*For more from education leaders on supporting teacher and classroom progress, head to the Edthena blog.
Watch this #PLtogether Lounge Talk with Doug Reeves about how school leaders can support teachers to monitor instructional progress throughout the year – and how this boosts teacher morale.
You can find the full transcript below:
– Welcome back to this #PLTogether Lounge Talk. If you’re just joining us, I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, where we build video and AI-powered tools for teacher professional learning. Today we’re talking with the bestselling education and leadership author Doug Reeves. Doug, thanks for being with us.
– My pleasure.
– Doug, we’re talking about the five D’s, and I think I want to double click on the double back part of the five D’s. So talk about doubling back to evaluate impact and how it’s so important. I’m wondering for a school leader that hears that, how could they help their teachers and support their teachers monitor progress? Because it feels like in order to double back, you have to have high quality data about what the impact of the intervention has been.
– You do but honestly what we do is we overcomplicate things. That happens in education all the time. We take simple things and overcomplicate it. I heard some vendors say, “Well, I can give you 50 charts about that.” Darn it, I don’t want 50 charts. I wanna know who’s on track, who needs help, who needs enrichment, and that’s all I wanna have right now. I wanna make sure that we get exactly what our kids need. So the simplest way is not 50 charts, it is just that science fair approach. What was my challenge? What was my practice? What were my results? And those results don’t always have to be state test or provincial test, or some very fancy external assessment. Those are the week to week assessments. And let me just illustrate with a couple of examples. Sometimes it’s quantitative, you can measure how math scores are improving but sometimes it’s qualitative. I saw a brilliant school leader say, we know that the research tells us, including research that I’d like to think that I’ve contributed to that nonfiction writing, it’s one of the most powerful things that we can do. So everybody, everybody, not just ELA, math, science, social studies, art, PE, music, everybody’s gonna do writing once a month. And what she did was to show the writing that was truly wretched. This happened to be a middle school in September, I mean, barely legible, barely decipherable, and then again in October, then in December, then in March, then in May, it’s the same kid to the same kid. And I’m lingering on this ’cause it has a really important impact for us right now. And that is that number one, it shows that the power of writing can really have an influence across every subject in every grade. But number two, it’s a morale issue for our teachers. The reason that 53% of teachers right now are considering leaving our profession is that they leave at the end of the year saying I don’t know if I make a difference anymore. When you show the same kid, to same kid per comparison from the beginning to the end and think of this as the perfect research experiment, same student, same family, same home life, same everything. The only difference between September and May was that classroom teacher, you want as leaders, let your teachers know that they made the difference. Use that science fair approach where you compare the beginning to the end.
– Yeah, I’m processing here and imagining being a school leader and trying to advise teachers. And in a way, it sounds like what you’re advising here is of course start with a big picture strategy or intervention model that has been researched. But when we go to do the implementation, the types of data we need to be gathering is a little more focused, is a little more in the kind of easy to capture realm, is a little more kind of anchored to one or two or three individual students, if we don’t have some other assessment tool. And maybe also the kind of key being the multiple data points to track the progress, not just maybe one data point to set, show one short-term gain, and that was a lot there. But I’m just trying to kind of pull it all together to kind of make sense of it. And I’m imagining myself back in a school setting and trying to like say, well, how do I operationalize what he’s telling me?
– So it’s the real key here is classroom assessment. There’s too many things that are labeled as formative assessments that are not formative. It’s only formative if it informs teaching and learning. And so I’m a big believer the way that you show progress is literally week to week, not year to year. Teresa Amabile at the Harvard Business School wrote this wonderful book called “The Progress Principle.” And it goes back to what you were saying earlier about how teachers want to be assessed and evaluated. The worst evaluation system is once a year, it’s completely demoralizing. I think a lot of successful companies are getting rid of annual performance reviews. The same ought to be true in schools. It’s the daily and weekly progress that really matters. And the way you do that is in classroom assessments. And the way you display that is you can show week to week to week progress. So from September through May, we know that they’re getting better and better. That’s what motivates not only students, but adults as well.
– You compare it to the kind of corporate world, and I’m thinking it’s almost like you’re saying that the teachers need to find out what that KPI, that key performance indicator is for their short cycle data. The other thing before we go, I just have to say back again, I love that definition of formative assessment. I feel like it gets beaten into you as a teacher. The summative assessment is at the end and the formative assessment is along the way. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody say it so clearly that it’s only formative if it’s informing your instruction. I love that definition. Well, Doug, we’re gonna take a short break. If you’re curious about what we talk about in the rest of this interview, as well as finding many other interviews, head to pltogether.org.