7 ways Reflective Teacher is helping improve teacher performance and assessment in one Tyneside School
Dominick Gray, Head Teacher at the Beacon Centre, a pupil referral unit in South Shields, is constantly looking for ways that technology can improve the functioning of his school. “If there’s an IT solution to a problem, then I love it,” he says.
One area that he’d always found challenging was managing teacher performance and assessments, particularly because of the amount of administrative time and paperwork required.
He was also looking to introduce greater consistency of teacher assessments across the school, particularly as the Beacon Centre is on two sites.
When Dominick first heard about ReflectiveTeacher, he was keen to give it a trial, as he quickly saw its potential for helping to solve the challenges outlined above.
The app allows senior leaders to quickly and easily make a digital record of all their learning walks, observations and performance reviews, while removing the need for paper and keeping everything stored in one place.
Dominick was particularly interested in the ways that ReflectiveTeacher could make the process of appraising teachers less formal and daunting for all concerned – with a view to making improvements to his teachers’ working lives and giving them the ability to focus on improving the quality of their teaching.
He signed up for a two-week trial, leading up to the Easter holiday this year; and the team from Beezapps, who produce ReflectiveTeacher, had the system up and running in just a few working days. By the end of the summer term, Dominick was already starting to see some major benefits for the teachers and the school as a whole.
The system has been made available to all staff, initially on an optional basis. Take-up has been high, says Dominick, largely because of its ease-of-use, as well as the fact that staff at all levels are quickly able to see the benefits it delivers to them.
Although it’s still early days, here are seven positive outcomes that Dominick has seen so far:
1. Teacher assessment is less formal and less intimidating
“We’re now doing fewer observations with staff, and can focus on things like learning walks,” says Dominick. That doesn’t mean the school is paying less attention to teacher performance, of course, but rather that assessments are happening on a more on-going basis – instead of giving teachers one formal lesson observation – and can easily be recorded on ReflectiveTeacher for all the relevant people to see.
2. Teachers know exactly what they need to do to improve
“The parameters we’re looking for are now very clear to teachers,” says Dominick. So, rather than worrying about dozens of particular aspects of teaching practice, teachers are now able to focus on the few specific areas that they need to improve on. ReflectiveTeacher helps to make it clear what they are.
3. Assessment is more flexible and transparent
“ReflectiveTeacher means we now have a system in place that ties everything together – appraisals, lesson observations, learning walks, CPD, and so on,” says Dominick. “And it gives us the ability to share good ideas and collaborate with other people in the school, via the journal and message posts.”
4. Senior leaders can access the data they need quickly
Dominick gives an example: “I recently had a meeting with my school improvement adviser. She asked about CPD and how I knew what we’d planned for next year was relevant to the staff. I was able to quickly produce a chart, using ReflectiveTeacher, that showed the key areas for improvement that we were seeing when observing staff – such as differentiation, behaviour for learning, and a variety of tasks. She was immediately satisfied with that.”
5. There is greater consistency of assessment across the school
Because everyone is using a single system, across the school’s two sites, there is greater uniformity in the way teachers are being assessed and the data that Dominick and his senior team are able to access. “I wanted a universal system that we could use across both sites that would allow us to have instant feedback. It’s consistent because the templates are all the same. And it’s very clear for monitoring where the issues are, and where the strengths are, in teaching and learning.”
6. The app is easy to use, can be customised to suit the school’s needs – and there’s
great technical support when needed.
“It’s easy to modify and I don’t always have to call someone if we need to make changes to things like headings and success criteria,” says Dominick. But when support is required, he’s found the Beezapps team have been quick to respond. “They’ve been really good at coming back to me whenever I’ve had feedback,” he says. “There have been a few times when I needed an instant solution, and the guys would just send me a quick meeting invite, and then it’d be resolved within five minutes. That’s just brilliant.”
7. Alongside other technology, it’s had a positive effect on the school budget
ReflectiveTeacher – as part of a suite of smart tech solutions across the school – is creating a virtuous circle. Firstly, it’s helping to improve teachers’ working lives. That, in turn, is having a positive effect on staff-pupil relations, says Dominick. As a result, the demand for places in the school has risen, meaning more money has flowed into the school. “That’s allowed me to employ more staff – and therefore everyone’s workload is reduced,” he says. “It’s got the potential to just make things better and better.”
How ReflectiveTeacher has enhanced teacher performance
In summary, Dominick believes that ReflectiveTeacher has already made a significant difference to the performance of the school as a whole and is looking forward to further rolling out its usage at the start of the new school year in September 2022. “ReflectiveTeacher matches our needs perfectly,” he says. “I’m confident there’s nothing else like this around, in terms of what it does, but also how it’s able to align to the way our school system is set up.”
To find out more about how ReflectiveTeacher can deliver rapid benefits for your school, get in touch now.