“Delivering Performance Feedback to Teachers” is an interactive and conversation-based training simulation that lets principals practice giving feedback to virtual teacher (avatars). It’s a role-playing exercise that demonstrates to principals the consequences of how they deliver feedback, while guiding them through a specific methodology of feedback. While the stakes aren’t as high in the virtual world, where teachers don’t get mad, quit or go on strike, if the user makes too many mistakes a virtual coach will pop up to re-direct them.
The game is based on principles developed by Paul Bambrick of UnCommon Schools, a leader in training teachers. It was further modified by the team at TNTP based on the training they they give to teachers.
The game was tested by one large district in May 2013 and is now in use there. It's not an extensive time investment: the whole program can be completed in 60 minutes.
- Cost: Individual license is $70. Institutional license based on the number of schools: starting as low as $11.10 per user for large clients. The course license is one year for individuals and two years for institutional clients
- On-Label Use: Districts and networks provide this training to principals, assistant principals and instructional coaches.
Deal breakers: The Flash requirement excludes iPad users. The course has only two teacher avatars that were created to represent particular teacher profiles. This doesn’t mimic real life, where a principal has multiple different teachers at different skill levels with many different learning outcomes. Because of this, the course gives a limited range of experiences
- Types of Schools Using It: TNTP did a research study in May 2013 with a large district, which purchased the program autumn 2013. There are also some charter schools in NYC who have purchased individual licenses and are currently using the tool
A key role for school leaders is to give teachers targeted, meaningful feedback to help them improve their teaching practices. But school leaders are busy. They may not have the time or training to know how to provide actionable feedback to teachers. Delivering Performance Feedback to Teachers offers school leaders a five-step framework for offering effective feedback following classroom observations.
It provides opportunities for principals to go down different avenues in each conversation. The course allows participants to role-play--to try out different approaches with the teacher avatars and see where those comments are likely to lead. School leaders can try this kind of role-playing with their counterparts or other educators; real people may (or may not) provide realistic feedback.
How does it work?
The users enter a virtual environment and is greeted by the virtual coach “Elsa”. Elsa takes the avatar “Principal Paul Kinley” through a welcome introduction to the course. Elsa reviews the course objectives with the avatar and reviews the feedback framework they hope the user will implement. Before any virtual conversations begin, they can click on either of the two virtual teacher’s profiles to read up on their background
She then walks the user through a step by step practice section with the first virtual teacher “Ms. Saldivar”. The user can guide Principal Kinley decisions in the conversation by inviting input, making a suggestion or stating an action. (The real human user picks Principal Kinley’s actions and comments from a bank of options.)
“Ms Saldivar” is a 4th grade teacher who is described as “Generally Effective” but is seeking guidance on areas in which she can improve her practice. She’s eager to get feedback and wants specific feedback without beating around the bush. The conversation the avatar and Ms. Saldivar have is very structured with Elsa checking in after each of the five steps.
The user’s avatar, Principal Kinley, can choose questions to ask Ms. Saldivar questions such as: “I saw you check for understanding at least 11 different times in that lesson. You were collecting a lot of information about how well students were following you. What did you do with that information?” or even “Talk to me about the ways you responded to learning needs as you became aware of them in that lesson.”
Once the user successfully completes the conversation with Ms. Saldivar, they can move on to a more challenging conversation with the second teacher virtual “Mr. Taylor.” “Mr. Taylor” is an 11-year teaching ELA teaching veteran who was recently rated as “Needs Improvement.” He is increasingly frustrated by the new review rubrics and consequently pushes the principal to explore multiple avenues to communicate effectively. In this conversation the user is free to make any move they want, and Elsa will not interfere unless the conversation is going really bad. Then she will pop in to provide the user with suggestions on how they can refocus it.
Principal Kinley may ask Mr. Taylor questions such as: “How could you have tightened up the transition to group work?” or “How could you anticipate and plan for requests to repeat activity directions?”
The entire course takes 60 minutes, and must be completed before the course license expires but individuals can move through the course at their own pace, saving their exchanges and hopping back in whenever their schedules permit.
The course focuses on a Five-Step Framework for delivering effective feedback to teachers:
- Set the tone
- Identify development areas
- Plan and practice concrete action
- Set a timeline
Throughout the conversations, there are a few helpful features that remain viewable at any time. Users can click on an icon that says “Teacher Profile,” which will automatically stop the conversation so the user can focus. The Teacher Profile feature pops open a box with tabs on an overview of the teacher, observation history and current observations.
Currently, there is one large district and several charter schools using the product. TNTP declined to disclose the name of the schools they are working with.
The organization did a research study in May 2013 with the large district they’ve been working with. This Fall, that district purchased the course to train all principals, assistant principals and instructional coaches.
As of winter 2013, the product has been used by 750 principals.
How is it used?
The district currently using Delivering Performance Feedback to Teachers is using the course to train all principals, assistant principals and instructional coaches in the autumn at the beginning of the school year.
Content, Content, Content….
Delivering Performance Feedback to Teachers explores some of the challenges of providing meaningful, targeted feedback to educators. The course currently has two teacher-profiles, allowing school leaders to explore various situations that might arise. School leaders explore different instructional skill needs across the two teacher profiles such as transitions and clarity of directions.
The content is heavily based on a feedback framework developed by Paul Bambrick of Uncommon Schools, and has been modified slightly based on TNTP’s internal expertise and interviews with principals.
Training, Integrating, and Implementing
No training needed to get Delivering Performance Feedback to Teachers set up, as it is a web based a program. The course creators will work with any client that purchases an institutional license in terms of rolling out the course using the access key.
Flash requirements can cause issues depending on the school’s tech setup. Also, because of flash, users are unable to use iPads to do the course. This would also pose as challenging for schools where administrators are not doing teacher observations, or approach observations as purely evaluative.
This is a web based product, compatible with all browsers. However, it does require Flash to begin the program. No mobile app is available and due to the Flash based programming the course can’t run on iPads.
An individual license: $70 and institutional licenses are based on the number of schools and can be priced as low as $11.10 per user for large clients. The course license is one year for individuals and two-years for institutional clients, so districts can account for turnover from one year to the next.
A certificate of completion is available.
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