Last Sunday, Adam and I met at the university to finalize our plans for the upcoming major project and to complete the second part of the major project. Overall, completing part II was a smooth process but there was one area where we struggled – assessment.
- Discussing our plans for the project? Easy
- Coming up with the steps? No worries!
- Detailing the approximate time budgeted? It’s all good.
- Figuring out how our steps were going to be assessed? Both by ourselves and externally? Now my brain is starting to hurt.
Adam and I both agree that our school division (Regina Public) needs to do more to properly train staff to use the technology/programs that they’re expected to use on a regular basis. Neither of us, in our combined 20 years of teaching experience have actually been trained to use Gradebook/PowerTeacher/My BluePrint. The same thing goes with the various Google products. Exposure to new, potentially beneficial programs? Also lacking. As we both discussed in our unit 3 blogs, this is a problem.
What Adam and I actually know is that funding and time are two things that the board and its schools do not have in abundance. It’s easy for us to say “more tech PD is needed” but the reality is that there are limited days to accomplish this and a variety of other items that need to be dealt with on our limited PD days. With that in mind, our solution is to create a series of modules that can be completed by staff on a handful of the PD days. The great part? These modules will only take a couple of hours. Tops. By the end of the school year, staff will have learned how to effectively use the aforementioned programs and be exposed to new programs. Great (in theory, at least)!
This is where my first true “learning moment” of this project comes in. Diagnosing the problem and figuring out a solution isn’t particularly difficult. Figuring out how to measure the success of the proposed plan is. I need to be able to justify the need for this plan to my principal and the only way I’ll be able to do that is if she is able to see tangible results. I’m not talking about something vague like “increased student engagement”, they need to see concrete data. Otherwise, the chances of them actually signing off on it are slim to none.
As an example, the first of our six targets is fairly straight forward – staff will become comfortable with the mandatory programs used on a regular basis (PowerSchool, Gradebook, and My BluePrint).
The steps to meeting this particular target are quite simple:
- Slideshows that will serve as tutorials on each of the above programs will be created by the tech-team.
- The members of the tech-team will go through each of the tutorials during a PD at the start of the year. These tutorials will be done in grade groups in order to keep the size small and allow for additional one-on-one support if required (similar to the benefits of small class sizes).
Assessment is where we faced our first real challenge:
Personal assessment –
- Reduction in the amount of questions asked to the tech team by staff regarding the above programs.
- Increase in the amount of additional staff that are able to answer questions regarding those programs.
- More focused usage of My BluePrint because teachers actually know what they are doing and why they are doing it.
External assessment –
- Each staff member’s Gradebook looks similar (outcomes and assignments are attached, missing and late assignments are properly indicated).
- Increase from previous year in the number of students that have fully completed My BluePrint (will be assessed at the end of the school year).
Personal assessment is tricky because it’s harder to collect concrete data on since we’re essentially relying on informal observations. External assessment is where we would be able to hypothetically sell this plan to an administrator. Administrators have access to each teacher’s gradebook and are able to see whether they look similar which, in turn, will please parents because consistency and transparency throughout the school in terms of grading is important. In addition, principals will also be able to see how many students have completed My BluePrint (a program that is designed to help students plan their future both in and out of school). There is concrete data here. Like I said earlier, without concrete data, our plan is thrown out immediately.
- Principals need data because senior administrators need data.
- Senior administrators need to see the data because the ministry needs the data.
- The ministry needs the data because outcomes have been established that they expect schools to reach (ESSP).
We can spend an entire course discussing data and its limitations but the fact of the matter is that change (in schools) is driven by data. Turns out, that’s not something that you truly notice until you go through the process of attempting to implement it.