Darta talking data

Over the past 10 years educational settings such as Catholic College Wodonga have become swamped with many different forms of data. But the question is often asked which data is the right data, and further to this, how do we interpret the data?

When using data, we know that using just one source can be dangerous. So instead we look to use multiple sources to inform our practice. The days of purely working on a hunch with no evidence have disappeared.

An example of Catholic College utilising data sets and our “gut feeling” as educators to develop an educational approach, is our Horizon Program. Our data told us that specific groups in our school were not engaging in their learning and the “gut feel” of our Learning and Teaching Leaders also supported this. So, the utilising of NAPLAN growth data, Insight SRC student engagement data, as well as our observations as educators led to the development of the Horizon Program.

In 2018 we introduced two new data sets to provide us feedback on Literacy and Numeracy utilising the program Essential Assessments and On Demand Testing. These are supporting the work of our teaching teams to better understand the skills of our students in Years 7 – 9. This will allow us to “target teach” rather than repeat skills students have already mastered.

The data from this program also supports the work of our Literacy and Numeracy Researchers who provide us with a deep analysis of where best to focus our efforts in improving the Literacy and Numeracy needs of our students.

The second new program we are using this year is PIVOT. The PIVOT program underpins our Coaching and Feedback Program which is now in the fourth year. In this program all teaching staff have two of their classes complete twenty-five questions. The questions target specific areas of professional practice which are aligned to the Australian Institute for Teaching School Leadership (AITSL) standards.

The following questions were presented to the students to provide feedback for their teachers.

  1. This teacher treats me with respect
  2. This teacher cares about student’s point of view
  3. This class keeps my attention – I don’t get bored
  4. This teacher models different ways/strategies for learning new concepts
  5. This teacher knows when the class understands, and when we do not
  6. This teacher is knowledgeable about the topics in this subject
  7. This teacher explains difficult things clearly
  8. This teacher pushes me to set challenging learning goals
  9. In this class, the teacher helps me build my vocabulary
  10. This teacher makes what we are learning interesting
  11. This teacher pushes me to think instead of just giving me the answers
  12. This teacher asks me to explain my answers – why I think what I think
  13. This teacher explains why we are learning what we are learning
  14. This teacher gives us time to explain our ideas
  15. I know what I am supposed to do in this class
  16. This teacher’s use of technology helps me learn in this class
  17. In this class, the students are well behaved
  18. This teacher encourages me to share my ideas or opinions about what we are learning in the class
  19. Our class is busy learning and doesn’t waste time
  20. I feel comfortable asking the teacher for individual help about the things we are learning
  21. I understand how my work will be assessed in this class
  22. The comments that I get on my work in this class help me understand how to improve
  23. I know how well I am doing in this class
  24. This teacher pushes me to correct my mistakes
  25. At the end of each lesson, this teacher reviews what we have just learned.

We also added 3 bespoke questions

  1. This teacher should continue to…
  2. This teacher should stop…
  3. This teacher should start…

Our students used a rating scale from 1 – Strongly Disagree to 5 – Strongly Agree. As a school community the question we rated the highest in was question 6 – “This teacher is knowledgeable about the topics in this subject” (4.4 average across 2700 responses), whilst the question rated lowest by our students was number 25 (3.4) – “At the end of each lesson, this teacher reviews what we have just learned.”

For each teacher they discuss their data with their coach. Our coaches are drawn from all teaching staff who hold a position of leadership or responsibility in the school. From the coaching conversations, goals are set and in term three coaches observe our teachers in the classroom. There is a significant amount of research on the impact of utilising student feedback as a key component of goal setting and classroom observation. Researchers such as Hattie and Timperley have devoted significant amounts of their time highlighting the importance of such programs in schools.

I find as a coach, it is often myself that becomes the learner. Over the past three years I have incorporated strategies I have seen used by Logan Hayward and Ash Stockwell into my practice as a teacher. As a teacher I also am coached by a leader in our school, in 2017 Sam Russell was my coach. I believe our Coaching and Feedback program is one of the key components which produces excellent outcomes from both staff and students at Catholic College Wodonga.

Performance coaching and feedback at CCW

Every now and then I wonder whether other organisations have as many meetings as schools. The potential to run meetings for events, pastoral needs of students, curriculum direction, professional development and strategic & operational activities abound.

In a school of 1100 students and 150 staff, meeting schedules are a part of the life of a school. The key is to make sure these meetings have a purpose, are linked to the strategic direction of the school and lead to action.

Our 2014 Insight SRC data highlighted that the leadership of CCW needed to improve communication and role clarity. With this in mind we established the Combined Leaders Meeting, which runs three times a term. To do this we rationalised the meeting calendar and linked the new meeting to the leadership meetings.

The creation of this team was an attempt at bringing our key leaders together to discuss strategic issues and initiatives. It was envisaged that all of us would be on “the same page” and we had an opportunity to depth our understanding of our roles related to the programs or initiatives we were undertaking.

The membership of this team includes our leaders of learning (Learning & Teaching Leaders; Learning Coaches) our leaders of Pastoral Wellbeing (Learning Community Leaders; Wellbeing Leader) and the College Leadership Team. As many of us know, pastoral wellbeing and learning and teaching go hand in hand. If a student is engaged in their learning, they are less likely to create issues that need intervention from those who work in wellbeing.

One of the key focuses of this combined group of leaders has been the delivery of coaching and feedback program. Over this year we employed the services of Group 8 to assist us in setting up a structure for the coaching of professional performance amongst our teaching staff.

Prior to 2015, Catholic College Wodonga had ventured out on its own to develop a healthy culture of professional feedback via a process called the ‘Feedback Loop’. The move towards the Group 8 structure was to allow all our leaders to take a significant role in developing a coaching and feedback program. A key component of the Group 8 model is the use of student feedback, which each staff member receives. Our leaders and the staff that they coach design feedback and observation protocols, which reflect the needs of the individual teacher.

Each of our combined leaders is responsible for coaching three other staff. In my case I am responsible for coaching our Year 8 Learning & Teaching Leader, MacKillop Learning Community Leader and our VCAL Leader. My initial coaching session with my three staff was a reflective activity that focused us on establishing goals for professional and classroom practice. Each of the three staff selected goals, which were specific to their needs and area of growth they had identified.

Over the past weeks I have been observing each of the three teachers in the classroom. Each teacher has focused on a specific goals related to their teaching. One great benefit of this program, which was highlighted to me by a colleague, was that the observer has the opportunity to not just reflect on the teaching they are observing, but also reflect on their own practice. I certainly have taken away ideas that will enhance my teaching.

This journey into professional coaching and feedback is a commitment that is part of our strategic plan for the next two and half years. As we progress, it is our hope that the program evolves into a process, which reflects the needs and beliefs of our school community. Therefore it would not be Group 8 Performance Development and Coaching program or the “Feedback Loop,’ but instead Catholic College’s own coaching and feedback program which addresses the needs of each individual staff member and our students. The work of the Combined Leadership in shape this will be critical over this period of time.

I was recently reading the Grattan Institute report by Dr. Ben Jenson “Making time for great teaching” in which Jenson (2014) highlights”

“Improving teachers effectiveness outweighs the impact of any other school, education program or policy in improving student performance.”

Clearly at Catholic College Wodonga we are on the right track to developing a coaching and feedback program, which will improve our teachers skills and student outcomes. I looking forward to sharing feedback received from my classes in the future.

“An organisation is only as good as it’s conversations”

Earlier this year Brendan Spillane, a consultant who the Sandhurst Diocese has employed to work with Leadership Teams and staff, discussed the “Forum Board” which was being used at a school in New Zealand.

The concept behind the “Forum Board” is a simple one. If a staff member believes the school is moving away from their vision, then the staff member may list the item/issue on the board. If enough staff sign their initials next to the post then it will be discussed with members of the Leadership Team.

For myself, I believe it was Brendan’s quote, of which there are many, that brought the concept of the forum board to life.

“An organisation is only as good as its conversation.”

So, with this in mind, at our Leadership and Combined Leaders meeting we discussed how the Forum Board would look at Catholic College Wodonga.

I presented the following information at a staff briefing and via an email.

  1. If a staff member would like to place an item on the board they must be able to discuss how this item is moving our College away from our Vision.
  2. The staff member who posted the item needs to place their staff code next to the item and the date.
  3. The item will remain on the board for one week.
  4. 10% of our staff would need to support the item for it to move to the next stage. Therefore, 8 staff will co-sign the item with their staff code & date.
  5. Once the required number of staff initials have been gathered we will then convene a meeting on the next Friday at 8:10am. This meeting will be chaired by two members of the Leadership Team.
  6. A decision will be then made by the Leadership Team, they will/will not deal with the issue/make the suggested change.

Before we held out first meeting I made contact with Brendan to explain where we were up to. He suggested I make contact with Mike Gillett from Hutt Intermediate School in New Zealand. Mike and Brendan’s advice was important and allowed me to consider my role in chairing the meeting.

In the first instance, I informed staff that any items that needed further discussion would go to the Leadership Team. On reflection this was wrong. If an organisation is as good as their conversations, then taking the conversation to just the Leadership Team is not transparent.

It was very clear from the first Forum Board that some issues were easy to solve; therefore the decision could be made on the spot. For example, this year we have one preparation day before all students returned for 2015. This placed pressure on staff that were working in new teams as well as the new staff who started at CCW (we had 17 new staff). In 2016 we will revert back to two days for team meetings and preparation before students return.

For myself, it was wonderful to hear staff discuss how we, in their eyes, need to align ourselves back to our vision. Importantly, all discussions focused on how we improve the current situation. This lead to construct and open input which was solution focused.

At our first staff meeting of this term I presented the key points from the discussions at our two Forum Board meetings. One component of this was our draft strategic plan for the coming three years, as well as other activities that will bring greater clarity.

Overall I found the Forum Board activity to be one which allowed myself, DP Staff and Leadership Team to explain what is on the horizon for our staff as well as to highlight what we see as the key initiatives that we will be involved in over the coming years.