The leadership team at the Dubai American Academy believes firmly that creating a data-driven culture in their school starts with modeling one themselves. Last year, administrators partnered with Panorama to ask for feedback using Panorama's surveys about how well they are supporting their teachers and students.
This year, they are asking students for feedback on their teachers, building a school-wide practice of using education data to drive reflection and improvements to school climate and culture. Matthew Wilding, Deputy Superintendent of the school, which includes a primary, elementary, middle and high school, framed their work by saying, “We try to be transparent, and really practice what we preach.”
Practicing What You Preach with Education Data
After spending much of last year redoing their teacher supervision and evaluation process, Wilding and Jim Hardin, the Superintendent of the school, sought out a partner to help them collect feedback and perception data. They wanted to use student surveys as part of their revamped system of giving teachers feedback, but didn’t want to write a survey themselves and wanted an easy way to collect feedback from their students. “Student voice is critical,” Matthew said, “what’s more important than knowing what your students are feeling and thinking?” Panorama’s instruments and platform were a “natural fit” for their needs.
Before doing student surveys on teaching, however, the leadership team decided to collect perception data from their teachers about the school climate and the practices of the leadership team itself. At the end of the school year, faculty and staff were asked to complete questions from the Panorama Teacher Survey about their principals and the superintendent, as well as the school’s new strategic plan. The education data that Panorama collected on their behalf led to the leadership team collaboratively identifying themes to focus on and discussing how to share results back with the school.
“Jim lead the way with total transparency,” Matthew shared, “and sent his results out to the whole school. He talked about what he wants to work on, and invited comments. Most of our folks loved it. A few people called us immediately to say, ‘This is amazing!’ They all talked about how easy it was to take the survey and that they really valued what they were getting out of it.”
Implementing Student Surveys About Teaching
To implement student surveys about teaching, Matthew and Jim presented the plan to their Faculty Advisory Committee, which is made up of teachers from every school division who function as liaisons between the leadership team and the larger faculty. They emphasized to the Committee that they wanted the student feedback to be a “really reflective tool for improving teaching,” and that they wanted it be as non-threatening as possible for teachers. Materials about the survey-- including all the questions -- were included in new teacher orientation packets, and a letter was sent out to the full faculty about the survey and how the education data would be used. Most importantly, the leadership team affirmed that the student survey data, like the feedback that teachers had been asked to give about the leadership team, weren’t going to be used in evaluations -- the data would be used to help the leadership team identify trends, determine what new professional development opportunities might be needed, and find larger areas for improvement.
To continue this emphasis on creating buy-in, principals in each of the school divisions were asked to give their input on which scales from the Panorama Student Survey they wanted to administer to students. Collaboratively, they chose five topics to focus on, including engagement. As they discussed scales, they thought about how these topics fit into their larger strategic plan and their goals for improving student, faculty and staff experiences at the school. In order to track improvement, they’re considering how they want to display and share metrics to their larger community.
“This data helps us take our work to the next level—to go from good to great."
—Matthew Wilding, Deputy Superintendent, Dubai American Academy
"It’s going to take some reflection, but we wanted to get at some of the other things that our other sources of data don’t get at. We’re starting to think about what our areas for improvement will be,” Matthew explained. “I’ve seen amazing, amazing improvements happen because of data. Data can be a real game-changer.”