Teachscape’s Teaching Effectiveness Platform: Creating Quality Professional Development

The second profile of our 2013 Award winners is the Golden Lamp recipient in the Professional Development category. Created and developed by Teachscape, Inc., the Teaching Effectiveness Platform provides a comprehensive system that trains and supports educators throughout their careers.

Teachscape’s Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Stowe answered our questions below.

The idea or inspiration behind the Teachscape Teaching Effectiveness Platform…

As early as 1999, Teachscape’s founder, Mark Atkinson, and his team had a vision for a comprehensive e-Learning platform to support online, community-based professional development. Building on this vision, the company built several generations of this platform over the first 10 years of its life. Based on that success and insight gained from our participation in the MET study, a strong vision for a new platform emerged. This platform would combine learning recommendations with observational assessment to drive individual learning plans based on evaluation outcomes. The integrated platform was built with four discrete systems (Teachscape Focus, Reflect, Learn, and Advance).

Developed in partnership with educators and experts, Teachscape’s comprehensive system supports the development of instructional practice throughout an educator’s career and features:

  • Training for educators to build a common language for teaching effectiveness
  • Monitoring and diagnostic tools to reflect on and assess teaching effectiveness
  • Content, video tools, learning plans, and collaboration tools designed to build skills and expertise
  • Talent management tools to ensure all employees are organized, trained, and aligned to meet student needs

Product development timeline…

The Teachscape Effectiveness Platform was built over three years, starting as a collection of individual products for live and video observation and for observation training. These “point solutions” were then brought together onto a new platform.  This platform integrated the observation and evaluation tools with a learning management system, content library, and tools for video capture and sharing, as well as a talent management system that can help districts to identify and strategically develop, distribute, and align its staff’s skills and experience with district-level goals.

We are very fortunate to have such a committed and strong development and product management team. The product management group, led by Inna Fedoseyeva, was instrumental in developing the concept for the platform components. The engineering team, led by Chris Doane, Eric Lindberg, and Eelco Hillenius, developed the scalable and robust platform components.

Ongoing customer feedback and an agile software development process were instrumental as we built the platform, with school districts acting as important “design partners”. We spent many days in districts developing a platform that would support districts’ specific needs. Customers provided critical feedback on the features of the platform and we incorporated their input into revisions every 30 days.

Memories from the product development process…

One of our strongest memories is when we introduced our TeachscapeReflect Observation and Evaluation Management system where teachers could capture video; upload and share video with principals, administrators, or peers, who could then tag the videos with evidence; and assign a level of performance. One of our clients gave us the feedback that the system was great – but could we develop a versionwithout video. We realized then that we were ahead of the market. Our clients needed and valued the observation and evaluation tools and processes, but were not ready to adopt video in the classroom. So we did develop a version without video and our clients loved it. It became very popular very quickly. Now that our clients are feeling more comfortable with video, and seeing the value in using video to ensure quality evaluations, we already have that solution in place for them.

One of the challenges we faced was that in order to build the integrated platform, the team had to tie together five different standalone systems (Focus, Reflect, Learn, Advance, and a data warehouse for reporting). We needed a system that would broker the communication between each of these systems. The solution came to us in early Fall 2011 – we conceptualized an “information hub” that would communicate with each of the systems. This “user management system” (UMS) would manage individuals, licenses, and relationships across the platform. The UMS became the platform’s “switch house.”

Using feedback to improve the platform…

We work very closely with our clients. We continuously solicit feedback from them and incorporate their input into our products to ensure the platform meets market needs. Some examples:

  • Our clients were dealing with Internet connectivity issues, so we developed an iPad app that simplified classroom observations and eliminated the need for Internet access.
  • One client made the case for allowing teachers to use observers’ evidence in the system to conduct self-reviews and self-scoring and to augment those observations with additional input and evidence as part of their growth and progress.  This helped us to align even more tightly with Charlotte Danielson’s vision of using self-reflection and self-scoring in the evaluation process.
  • Clients requested the ability to conduct dual observations – where multiple people could gain evidence on the same lesson. This was especially valuable for high school teachers where both a content specialist and the principal would observe and assess a lesson.

What winning the Golden Lamp Award means…

Winning the Golden Lamp was validation that a SAAS-based professional development system can be recognized as highly educative. In the world of educational publishing, this is a huge statement, both about the evolution of the industry and the transition to digital delivery.

Upcoming projects and features to look for from Teachscape…

As the demand for educational accountability increases, so does the importance of data. We are just launching a new reporting and analytics toolset. Our data warehouse will be available to clients through a dynamic reporting system across the platform.  We are also planning to launch the next-generation of our panoramic camera kit this fall.

Learn more about Teachscape and the Teaching Effectiveness Platform.