Our approach to the eWT is likely quite different than most. Our desire for this process is to provide support and resources to improve teaching and increase student achievement through its application.
Our purpose for the eWT is to provide a short, focused, informal observation with immediate feedback to the teacher for reflection. The eWT observation is about 3-5 minutes in a classroom. There is no intent to evaluate the teacher. Instead, it is a time to gather data about instruction, curriculum, classroom management, and other teaching practices and decisions that a teacher is making.
The eWT should occur at all points in the day and at all times during the hour or instructional period. These observations are unannounced. No record of these observations is put in the teachers personnel file. The primary focus of the eWT is to determine professional growth needs of the individual teacher, grade level group, professional learning community, building, or district.
("business people" by Adam Grabek on Flickr)
Our ultimate goal leads to reflective dialogue around the data to drive professional learning decisions. When a teacher or administrative group is analyzing the eWT data, they should not be asking the question…what are we doing wrong, but instead, what professional learning do I need in order to improve my teaching practices.
At Southwest Plains, we believe that teaching can and should be excellent. We believe that at the heart of excellent teaching, each and every teacher WANTS to do the right thing for students. However, unbeknownst to the administrator, the teacher may not have the skill set or knowledge to provide this level of instruction.
Without regular observations and classroom visits, this lack of knowledge could go on for years. We believe there is a set of research-based best practices that will enhance instruction and support student learning. These should be understood and implemented by every teacher.
Due to the ability of the eWT to disaggregate observation data in multiple ways (K-12 math teachers, all 4 grade teachers, all elementary schools in a district, etc.), districts can finally provide DIFFERENTIATED PROFEESSIONAL LEARNING for their teachers. We have boasted the need for differentiated instruction for our students over the last 15 years. Why are adult learners any different? Don’t teachers deserve the right to have professional learning that meets their needs? In education, we should no longer offer “teacher inservice”. I define this, teacher inservice, as coffee, conversation, and in many cases no application to the professional growth of the majority of teachers in attendance.
Guido van Nispen on Flickr “R0011198”
About seven years ago, a handful of team members joined me at a training on classroom observations. Day one of the training covered the research and background of the observation process. In the morning on day two, we actually went into classrooms to apply the paper tool we had in our hands. The afternoon of day 2 was spent then manually calculating all of our results to get data from the observations we had conducted.
As I was sitting there that afternoon and looking around the room at the brilliant, highly educated people involved in this mundane process, I thought “there has to be a better way…this is such a waste of their time”. So on the drive home, the eWT idea came into fruition as my team and I began to visualize and create what an electronic observation tool would look like. We identified the problems with the process on which we had just been trained that day! For example:
Our list went on and on regarding how we might design and program a system that would provide administrators and TEACHERS a more efficient and effective process that could drive decisions and ultimately, instructional improvement. SWPRSC immediately began to work with a programmer on the basic ideas and piloted the process with two school districts that very first year!
Kelly's insights on classroom observation, education, leadership, teaching, and mentoring.