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Measuring Effective Teaching with Superheroes

By Thomas Kane
04/03/2012 2:03 PM
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As the parent of a six-year-old, I’m often reminded that a team of superheroes should not share the same superpower. Rather than have three Supermen, it’s much better to have one guy who is super strong, one who can run really fast, and one who can do something totally unexpected — like turn themselves invisible.

It turns out the same is true for measures of teaching effectiveness: each has its strengths and weaknesses, and by combining them you can capitalize on the former and minimize the latter.

Understanding such tools is the goal of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project (a research endeavor I lead), which involves some two-dozen organizational partners, all supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We’re studying ways to provide feedback to teachers beyond relying on test scores alone. With the help of three thousand teacher volunteers we’ve captured thousands of lessons on digital video and scored them using several different classroom observation instruments; collected student-achievement data on state tests and on more cognitively challenging supplemental assessments; and asked students to weigh in on the quality of their classroom experiences using the Tripod student survey developed by Harvard’s Ron Ferguson.

We’re learning that each approach to teacher evaluation has different powers and vulnerabilities.

To read more, visit Harvard Education Publishing Group’s Voices in Education blog.

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