To say I’m excited about the training school administrators received today on our first day of Summer Management Conference is an understatement! We spent all day training on the implementation of both PD360 and Observation360 for our district.
I’m not a big fan of plugging particular programs or vendors, and so sometimes I actually get embarrassed by how excited I am about these two programs. But I don’t look at either of them as “just another thing” or “just the next thing”. These two programs, when implemented with fidelity, have the potential to transform teaching in our district – and that’s not an overstatement.
PD360 is commonly thought of as just a video library of resources for educators, but I look at it as so much more than that. PD360 is a video library which empowers teacher conversations regarding teaching. And that’s what’s so amazing about it. We know from both research and experience that one of the best ways for anyone to grow in their job is to have professional conversations with other professionals. And when properly implemented that’s what PD360 does. Teachers have the opportunity to view short video segments that both define and demonstrate classroom instructional concepts (whether it is a strategy, a philosophy, or whatever). It then allows for other teachers to have conversations about those topics and work to implement changes in their own instruction in their classrooms. PD360 allows teachers to differentiate their learning so they can learn what they need to learn to improve – and it gives them the power to do so. Finally, PD360 offers an efficient way to conduct PLCs by providing the content, the discussion guides, and even the documentation that you have actually met, discussed, and implemented changes in your classroom based on your conversations! To read more about PD360 you can view this post from earlier in the summer. If you’re a PCS teacher and want to learn more about PD360 you can attend a 90 minute information session on August 9 as part of the CSI (Summer Curriculum Institute) by registering in My Learning Plan. Instructional Coaches will receiving training on August 10, and beginning August 19 time has been set aside at each school for Principals, APs, and ICs to train every teacher in the district in how to use this very powerful and amazing tool.
Observation 360 is the second new tool to be implemented this year – and as excited as I am about PD360 I am even more excited about Observation 360. Observation 360 allows observers (at this point that means school administrators and county office personnel) to offer Prescriptive Feedback to teachers based on informal walk-through observations. What is Prescriptive Feedback? It’s feedback which is specific in regards to what is reported as well as offering suggestions on how to improve against the benchmark. Let’s use this as an example… How many times have you heard from an observer, “Great job!” While it’s nice to hear in terms of helping our ego it does little to offer us suggestions on how to get better or ever what we did that was so great. If, however, are told, “Fantastic job on allowing sufficient wait time after asking a question.” That’s specific feedback – it tells us how we did (fantastic) and it also tells us what we did that was “fantastic” (allowing sufficient wait time after asking questions.)
Prescriptive feedback goes one more step – not is it specific but it is also prescriptive so it helps us get better: “Nice job on using a variety of questions with your students. However, in analyzing your questions I notice that 90% of them were recall-level questions. Let’s look at ways to increase the number of higher-order questions so that we can better address student engagement.” This offers us some suggestions (though not mandates) on ways to improve our craft.
Coaches and conductors do this all the time. If the basketball coach said to a player, “You need to work on your jump shot” but never talked about how to improve they wouldn’t be a coach for very long. Same thing with a conductor – if you’ve ever watched a good music teacher you know they talk not only improving one’s intonation but they also instruct students how to improve – for example, it could proper mouth formation for singers or instrumentalists, or it could be breath support, or any number of ways. The point here is that the good coach and good conductor give feedback which is both specific and prescriptive. And that’s what Observation 360 allows administrators to do with teachers.
Down the road Observation 360 has the ability to offer ways for teachers to do peer observations on each other – further developing PLCs and empowering professional conversations. We’ve been doing walkthrough observations in our district for years, this new ways of doing walkthroughs will allow teachers to receive almost instant feedback on what classroom observers are seeing (the report is emailed as soon as it is uploaded to the server) so we can improve our instruction across the board. The observation is also imported into PD360 so teachers can use it to use in developing their own professional development implementation plan. The tool is designed to empower and foster communication between administrators and teachers on good teaching practices so that teachers can improve their craft which leads to students improving their performance. It’s a win-win for everyone.
That’s what I call a powerful tool!