A Review of Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers?

Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers? (2014) answers the question with research and an interview-creation process that is user-friendly and a quick-read. This newly released ASCD Arias-formatted book equips and informs readers to construct an interview that is fair, legal, and focused on getting additional information about job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities. The process starts with aligning the interview questions to the job description, continues with writing items to solicit information about past performance (experience-based questions), and eventually concludes with a job offer.

Additionally, Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers? includes a section on performance interviewing. This is an extra step in the process that is rarely done because of the additional time involved. When a performance interview is added as part of the interview process, there is an opportunity to gain additional insight into candidate’s qualifications.  A performance interview must not be a surprise to the applicant and may be prepared in advance and delivered onsite or as a recorded submission.

For example, candidates could be asked to design and teach a lesson that engages students on the impact of major U.S. waterways on exploration, settlement, transportation, and trade. The interview team establishes the criteria in advance. Evidence of appropriate and challenging student engagement involves students setting learning goals, applying meta-cognitive strategies, using collaborative learning, generating graphic organizers and products, providing feedback and other high-yield strategies, all items found on the SURN Indicators of Student Engagement Tool that is informed by the work of Dr. John Hattie (2009). In this scenario, neither of the two finalists gave unsatisfactory performances. An unsatisfactory performance would have been well-behaved 6th graders neatly coloring and labeling a map of the U.S. waterways. So review the two bullets below and determine who did a better job given the performance task?

  • Candidate A hooked students with a 53-second video about Lewis and Clark’s dog (Seaman) on the expedition, used maps, and had well-organized note-taking sheets about the exploration of several waterways. She moved around the room spot-checking progress. Students listened and took notes.
  • Candidate B used the Jigsaw method. Each expert group gathered information about a particular waterway’s impact on exploration, settlement, transportation, and trade. In their home group they shared and organized the information to compare and contrast the different waterways.

Candidate A had outstanding teacher pedagogy; however, the lesson missed the mark of engaging students, though it did demonstrate the teacher’s expertise at designing a coherent lesson. Candidate B’s lesson design focused on the students acquiring, disseminating, and organizing key information within the context she established. Articulating the criteria by which the lesson would be measured in advance ensures fairness, reduces bias, and focuses the reviewer.

Key take-aways from the book are to plan and structure the interview with care and accountability.

  • The interview is dynamic and responsive to the interactions of the people involved.
  • The interview is a distributive leadership opportunity where you engage your interview panel in contributing to the decision-making process for a new colleague. Training the interview panel will enhance the effectiveness of the interview.
  • The research informs interview design with the inclusion of experienced-based queries, behaviorally-anchored rubrics to assess the quality of responses, note-taking space, and sample quality indicators.
  • The book’s layout with bold headings, bulleted lists, examples, and an Encore section summarizing the hiring process as a “Get Ready, Get Set, Go” contributes to its reader-friendliness.

 

SURN Assistant Director, Jennifer Hindman, Ph.D. wrote Effective Teacher Interviews: How Do I Hire Good Teachers?

 

SURN Principal Academy

The 2013 and 2014 cohorts of the SURN Principal Academy met in September to continue their learning about high yield strategies. The 2013 cohort dived deeper into a session on John Hattie’s book Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learndesigned by Carol Sceare. Meanwhile the 2014 cohort considered how various learning strategies aligned to teacher pedagogy using a sorting activity on the form. Both groups engaged in a simulated observation using the indicators of student engagement form led by SURN Principal Academy mentor, Tony Vladu, principal of Denbigh High School (NNPS).

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Welcome 2014 SURN Principal Academy Cohort Members!

Twenty-four principals and assistant principals from Virginia Regions 1, 2, and 3 started their two-year journey in the SURN Principal Academy, July 14-16 at The College of William and Mary. They focused on how to collect data about student engagement and provide feedback to teachers. As part of their reflection, teams wrote poems about student engagement from the perspectives of student, teacher, and administrator.

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Summer Publications

The academic school year is winding down, but that does not stop SURN Principal Academy participants and other educational stakeholders from achieving new milestones.  Yvonne D. Smith-Jones recently published a feature article in the VAASCD newsletter about coaching. Her article can be read at http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1111688353693-203/JuneFeatureArticle-COT-GO.pdf, and the June newsletter can be accessed (soon!) by visiting the following link: http://www.vaascd.org/index.php/home/archives_publications.

Corwin Press published an article on the SURN Principal Academy about Visible Learning and Leadership. SURN Executive Director Jan Rozzelle and Valerie DiPaola, Williamsburg James City County (WJCC) Director for School Performance, will present at the International Visible Learning Conference on July 17, 2014 with a group of WJCC principals who participate in the SURN Principal Academy. The link to the article is: http://corwin-connect.com/2014/05/visible-learning-and-leadership/.

Principal Academy Data: From Research to Practice

By: Amy Williams

Over the past two weeks, I have had the exciting opportunity to turn the observation data collected by SURN Principal Academy participants into charts, graphs, and data sets that participants can use to look for trends, to engage in dialogue with others, and to identify areas of strength and continued focus for their schools.  Research-based instruction is aligned with the tenets of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and SURN Principal Academy participants are not only using research-based practices like those highlighted in John Hattie’s Visible Learning, they are also generating, analyzing, and using school-based data to inform their teaching and administrative practices at both school and classroom levels.

Principals in 49 schools used the Student Engagement Observation form in over 1,700 classroom observations in their schools in the fall semester.  Across these observations, student indicators of engagement were assessed in classrooms from English to Mathematics, from sign language (ASL) to automotive repair.  The wide array of classrooms in which observations were conducted provides a rich data set that reflects both SURN Academy participants’ commitment to using data to inform leadership and teaching practices in all academic domains, as well as demonstrating the multitude of opportunities administrators have found to engage in dialogue with teachers about what is working in their classrooms and what possible next steps may be for teachers to promote high-yield student engagement in their classrooms.

The collection and use of this data to inform teaching and learning in schools allow administrators and teachers to share a common language focused on what practices best support student engagement and learning.  By consistently collecting, analyzing, and using data, SURN Principal Academy participants and the teachers with whom they work are able to identify strengths and needs, and to revise approaches proactively to promote student engagement and achievement.

In working with the data collected from over 3 months of observations, I have observed that SURN Principal Academy participants are not only gathering data, they are using it.  Observations of high-yield student engagement indicators have increased from September to December, and administrators are eager to get ahold of their data sets to explore, analyze, and outline next steps based upon their data reports.  I am honored to play a role in this process, and I look forward to continuing to support the SURN Principal Academy participants in their efforts to use data that inform teaching and leading within their schools.

 

Classroom Observations: Research, Practice, and Principal Academy

For Principal Academy participants, classroom observations are emphasized as a way to support the use of high yield instructional strategies by teachers (for more on these strategies, see John Hattie’s book, Visible Learning for Teachers).  These focused observations promote conversations between administrators and teachers about teaching practices and are used as a springboard for regular communication about both teaching and student learning.  Observations in the Principal Academy are not only regularly conducted by administrators, but are also conducted by teachers as a way to encourage inter-professional dialogue focused on the use of high yield instructional strategies to promote student learning.

Principal Academy participants are not the only ones who have their eyes on this informative practice.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently funded research that led to a published paper entitled The Reliability of Classroom Observations by School Personnel.  In this paper, Ho and Kane examine the reliability between administrative and teacher observers, and examine different combinations of observations that provide reliability coefficients of .65 or greater.

The full report can be found here:

http://www.metproject.org/downloads/MET_Reliability_of_Classroom_Observations_Research_Paper.pdf

Here are some questions to consider about classroom observations.  You may want to share these questions with your staff in conjunction with the article above.  Hopefully these questions, and your answers, will inspire dialogue among professionals throughout your school!

  • What do you believe are the benefits of classroom observations?
  • What reservations do you have about using observations to inform teaching practices?
  • What benefits might there be to including teachers as observers in the process?
  • How might you encourage observations and discussions about the observations to inform teacher practice and promote student learning?