You’re sold on the benefits of formative assessments, but how can you best introduce a new tool to bolster teacher adoption?
Carol Boaz, elementary curriculum director of Caswell County Schools in North Carolina, has some tips for how she successfully introduced Istation to her learning community.
- Align to the goals. The first step is always to explain the “why.” Boaz described how Istation’s assessments met the district’s initiatives to make sure teachers were analyzing and responding to student data. “Sell it as part of your vision; clarify how the tool will help you reach your destination, rather than just something you’re introducing on the side.”
- Explain how the tool will solve a recognized problem. Boaz analyzed the core issue that Istation could solve before presenting the tool. She knew teachers were overwhelmed by the time spent giving assessments, tracking data by hand and then finding the interventions themselves. “Teachers were being pulled in so many directions that we needed to show how this comprehensive solution would make everything easier,” she said.
- Anticipate problems — and solve them fast. Before they deployed Istation, Boaz’s team thought through the barriers that might arise and put the pieces in place to mitigate them. For example, they made sure that every classroom had between four and six devices immediately. Then they realized that they needed headphones and microphones, which they obtained before distribution. Of course, you can’t foresee every issue, so Boaz recommends being ready to address concerns as soon as they arise, saying “the longer you wait, the more problems can grow.”
- Support the rollout with ample professional development. Coaching is the key to a successful implementation. “Teachers are taking a risk when they try something new, so make sure that they have a supportive environment for understanding it,” Boaz advised. She planned an on-site professional development day; while it was optional, nearly half the teachers came to learn more during a customized webinar Istation created for them. Each school also has a coach who is helping analyze the data and sharing good-news stories to help teachers keep their eye on the prize. “We continue to make the connection that ultimately this will make their jobs easier and help the district as a whole reach its mission.”
- Enlist administrative support throughout the process. While administrators are often engaged on the front end, their involvement can wane as other priorities take their attention. Boaz made sure administrators participated in the training as well, so they could understand the data and reports. “Now they can advocate for helping remind teachers to implement the program with fidelity, if they notice they haven’t used the system in a given time period.”
- Give schools control in introducing it to their school community. A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works, so Boaz allowed schools to announce Istation when each location was ready. One demonstrated the program during a literacy night; another piloted it with a handful of students before rolling it out widely to families. “You never want to ask your teachers to describe something to parents that they don’t understand yet themselves.”
- Share successes. Boaz said she was particularly inspired by schools that are using Istation to allow students to set their own goals. “We see their excitement in graphing their own goals and progress, and when they buy in, they make bigger gains.”
Read more on how to promote formative assessment buy-in in your school and take students to the head of the class in Istation’s playbook!