Assistant Professor Eric Taylor — along with Brown University researchers John Papay, Ed.M.’05, Ed.D.’11, and John Tyler, Ed.D.’98 — is part of a $4.99-million grant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences, aimed at examining how state school systems can use teacher evaluation data to drive instructional improvement. The five-year award will support a research partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and researchers at Brown University, Vanderbilt University, and Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“We have been studying, along with our partners in Tennessee, how teachers learn from each other at work, and how performance evaluation data might help foster and inform learning between colleagues. Tennessee is acting on what we’ve learned in a new statewide program,” Taylor said. “With this grant we will study the implementation and impact of that program as it transitions from a pilot to a true statewide program. Rigorously studying a program through that transition is an exciting and rare opportunity.”
Over the last two years, Brown, HGSE, and TDOE have been developing an approach that uses detailed teacher evaluation data and peer feedback to improve teacher instructional practice.
The resulting Instructional Partnership Initiative uses data to recommend partnerships between teachers with strengths in particular areas of practice and teachers who have room to grow in those same areas. The two teachers are then encouraged to work together throughout the year to build instructional skills. Thus, the initiative relies on peers to implement tailored professional learning with no financial cost to districts or schools.
A pilot study conducted by the researchers has shown that the initiative is effective at increasing teacher performance and student achievement and in improving teachers’ views of the evaluation system.
“The goal is to provide rigorous and actionable evidence to inform state policy and to build a broader understanding of the ways in which teacher evaluation can lead to professional growth,” said Papay. “This grant will allow us to fund a much larger research effort to examine the implementation and impact of the Instructional Partnership Initiative as TDOE rolls it out more broadly across the state.”
According to Nathaniel Schwartz, chief research and strategy officer at the Tennessee Department of Education, “We are committed to the continuous improvement of our state programs. This grant allows us to undertake rigorous research to learn more about how teachers can best support their peers’ instructional improvement. We expect to use the results of this research to shape both the Instructional Partnership Initiative, which makes innovative use of feedback from our teacher evaluation system, as well as other state strategies for classroom improvement in years to come.”