Thursday, October 07, 2010

Using Performance Standards to Improve Teacher Effectiveness

Here are some of the key principles that emerged from the ADEPTS experience over the last few years. ADEPTS (or Advancement of Educational Performance through Teacher Support) is an approach or a way of working, based on the use of performance standards. [More details and the standards themselves can be shared with those interested! In the meantime, here are some of the insights that emerged – feedback and your views are welcome.]
  1. The most important way to generate teacher motivation is to enable them to experience success in the classroom. Hence a set of minimum enabling conditions being in place make a huge difference. 
  2. Teachers change when they experience the standards, rather than simply being told about them – towards this, the in-service courses themselves need to incorporate the standards expected of teachers. (A few of the states have begun this process of improving their own inputs to teachers.)
  3. There is a sequence in which teachers learn (and indeed institutions and systems learn). It is also better to avoid overcrowding expectations. It would therefore be best to plan improvement in terms of stages of teacher development, broken down into three-month phases, each of which has a very limited number of indicators to be attained (4-8). As teachers attain one set of indicators, this motivates them as well as prepares them for the next, higher order, set. The support institutions, too, learn along with the teachers and grow phase-wise in turn.
  4. Standards and indicators can tend to be vague! It is important to convert them into concrete steps that can actually be implemented by teachers. Thus, if an indicator agreed upon is ‘children ask questions freely, without fear’ there is a need to make clear exactly what the teacher needs to do for this to happen. Hence, as part of the roll out, all teams need to detail the concrete steps involved in converting the expectations into actionable steps.
  5. Implementer choice and partnering with teachers is more likely to yield results than passing on a set of instructions. In sub-district meetings, teachers should get to choose the indicators they want to attain (from a given list of potential indicators for that stage, though) and identify / develop the steps needed to attain these. Their performance will be assessed against the indicators chosen by them. If possible, peer assessment will be introduced.
  6. ‘Target setting’ in terms of the degree of improvement in performance can now be practiced. Teachers and their resource persons can use the standards document to fix the degree of change they seek to bring about over, say, a year or six months. They can then assess their progress against this. As this was not possible earlier, improvement efforts tended to lose their way very soon.
  7. Taking a ‘low-interference’ approach helps – that is, there is no pressure on the system to change curriculum or textbooks or introduce new model of teaching. It is more a case of ‘doing the same as before, but a little differently’; this reduces systemic stress and enables rapid implementation.

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