”.
As Jeff Wallowitz, notes Claim, Connect, Action, focuses on the instructional capacity of all teachers:
Prior to these trainings, if a teacher fell into the “effective” range in all the indicators, I used a post-observation conference as an opportunity to acknowledge the elements of the solid teaching I had observed. It was a pleasant meeting, where I was able to compliment my strongest teachers on a job well done. Since most of my teachers are mostly effective, post-observation conferences provided affirmation instead of an opportunity for growth. If any area was deemed “developing” or “below standard”, I used that as an opportunity to teach, coach, or strategize to support an area of challenge.
Every district faces a choice. You can make your evaluation system one of compliance or capacity. Using our model teachers receive actionable feedback focused on teacher growth. Through our key lever coaching, evaluators learn to drive their conversations with teachers using the designated framework.
Every teacher, no matter how their performance, portfolio, or even lesson was scored, deserves actionable feedback. All educators want to grow, and evaluators using our system learn to drive instructional capacity through actionable feedback. In fact our work in CT has supported hundreds of evaluators through the use of Claim, Connect, Action. Jeff noted that it helped shift his school to a growth mindset:
Through Claim, Connect, Action, I now see every post- observation meeting as an opportunity to support teachers, more readily identifying a key coaching point to improve their practice. In meetings with effective (and even highly effective) teachers, I now make a claim, make the connection, and formulate an action to, and share how they can elevate their practice to the highest level of teaching and learning—promoting a growth mindset.
ReVision Learning provides districts training in the Claim, Connect, Action system using our flexible tools and platforms. In fact the evaluators we work with develop their skills with Claim, Connect, Action by receiving the same high quality feedback we expect them to deliver to teachers.
1. The ReFLECT System provides an opportunity for administrators working within our professional learning programs to receive routine feedback about their written reports and support their own feedback to teachers.
2. ReVision Learning also partners with the ReVIEW Talent Feedback System, LLC and incorporates their video-based observation module to allow administrators to routinely and independently practice providing feedback to teachers through videos provided by the BERC Group.
Feedback is at the core of learning whether it is feedback from a teacher to a student, feedback from an administrator to a teacher, feedback from a professional learning provider to the adult learner. The system of Claim, Connect, Action provides a simple, consistent and meaningful approach to feedback that supports clear, concise, and impactful lines of communication in support of that learning.
What answer do you think you will get when you ask the average teacher which they would prefer:
Have an evaluator observe and tell them what they did during the lesson?
Have an evaluator help them understand how what they did during the lesson represented strengths in helping students learn, and to point out areas of future development that will allow students to grow even more?
There is no N/A, other, or leaving the question blank. What I will not accept as an answer to my question is that the average teacher wants neither of those things. In fact, studies (Megan Tschannen-Moran, 2002 & 2014) find that teachers, especially early career professionals want feedback. Furthermore research into the principles of performance improvement (Stone and Heen, 2014; Killion, 2015; MET, 2015) demonstrate the impact quality feedback can have on performance.
The answer is pretty obvious. Teachers want quality feedback about their practice. In order for them to trust this system, however, educators want to know the person providing that feedback is capable.
In their study, Can principals promote teacher development as evaluators? Matthew Kraft of Brown University and Allison Gilmore of Vanderbilt University revealed that the quality of feedback teachers receive through the evaluation process depends critically on the time and training evaluators receive.
It is a time for schools, districts and states to seriously consider how they are training their evaluators.
Increasing Evaluator Capacity
For the past four years, ReVision Learning has worked with districts in four different states. Without hesitation, I can say that the most important element in considering the effectiveness of an evaluation model is not whether or not a teacher does or does not willingly accept feedback. Instead, it is the capacity of the evaluator to collect, analyze, and deliver that feedback that makes the difference.
So, how do we answer the call for professional learning with evaluators?
As Revision Learning works with districts we use our Cycle of Planning and Performance Improvement to help guide the development of educators in their delivery of service. That cycle supports meta thinking and micro implementation required to shift the mindset of educators about evaluation while simultaneously shifting the programming that maintains that mindset. This applies directly to the development of evaluators.
When districts set to strategic planning (Step One of Cycle) that focuses on goals, measures, and practice to address learning throughout their educational community, whether that be for students, teachers, administrators or the organization as a whole, evaluators need to be at the forefront of thinking and planning. First and foremost, and most simply stated, the role of an evaluator is typically held by school leaders and the blending of instructional supervision and evaluation needs to guide our progress towards the strategic goals we establish.
Crosswalk the Performance Standards
This also provides an opportunity to ensure that the performance standards that guide the work of evaluators are aligned and addressing the highest leverage leadership strategies and skills (Step Two of Cycle). In doing so, we ensure that evaluation and instructional leadership practice are viewed as the core leadership responsibility and are inextricably connected. Districts connect their standards of performance to what we know is the most important aspect of leadership within schools, supporting improved classroom practice for student learning. As a shared understanding of leadership practice is established within a district, we can set the stage for evaluators to do their job more effectively through targeted support. ReVision Learning’s Supervisory Continuum has been aligned to national and state standards and used by over 800 evaluators in helping to support this type of professional learning.
Aligned and Supportive Professional Learning
This support needs to come in the form of professional learning designs (Step Three of Cycle) for evaluators that focus on key skill development aligned with research and literature on instructional leadership. Current professional learning designs that measure or claim to improve accuracy in observation are not enough. For evaluators to effectively provide meaningful feedback to support improvements in teacher practice, feedback must become the focus. Evaluators need professional learning that targets their ability to observe teacher practice in relationship to student learning, review various applications of teacher practice, and develop written and verbal feedback skills that support teacher growth, not simply identify teacher action on a four point scale. The MET Project Program Guide released in August of 2015 comes closest to capturing the type of skills that need to be developed through quality professional learning for evaluators. Learning Forward has designed Professional Learning Standards that can be used to support an understanding of what constitutes quality professional learning programming. ReVision Learning’s Collegial Calibration model has a proven record in CT for moving evaluator practice beyond accuracy in observations towards feedback for growth. District and state decision makers need to take a careful look at these three approaches to supporting evaluators as they plan to provide professional learning programs in support of evaluator development.
Routine Feedback on Performance
Finally, feedback is not “one-way”. Evaluators need on-going feedback (Step Four in the Cycle) to improve their practice as much as the teachers they serve. They are learners as much as the teachers and students they serve. Ensuring that evaluators have the targeted, on-going feedback they deserve to become the learning-leader they desire to be is essential. Greg McVerry, Co-Founder of ReVIEW Talent notes that roles of school administrators must evolve. In his post he highlights how the ReVIEW Talent Feedback System is strategically designed to allow for feedback to become a consistent, integral part of a school’s culture, ensuring the evaluators and teachers alike are provided the feedback necessary to learn as a result of their current evaluation system.
Concentrating now in the creation of evaluation systems that value feedback for growth over inspection of practice is paramount. It is the next evolution in educator evaluation.