4a. Conduct needs assessment


One of Franklin Covey‘s famous habits of mind is “Begin with the end in mind.” If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know the path to take? I would add another level to the analogy for technology coaches: If you don’t know where your teachers and students are currently, how will you know to get them to the end goal? Identifying the needs of teachers (and by proxy, students) is essential when planning professional development. I believe the best professional development and coaching occurs when coaches identify where a teacher is currently at and then backward plans from the district’s ultimate goals for technology integration.

I have included three pieces of evidence for this standard. The first is an exploration of frameworks that coaches can use when providing teachers with feedback. The second piece of evidence is my Digital Readiness project which assessed the current needs of a school district. The third piece of evidence is a reflection on my time with the Future Ready Schools committee which I served on at a prior school. The purpose of the committee was to examine the district’s degree of “future readiness” and make suggestions for gaps identified throughout various stakeholders’ surveys. 

Evidence: Tools to Evaluate 21st-Century Teaching

Quality professional development is guided by the needs of teachers. While methods like teacher surveys can be helpful for identifying areas of focus for professional development, that data is self-reported. There may be other aspects of 21st Century teaching that the teacher is not even aware of. That is where it can be so valuable to have coaches on the ground, visiting classrooms, and providing constructive feedback. That feedback can in turn inform professional development.

A framework for which to provide feedback is a valuable tool for coaches. In my 2018 post on Tools to Evaluate 21st Century Learning, I explain three resources and provide forms that coaches can use in the evaluation process. An overview of those resources can be found below. For more detailed information and additional documents, please see my post.

Evaluation Tool 1: Council for 21st Century Learning

The Council for 21st Century Learning is committed to supporting 21st-century learning by offering consulting and training to districts and schools. Their work begins with a diagnostic to identify areas of need. Support is then provided through coaching, workshops, and presentations.

Evaluation Tool 2: Strengthening Your Reflective Commentary

This tool was created by AJ Castley and is included in various methods on the Warwick Learning and Development Centre for teachers to self-assess. The form provides teachers with 7 open-ended questions to consider their teaching across 3 areas: teaching, assessing, and curriculum design. Within each broad question are more particular questions designed to walk teachers through a deep analysis and reflection of what went well and what could be improved within a given lesson. Some of the guiding questions include “Why did you do it that way? How else might you have done it?”

Evaluation Tool 3: Learning Design Matrix

The Learning Design Matrix was adapted from Eeva Reeder, a frequent Edutopia contributor on Project Based Learning. Within the four-square matrix, teachers and coaches can consider elements of a 1) Standards-Based Task, 2) Engaging Task, 3) Problem-Based Task, and also how technology enables and/or accelerates learning of that given task. Rather than viewing the matrix as a comprehensive to-do list, it is helpful to choose several key elements and consider how a lesson you’ve taught or want to teach fits within those elements.

Evidence: Digital Readiness Project

For my culminating project for my Values, Ethics, and Foundations in Digital Education class, I was asked to assess the digital readiness of a school district by conducting an interview and then completing a report with suggestions for improvement. Ultimately, I devised my questions based on the following sources: ISTE Coaching StandardsRibble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship, and the Digital Leap Success Matrix published by the Consortium for School Networking. The carefully constructed questions allowed me to draw out my interviewee and nail down areas in which the district was meeting or attempting to meet its stated learning goals via the use of technology. I was also able to make a recommendation for next steps based on the principles and best practices I’d gained in the Digital Education Leadership program. 

The infographic below contains highlights from my report. For more details, please access the post by clicking the link in green.

Evidence: Experience with Future Ready Schools

During the 2016-2017 school year, I had the opportunity to serve on the Future Ready Schools committee at my former school. Future Ready Schools (FRS) is a framework for implementing educational technology at the district level in order to prepare all students (especially those in under-served and socioeconomically disadvantaged schools) for the future. It is a nationwide initiative funded in part by taxpayers.

Most people agree that students need technology skills to prepare them for the future, but what exactly that looks like can vary greatly from school to school, or even classroom to classroom in the same school. FRS is a framework that can remedy that ambiguity. The framework is a five-step process which includes creating a leadership team, completing a self-analysis, collecting data from stakeholders, implementing an action plan, and measuring the progress made. The process can be repeated as necessary.

FRS is a comprehensive program for identifying areas of need within each gear and making suggestions based on those results. The district’s needs are determined through multiple surveys given to various stakeholders–principals, upper administration, teachers, librarians, parents, and community members. Everyone has a say in assessing where the district is currently at, and where they’d like to end up.

FRS provides email templates to send to stakeholders as well as links to complete the survey digitally so that data across multiple stakeholders can be aggregated. The complete survey may be accessed here.

While the particulars of our work with FRS cannot be shared due to privacy reasons, I can say that the experience was absolutely worth the investment of time it required. For nearly aspect of the technology-implementation process, we had quantifiable data which correlated to suggestions made by FRS on ways to improve in that particular area.

For more information on the Future Ready Schools program, please see my blog post.