Insights from a Maine Middle School: The Power and Simplicity of iObservation

Originally published in CenterEd in June, 2014.

Bonny Eagle Middle School in Buxton, Maine, has been piloting iObservation, Learning Sciences International’s observation and professional development software for educators, and it’s already seeing the results. This week, the school’s principal, Mick Roy, shares an experience with a Bonny Eagle teacher who was able to put the tool to immediate use in his classroom.

Roy’s story illustrates the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model’s power in the real world. As the school’s faculty members familiarized themselves with iObservation, administrators went into each classroom to observe and provide feedback—without scoring or rating the teachers—just to demonstrate how iObservation works.

One day, Roy walked into a sixth-grade English language arts classroom. “I had my laptop open, I had iObservation open, and I was just trying to determine which elements I could give [the teacher] feedback on. One of the things I noticed after about five minutes was that as he had students preview new content, he was also trying to get them to infer from the passages they were reading and rely on prior knowledge. He was really trying to teach inference.”

While sitting in that classroom, Roy looked in iObservation and found a video that was specific to teaching inference. “So while I was in the classroom, I was giving him feedback. I sent him that video and I walked out 10 minutes later. I was only in there 10 minutes.”

Five minutes later, back in his office, Roy received an email from the teacher, thanking him for coming into the classroom. The teacher had watched the video, pulled out a strategy from it, and used that strategy in his very next class. “So that just shows you the power and the simplicity of it,” says Roy.

“Profound simplicity,” concludes assistant principal Benjamin Harris.

What’s in Store for Next Year?

“We expect continued growth,” says Roy. “We’re trying to synthesize a lot of pieces to change. And by adopting and implementing The Art and Science of Teaching as our framework, we are taking that, along with iObservation, to build a culture of growth.”

Bonny Eagle is also going to use iAcademy to promote self-study, along with the continued use of iObservation and The Art and Science of Teaching. “So when we roll this out next year, there really are two additional components,” explains Roy. “There’s the teacher growth and development around The Art and Science of Teaching,and having a pathway of learning. With the rigor model, we want to look for a way to make this a lot more seamless and easy to follow. At the same time, administrators will go to additional training with inter-rater reliability courses or workshops.”

On day one of the next school year, Bonny Eagle intends to have all of its teachers hitting the ground running. The school closed this year’s iObservation on June 6 and opened it up for next year three days later. Teachers are already able to do their self-assessment and establish goals for next year, so when school starts back up in late August, they’ll be “ready to roll.”

Roy adds, “That’s a big change.”

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