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Better Feedback for Better Teaching: A Practical Guide to Improving Classroom Observations

ISBN: 978-1-118-70198-0
384 pages
April 2016, Jossey-Bass
Better Feedback for Better Teaching: A Practical Guide to Improving Classroom Observations (1118701984) cover image


A practical, research-based guide for ensuring trustworthy classroom observations that provide teachers with meaningful feedback

Better Feedback for Better Teaching is an essential resource for school, district, and state, leaders committed to high-quality classroom observations. This practical guide outlines the knowledge and skills classroom observers need to identify and help develop effective teaching, and explains how leaders can best facilitate the development of classroom observers.

The best way to ensure high quality instruction in every classroom is to provide teachers with accurate, constructive feedback on practices proven to enhance student learning. Skilled classroom observers help teachers do their best work, so that they can guide students to their greatest potential. Better Feedback for Better Teaching provides helpful, reliable strategies from leading experts and practitioners involved in the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, which carried out one of the largest, most influential studies of classroom observations to date.

Among the many topics covered, Better Feedback for Better Teaching describes how to:

  • Build a shared vision of effective teacher feedback among observers
  • Ensure a common understanding of a classroom observation tool
  • Train observers to collect objective evidence from a lesson, efficiently and free of bias
  • Leverage data to improve how observers are trained and supported

This comprehensive resource includes helpful starting points, as well as tips to refine techniques and address new challenges. Each section combines clear explanations of key ideas with concrete, adaptable examples and strategies.

Self-assessments are included to help you quickly rank current needs and find the most relevant solutions. Filled with valuable, practical tools, Better Feedback for Better Teaching helps educators cultivate high-quality classroom observations that improve teaching and learning.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

About the Authors ix

Introduction: Getting from Here to There 1


1 Building Support for Better Observer Training 17

2 Finding Enough Observers 25

3 Deciding on Training Delivery Methods 35

4 Setting Priorities for Observer Training 45


5 Understanding Pre-Scoring Video 53

6 Planning a Pre-Scoring Process 59

7 Getting the Right Video to Pre-Score 75

8 Recruiting and Training Master Coders 85

9 Ensuring the Quality of Pre-Scoring 101


10 Knowing the Rubric 115

11 Collecting Evidence 127

12 Understanding Bias 139

13 Recognizing Evidence 149

14 Using Criteria for Rating 167

15 Coaching Teachers 187

16 Organizing a Training Program 211


17 Collecting and Using Data from Training 223

18 Assessing Observers to Ensure and Improve Quality 233

19 Monitoring Your Observation System 267

Concluding Thoughts: Getting It Right 285

Appendix 287

Observer Training Checklist 287

Planning Worksheet 291

Tools Referenced in This Book 304

Tool 7-1: DCPS Video Quality Checklist 305

Tool 8-1: RIFT Master Coding Worksheet 307

Tool 8-2: DCPS Advice for Facilitating Reconciliation 308

Tool 8-3: DCPS Guidelines for Score Rationales 311

Tool 13-1: DCPS Evidence Collection Template 314

Tool 14-1: Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) Evidence Record Rubric 318

Tool 14-2: Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC)/(TCRP) Top Ten Principles of True Scoring 320

Tool 14-3: RIDE Calibration Session Protocol 322

Tool 15-1: RIDE Feedback Quality Review Tool 327

Tool 15-2: Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) Post-Observation Assessment Checklist 328

Tool 17-1: DCPS Feedback Rubric with Annotated Example 331

Tool 18-1: Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Rubric for Rating Use of Evidence 337

Tool 19-1: RIDE Teacher Survey Items on Observation 338

Notes 341

References 343

Index 345

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Author Information

JEFF ARCHER, a former Education Week writer, is president of Knowledge Design Partners, a communications and knowledge management consulting business with a focus on school change issues.

STEVE CANTRELL, a former teacher, is a senior program officer in the K–12 division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he codirected the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project.

STEVEN L. HOLTZMAN is a senior research data analyst in the Data Analysis and Research Technologies group at ETS.

JILLIAM N. JOE, a former research scientist at ETS, runs a research and assessment consulting business, Measure by Design.

CYNTHIA M. TOCCI, a former teacher, spent more than 20 years at ETS, where she served as an executive director in research. She now runs a consulting business, Educational Observations.

JESS WOOD is a senior policy advisor at EducationCounsel, where she works with states and districts to improve educator preparation, support, and evaluation. A former teacher, she led observer training at District of Columbia Public Schools.

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Press Release

May 11, 2016
Wiley Announces Better Feedback for Better Teaching

Professional growth is the key to better teaching and learning. By giving all teachers the individualized feedback and support they need, schools can make significant improvements in student outcomes. But many teachers aren’t getting the kind of accurate and meaningful feedback that can help them make positive changes in their practice. A big reason is that many of those who observe them in the classroom lack the full set of knowledge and skills to identify and develop effective teaching.

A practical new book, Better Feedback for Better Teaching, unpacks what it is that observers need to know and be able to do, and explains how to train, assess, and monitor the work of observers to ensure that all teachers in a school system can benefit from quality feedback. The guidance comes from key partners in the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project—which carried out one of the largest studies ever of classroom observations—and from states, districts, and charter management organizations (CMOs) at the leading edge of implementing quality observation and feedback systems.

Better Feedback for Better Teaching: A Practical Guide to Improving Classroom Observations (Available May 2016; $29.95; Cloth; ISBN: 978-1-118-70198-0; Jossey-Bass, a Wiley brand) is for anyone responsible for the quality of formative and formal observations by evaluators, instructional leaders, and peers in a state, district, or CMO. Each chapter explains nuts-and-bolts solutions to specific implementation challenges, including both ways to begin and ways to improve on existing efforts to ensure the quality of observations. Also included are numerous examples of practice, and tools for implementing them, from actual school systems.

The practice of classroom observation has evolved significantly in recent years. Occasional drop-ins by administrators using trivial checklists have given way to structured techniques and research-based criteria. But as teachers—and many observers themselves know—the quality of remains uneven, with some teachers getting accurate and meaningful feedback, while others don’t. Better observations are needed so that all teachers get quality feedback and so that school leaders can make sure their teachers get the right supports for better teaching. Based on the best current thinking on observations, Better Feedback for Better Teaching offers concrete and manageable techniques to make that happen.

Better Feedback for Better Teaching was written with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. By special arrangement, the foundation and Wiley are making an electronic PDF-version of the book available here - http://bit.ly/betterteaching

Better Feedback for Better Teaching is now available for purchase online and at retailers nationwide in both print and all e-book formats. For a full list of retailers, visit http://bit.ly/BetterFeedbackPress

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