An important component of the assessment design cycle is validating the instruments, and to that effect we count on the group of teachers working with that particular level/course. This collective validation process used to take place in the form of a traditional meeting which took place in our school’s Main Branch, usually in a room big enough to accommodate a group of around thirty teachers (sometimes more).
I’d already been adopting some group work dynamics in order to optimize the use of time, hopefully enabling teachers to make the best of the experience of collectively analyzing the test. In a nutshell, I wanted a productive, pleasant atmosphere where not only the outspoken individuals had a go at critiquing and sharing their views. I wanted all of them to feel comfortable enough to voice their concerns and suggestions to tweak the assessment instrument at hand. Teachers worked in small groups of five to six people, appointing a spokesperson who would be in charge of communicating the group’s opinions/suggestions regarding the test.
That had been working quite well. So, it occurred to me: they worked so well within their small groups, usually sitting with fellow teachers from the same branch, who have been sharing their experiences on a regular basis. I couldn’t help but wonder if we could make the validation process even more practical. That was when I had the idea to try out Google Hangouts for Test Validation Meetings. This is how we did it.
Teachers were asked to attend the Validation Hangout at their branches; therefore, they worked with small groups of fellow teachers with whom they connect/exchange every day. They appointed their Hangout representative/spokesperson and went about their business of analyzing the test.
Adjustments along the way
The three Hangouts we had this semester were two-hour-long events. In the first Hangout, I took the groups through the test exercise by exercise, asking them to look at one part of the test at a time. That ended up being as time consuming and noisy as a regular meeting.
After getting some feedback from them, which they gave via a Google Form Survey, we decided it would be best if I gave them about 40 minutes to work on their own first, and only then start gathering their feedback. That worked better. (That and using the mute button to lessen the noise, of course!)
However, the third tine around was the best, indeed. We decided groups should be given even more time to look over the entire test before the feedback-giving stage. I gave them an entire hour, and it really paid off. The feedback stage ran more smoothly and rather fast.
Convenience: teachers were free to attend the Hangout at a branch of their convenience, which most of the times meant the branch closest to their homes;
Capacity for collaborative self-management: teachers had to organize the analysis process themselves, preparing to report their impressions and suggestions to the Course Supervisor (yours truly) and the other branch groups in a clear and concise manner;
Agency and accountability: they worked hard to convey their opinions and provide pertinent suggestions, relying on the expertise of their own groups;
Voice: working with smaller groups of familiar faces made the more reserved people comfortable to speak their minds, something which tended not to happen with the large face-to-face traditional (very loud and somewhat messy) meetings;
And, last but not least,
Modeling innovation: teachers had the chance of trying out a new tool which they might find useful for other professional development opportunities.
This is an experience I would certainly like to replicate in the future, and which I would recommend other admins try out with their teaching staff.
Hangouts for Professional Development and innovating the adjacent possible.