This is a guest post from Dr. Beth Holland (@brholland), Research & Measurement Partner at The Learning Accelerator (TLA) – a national nonprofit.
As the school year ramps up again, teachers and leaders have to confront the same challenge that has been plaguing schools since the start of the pandemic: how to develop more effective, engaging, and equitable virtual or hybrid learning environments. However, a major challenge exists in the field: there are few models to help educators define quality in virtual and hybrid contexts.
At The Learning Accelerator (TLA), we have designed two, freely-available, research-based resources to address this need. Our individual self-assessment survey and team assessment tool serve as catalysts for conversations that can lead to improvement, provide a concrete means to identify quality, and help educators, schools, and districts to identify what really might be affecting their students’ experiences within virtual or hybrid settings.
Resource #1: Individual Self-Assessment Survey
Using a research report describing the Key Factors that Help Drive Virtual and Remote Learning Quality as a framework, we designed a self-assessment survey that asks individuals to rate either their level of confidence or the likelihood that certain factors exist in their context. For example, within the Pedagogy section, questions ask individuals to indicate how confident they feel that students experience elements of mastery-based learning such as “giving and receiving feedback from peers.”
Although this self-assessment was designed to be the first step of a team process at the district-level, individual teachers could certainly use it to understand ways in which they might make improvements within their own classrooms. Coaches might review the questions with teachers to identify areas of support, and principals could leverage the questions to gain an understanding of what might be happening across classrooms or grade levels.
Resource #2: Team Assessment Tool
Where the self-assessment captures individual perceptions, the team assessment identifies the prevalence of different factors in context. This tool uses the same survey questions as the self-assessment, but instead of asking individuals to rate their confidence, it prompts teams to use a modified version of the Stoplight protocol to determine whether factors occur consistently, in pockets, or not at all. This second tool also prompts teams to add evidence to support their observations.
For example, one district in our Strategy Lab: Virtual & Hybrid cohort indicated that they consistently “prioritize building relationships with students.” In addition to describing evidence such as having an advisory structure and regular individual meetings with students, the district also noted that 81% of their students responded favorably to a culture survey question asking whether they had a positive relationship with an adult.
Although initially designed to support district teams, teacher teams could also use this tool to better understand students’ experiences across classrooms. Similarly, principals or coaches might form teams to identify areas for improvement across grade levels.
We have already started to see how these two resources can foster meaningful, evidence-based dialogue. As teachers and leaders launch into the new school year, we hope that they can continue to help to identify areas for improvement so that every student experiences a more equitable, engaging, and effective learning environment – whether in-person or online.