First, I want to thank David Parker a friend and former Microsoft colleague who is currently Senior Program Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for sharing his insights and material on a significant project driven by the Gates Foundation.

Having spent the majority of my professional career at Microsoft, I have always been a huge fan of Bill Gates.  I continue to be amazed by the work done by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the impact the foundation has had around the world and within the US.  The Gates foundation has an endowment of over $33 billion and has committed over $26 billion in grants since inception primarily along three program areas, the Global Development Program, the Global Health Program and the United States Program.

Nothing is more important to the future of the US than the education of young minds.  The Gates Foundation has attempted to provide deep insights into teaching effectiveness through the MET Project (Measures of Effective Teaching).  Teaching effectiveness is critical because a teachers’ contribution matters more than anything else within a school.  Effective teaching helps learning more than class size, more than school funding and more than technology.

Because teaching is so complex, no single measure can capture the complete picture of a teacher’s impact; yet many evaluation systems use tools that provide teachers with very limited, occasional feedback.    This project set out to gain a comprehensive understanding using 5 different measures of teaching effectiveness.

The measures used include

  1. Student perceptions of Classroom environment:  A student perception survey that captures student perceptions of their classroom experiences, providing teachers with actionable feedback about how to improve teaching practices that lead to student learning.
  2. Teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge.  A test of teaching knowledge given to teachers aimed to gauge teachers understanding of teaching strategies
  3. Classroom observations and video: , a huge undertaking that included thousands of videos of teachers in classrooms through the use of panoramic cameras that take a 360 degree view of the classroom that not only recorded teachers but also how students were reacting during the class.
  4. Student achievement tests (both state standard and supplemental).  The state tests to measure how well students have mastered in-state standards and the supplemental tests to measure reasoning skills and conceptual understanding.
  5. Teachers’ perceptions of working conditions at schools:  All participating teachers completed surveys asking them about the quality of working conditions within their schools and the amount of instructional support they receive.

This project is designed to isolate the contribution of teachers by providing a value-add score for teachers.  By comparing a teacher’s value-added scores with his or her results on the other measures of teaching effectiveness being examined by the study, the project researchers can investigate which teaching practices, and which teaching effectiveness measures, best predict achievement gains.  Once this is known extrapolating and implementing these findings across the country will make a material impact on the overall quality of education.

When I spoke to David about this project it became clear that this was a fantastic case study for the 360 approach to learning and I wanted to highlight it as an example of 360 in action for what I believe is the most important job in the US, which is effectively educating our youth.

This project reinforces my belief that solving complicated problems require well thought out and triangulated designs.  The validity of research increases substantially when independently gathered sources of information are analyzed in an effective manner to understand complex problems.  While all of us in the corporate world realize this innately, we rarely put these practices in action.

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