Survey tool helps set priorities for teacher practices

Issue: Volume 97, Number 14

Posted: 13 August 2018
Reference #: 1H9jwZ

For Christchurch principal Janeane Reid, using the Teaching and School Practices survey tool (TSP) confirmed the strengths of her staff and helped set the strategic direction and priorities in the school.

Janeane knows her teachers are ‘stunning’. What the reports from the TSP showed her was how well their strengths were aligned with the school’s focus. “Our focus is around wellbeing with our students – we saw how they sit professionally in that space was pretty well grounded and pleasing.”

Janeane is principal of Te Waka Unua School, a full primary in Christchurch with 32 staff who offer English-, Māori-, and Pasifika-medium teaching. The school is also part of the Tamai Kāhui Ako.

New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) Education Advisor Cathie Johnson introduced the TSP to the schools within the Kāhui Ako as a way to identify the areas where they can make the most difference through focus. 

The TSP asks school leaders and teachers to respond to items about teaching, school, and leadership practices. School-level reports are generated automatically, while Kāhui Ako ones are available on request, with the agreement of all members.

The Tamai Kāhui Ako decided to hone in on teaching practices. That meant looking at responses to statements about optimising student opportunities to learn; diversity, equity, and inclusion; learning-focused partnership; teaching as inquiry; and being professional. (See side bar for the way the tool explores school and leadership practices.)

Cathie worked with the school leaders, encouraging them to think about how teachers evaluated themselves. The leaders thought about how teachers saw the statements in their daily practice.

“I asked the school leaders to identify which of the statements in each section they considered the most important, given the evidence they had of where teaching and learning needed to improve in their schools,” Cathie says.

Janeane says common themes emerged. “One of the things that surprised us was the very consistent data we got from across the Kāhui Ako. The same sort of things were coming up in both the secondaries and the primaries across our area. That helped a lot with us trying to form our professional development across the community because it meant that we could set goals that were really relevant to all of us.”

Working with the Te Waka Unua leadership, Janeane analysed the school’s reports to develop strategies specifically for her staff.

“We wanted to look at those key areas with the staff and get their input and talk through why some of the data looks the way it does.

“We had a whole staff meeting where we put the data out in front of the teachers and got them in small groups to talk about what it means and what it is saying. And how would that rich information guide us going forward as a team?”

Janeane says her staff responded positively to the tool, knowing they are only asked to do things that will have a clear benefit.

“Our teachers trusted that doing this would help the leadership team identify where next for the school, and also help them critically think and look at the evidence we’ve gathered. They could see the value in that and see the underlying purpose.”

Teacher responses are anonymous in the TSP reports, but individual teachers can download their individual reports for review and reflections. Janeane says some of her staff have done that to support their inquiry and appraisal documentation. “You know, those really proactive teachers who are always looking for where to next. They looked at their own data and used that to set up their next teaching goals as well.”

The Teaching and School Practices survey tool(external link), covers three aspects of practice and leadership. Te Waka Unua focused on the teaching practices, but the tool also gives insight into school and leadership practices. 

The school practices questions focus on practices that provide the conditions for effective teaching.

The principal leadership section focuses on how principals lead, including their relationships and moral compass.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 13 August 2018

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