The power of peer feedback
We have a multi-faceted professional growth program in Haddon Township School District. Educators participate in year-long mini-courses designed around an element of practice such as project-based learning, mindfulness, or standards study. They also perform self-directed professional learning by designing their own learning plan, and every teacher completes a reflective portfolio as a part of their summative evaluation. As frequently as possible, we do classroom pop-ins followed by targeted feedback aligned to district and building goals.
I would love to be able to offer every one of my teachers weekly feedback, but I have 200 teachers, so that's just not possible. It is possible, though, for my teachers to give each other this sort of feedback.
First Comes Collaboration…
This year, I started a collaborative reflection pilot program with four of my teachers. I currently have a second- and third-grade teacher cross-collaborating, and two English teachers in the high school doing a horizontal collaboration. Each pair has a common goal or problem that they wish to solve. The elementary teachers are instituting new writing and mathematics programs, so it was a natural fit to investigate the vertical articulation and make sure the level of rigor across grade levels was appropriate.
The English teachers are both new to the district this year. One has prior teaching experience; for the other one, this is pretty much their first teaching job. It was beneficial to pair two people who were new and who were teaching the same thing in order to share ideas across a common curriculum.
We made an agreement that they would each capture themselves on video at least three times, and share the recordings with their collaborative partner using the ADVANCEfeedback system. We were flexible about the length of videos: some teachers recorded full, hour-long lessons, while others recorded snippets of a focused practice.
…Then Comes Self-Reflection
These teachers have been able to integrate that practice with authentic artifacts that demonstrate reflection based on a common view of what occurred in the classroom. For instance, one educator used the opportunity to investigate high-level mathematical practices. The ability to review a snapshot of those lessons allowed for reflection based on more than just memory or impression.
Through the use of video and the pairings, I found that the teachers who were recording themselves were much more deliberate about what they were teaching and what they were sharing—and they were informally doing their own self-reflection and changing their practice even before they hit “share.” This means that when I’m able to visit, formally or informally, I see better teaching and learning because of the collaboration and feedback that has happened before I was even in the room.
Looking to the future, we are planning to expand our pilot organically across and beyond grade levels and content departments. I would expect to double or triple that number in the upcoming year, based on the interest that other teachers have expressed.
Anthony Fitzpatrick is the supervisor of instruction at Haddon Township School District in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter: @antfitz.
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