How we started helping teachers with feedback
I made a decision to leave my tenured University job and join a start-up back in 2015. When I met with the Head of Business Development he told me that this would be my opportunity to impact the lives of teachers all over Australia by introducing them to feedback and behaviour change methodology. The conversation made me feel like I could make a real contribution, and I thought this was going to be the change I was looking for.
It became apparent within a few short months that my values did not align with those of my new employer. Two days before heading back to work after the Christmas break in 2016 all staff were sent the agenda for the upcoming planning day along with a 3 page article outlining the characteristics of a SaaS company. As I read through the documents I realised that the organisation was looking to rapidly move towards being a ‘Software as a Service’ company, removing the face to face connections from their model and relying solely on the technology. It was at that moment I knew this was not going to be the place for me.
By March 2016 my business partner and I had started a company, our non compete clauses meant I had to stay away from creating similar products to my previous employer, so I focused on what I was good at — providing insights and professional learning on how to create a High Performing Team.
We had success early on and worked alongside some incredible school leaders. One in particular challenged my approach, my research and resources more than any other. He was a Principal at one of the lowest socio economic schools in the Australian Capital Territory in Australia and had success embedding high impact teaching strategies. We had previously met in 2015 and had remained connected during my transition from employee to company director. He quickly became a confidant, a challenger, a supporter and even a co-presenter and creator.
Before long he challenged me to revisit using 360 feedback surveys to accompany our professional learning programs, and with his guidance and unwavering support we created the first reiteration of the Eduinfluencers 360 Teacher Survey and 360 School Leader Survey. It was so important to us that these surveys were different to what was already available. They were not just free self reflection tools, they included feedback from a range of sources, but more importantly they gave an opportunity to provide possible enhancements, tips and suggestions that focused on the future.
In the months that followed, as we spoke to many School Leaders and Principals it became obvious that 360 survey data and subsequent goal setting and change were not useful when teachers did not know the impact they were making on students. We worked tirelessly to make sure our surveys and our supporting documentation guided educators to learn new ways to measure impact and encouraged sharing of high impact teaching strategies throughout their schools and networks.
Fast forward a few years and we have now partnered with teachers from more than 300 schools. At any one time we have more than 500 teachers and school leaders giving and receiving feedforward via our surveys, and each year we provide coaching and professional learning to more than 1000 participants.
Perhaps even more significant in 2017 I married that Principal and he continues to be one of my greatest cheerleaders and supporters.
If it was not for my unique circumstances all those years ago, perhaps I would not have realised how important it was for me to make a difference in education. It has never been about having the best technology, the best ideas or being able to provide the best professional learning for teachers. It was and is always about letting teachers and school leaders know that are supported, that surveys, coupled with conversations and new ideas can lead to significant change in classrooms.