Case Study – Feedback Instrument

Vincent Feeney, Principal, St Joseph’s College, Ferntree Gully, Victoria.

At St Joseph’s we have a culture of continuous improvement, a key focus being on the development of teachers.  An identification of strengths and weaknesses which is achieved by surveying every student looking at key questions around learning engagement.

As part of the Catholic Education System we’ve utilised the School Improvement Framework (SIF) survey model to provide this feedback.

However, over time we found the SIF, while valuable, did not meet all our requirements for comprehensive student feedback.

The SIF samples 25 students per year level of approximately 200 students and provides generalised feedback about teaching and learning programs. 

And while a 25 student sample is considered statistically significant, we were not happy with the spread (or lack thereof) across the teaching staff.  25 students per year meant some teachers only got feedback from 2 – 3 students, not the whole class. 

We were looking for a more focused instrument which would provide specific, comprehensive feedback to individual teachers.   

In addition, at a philosophical level, we believe every student should have their say.

As such, St Joseph’s is rolling out a program to capture student voice over the whole school.  The SIF sample approach of 25 students simply does not capture the feedback of every student.

To accomplish this we’d utilised combinations of focus groups, survey tools etc.  But none fully met our needs.

Enter the Group 8 Feedback Service which we’ve been using since 2012.

Based on solid educational theory, the Feedback Service is designed to rapidly gather feedback from hundreds of students, spread over different years and classes, as well as from dozens of staff members to peers and to leaders.

The Group 8 Student Feedback Service presents each teacher with clear, quantifiable feedback they can use as an input to improve their performance and has been shown to improve teacher effectiveness and improve student learning outcomes.

At St Joseph’s students give feedback to every one of our 75 teachers.

Having said that, we take an unusual approach which has resulted in buy in from the teaching staff.

Ironically, teaching does not have a culture of feedback (to the teachers).

So we weren’t going to put unnecessary pressure on teachers by “telling” them how this survey will be done.  We gave teachers the opportunity to choose for themselves which classes would give them the best feedback to learn from.

We trust our teachers to be able to make a judgement call to say, “I want to understand better what’s going on in this classroom” or “I already know what’s going on in that classroom”.

We’re fully aware there’s always is a class that isn’t going as well as the others for all sorts of reasons.   We want the teacher to have control and decide which class is worth “surveying” versus which class may be an “anomaly”. 

So the teachers themselves select 3 classes they’d like feedback from. 

Once the data is collected, both individual teacher and aggregate data is shared with management as well as a peer (a critical friend) with whom they go through the results.

The reports are easy to understand and provide direct input into areas for improvement.

However, like any survey, the relevance of the questions will determine the quality of the answers.

There have been instances where students either did not understand a question or understood it in a contrary way.

John Corrigan has been very responsive and accommodating, adapting these questions to our needs without invalidating the instrument.   This level of trust between St. Joseph’s and Group8 is critically important to our success. 

While we still use the SIF for peer feedback, the Group 8 Student Feedback module is vastly more instructive, providing key information and filling a significant gap that would otherwise be there.  Information that tells us what’s going on both in the classroom and in the minds and hearts and of the students and the teachers.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive student (or indeed peer and/or senior leadership) feedback system I highly recommend you consider Group 8’s Feedback system.

Group 8 Education
Phone: +61 418 432 316

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