Adam Myers has been a principal since 1997, and served at Miles State from 2003 through 2014. Currently he is a regional principal supervisor—this study was conducted while he was principal at Miles State.
Myers discovered TeachBoost while participating in the 21-Day Instructional Leadership Challenge. As an instructional leader in a remote area with a high number of new teachers, Myers focuses on developing educators in preparation for successful careers within, and outside of, his region.
Like all educational institutions, Miles State School has its own unique set of challenges. In this case, geography and a younger, rotating teaching staff prompted Myers to seek the aid of technology tools to create a sense of cohesion and teamwork among his staff.
Schools in rural and remote areas do not often get the chance to recruit teaching talent; instead, teachers are assigned to schools in his cluster, and many are early in their careers. So, rather than scout out teachers who are a perfect fit for the school, Myers focuses on building the capacity of the staff he is given. “We see Miles as a real training ground,” says Myers.
As a result, Myers oversees a continuous cycle of induction and development. "We expend a lot of energy in developing people knowing they’re going to leave us as better teachers,” says Myers. “We needed systems that helped develop teaching strategies and skills."
Paper-and-Pencil Observation and Coaching
For many years, Miles State School has prioritized instructional coaching. While their coaching rubric and process were entrenched, their educators were working with paper-and-pencil tools.
Teachers, coaches, and administrators often travel long distances in order to collaborate with and learn from their peers in their cluster. The educators that work in rural areas understand that travel is a necessary component of their work, and they often give up their free time to work on curriculum and leadership. "Even though we're isolated, we actually spend a lot of time together," reports Myers.
At the same time, Myers and his staff acknowledged a need for a solution that would offer his staff a more efficient way to collaborate.
Transforming Challenges into Strengths with TeachBoost
TeachBoost's instructional leadership platform offers a web-based tool for managing and integrating observations, coaching, and professional growth opportunities. Using TeachBoost's flexible observation and evaluation tool, observers integrate the forms and templates that are already working in their schools and clusters, as well as take advantage of Sketch, TeachBoost's free-form observation tool.
Regardless of the form, TeachBoost customizes each account by uploading a school or district’s chosen rubric(s), so that all feedback ties back to a common framework for educator effectiveness and improvement.
TeachBoost makes it easy for administrators to identify and connect teachers with complimentary skills and needs, enabling more productive and relevant peer observations, coaching sessions, and professional learning networks. This improves the quality of teacher induction.
Within TeachBoost, administrators can easily track teacher development over time, at the individual, group, school, and cluster level, within and across school years.
For Miles State School, the main benefits of TeachBoost are threefold: the efficiencies introduced by a flexible technology platform enable more frequent and meaningful observations and coaching sessions; their teachers are more engaged in their own development; and they are cultivating a distributed leadership model to counteract the effects of the cluster's expansive geography.
"TeachBoost offers immediate feedback, recorded and tracked in real-time," says Myers.
"It’s saved me an immense amount of time . . . Now the development cycle is tighter and clearer,
and as a result it's changed our perspectives about coaching."
Shifting from paper-pencil to a web-based system dramatically increased time savings, alleviated the challenges of geographic distance, and strengthened the connections within the induction and development cycle.
"TeachBoost offers immediate feedback, recorded and tracked in real-time," says Myers. "I can access it from home and from school; I can add comments and suggestions; and I know the teachers receive it, review it, and respond to it. It’s saved me an immense amount of time because I can view everything in one spot. Now the development cycle is tighter and clearer, and as a result it's changed our perspectives about coaching."
Teacher Engagement and Autonomy
"TeachBoost allows my teachers to use the system to suit their needs," says Myers. "Teachers have discussions with one another, conduct peer observations, and focus on what they want to improve about their capabilities in addition to meeting system-wide goals." In addition, "coaches review observations and feedback across our cluster—the beauty is that we can reach outside the walls of the school, access the skills of teachers in other areas. We are building pedagogy across our cluster."
As teachers use TeachBoost, they come back to Myers with ideas on how to make better use of the data and functionality. "It can only help them get better at their pedagogy and teaching," says Myers. "Now we make use of technology to collaborate on subject matter, but also with coaching. The flexibility is excellent for any school, because we all have slightly different feedback systems, and they can all fit within TeachBoost."
Myers explains that the "old view" of instructional leadership was that the principal was the only instructional leader in the school. TeachBoost has helped him and his staff implement a "new view"—a distributed leadership model. Explains Myers: "I can be far more effective if I develop teachers and coaches to be instructional leaders. With more teachers supporting each other, and more people in leadership roles, the whole system is lifted."
Miles State School's educators use TeachBoost Insight reports to surface observational trends, identify exemplars of instructional excellence, and target the areas that need the most support. With actionable data in hand, Myers can make smarter decisions about leadership: "My role is to make sure I give instructional leaders the right tools. I review all the feedback given to teachers via TeachBoost and use it to develop leaders and build a culture of teamwork."
Miles State School often gets early-stage teachers, however Myers views that as a positive: “I get people who are enthusiastic about teaching." Implementing a technology platform that supports a distributed instructional leadership model has helped prepare the school’s educators for successful careers within, and outside, the cluster.
Most school leaders are up to their necks in data. "There's probably too much data," says Myers. "The real skill is identifying and analyzing the specific type of data that will improve a teacher. If teachers improve, students will improve."
Myers and his team use data collected within TeachBoost to identify teacher strengths, pair educators with complementary skills, and encourage a stronger connection across the cluster. From his perspective, the real work of an instructional leader is developing educators to lead each other; leading the learning.
TeachBoost has helped Miles State School leverage their strengths and turn their challenges into opportunities for growth. We look forward to continuing our partnership with them, as well as other schools across Australia.
Jillian Lubow, TeachBoost
Adam Myers, Queensland Department of Education and Training