Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Measuring effective teachers: the student component

Student perceptions are a serious part of the the giant Measuring Effective Teachers project, already discussed in recent posts here, here, and here.  For that part of the analysis, the study used the Tripod survey, an instrument developed by researcher Ron Ferguson to look at "the extent to which students experience the classroom environment as engaging, demanding, and supportive of their intellectual growth."  The initial MET report confirms the predictive value of that student data:
When a teacher teaches multiple classes, student perceptions of his or her practice are remarkably consistent across different groups of students. Moreover, student perceptions in one class or one academic year predict large differences in student achievement gains in other classes taught by the same teacher, especially in math. In other words, when students report positive classroom experiences, those classrooms tend to achieve greater learning gains, and other classrooms taught by the same teacher appear to do so as well.
Student feedback need not be a popularity contest. We asked detailed questions about various aspects of students’ experience in a given teacher’s classroom. Some questions had a stronger relationship to a teacher’s value-added than others. The most predictive aspects of student perceptions are related to a teacher’s ability to control a classroom and to challenge students with rigorous work.
Students’ perceptions have two other welcome characteristics: They provide a potentially important measure that can be used in nontested grades and subjects. In addition, the information received by the teacher is more specific and actionable than value-added scores or test results alone.
Those results also illustrate two other important aspects of the MET work in progress.  First, the study is looking at how well various indicators predict teachers' ability to raise student results, aiming to find combinations of multiple elements that do even better than the strongest individual components.  Second, the study is looking for useful feedback that gives a teacher concrete ideas of how to change strategies to get higher future results, going beyond simply reporting on whether past results were high enough or added the desired level of value to students past achievements.

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