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Maximize Teacher Engagement for Better Results

Posted by Grace Lee on Aug 19, 2013 7:46:00 AM


Shared ValuesWhat are the best techniques to maximize teacher engagement?

  • "Teachers will do just about anything to help children to learn if they feel comfortable doing it and are confident that they have the support needed to take risks. " --Mary Anne Hipp

  • "Preparation before the time and clarity of what to do, why to do and how to do can maximise the teacher engagement." -- Muhammad Mushtaq

The quality and engagement of the teachers (administrators and staff, too) at your school is a predictive indicator of the level of student learning that will be achieved. Recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers should be the #1 priority for superintendents, principals, and other school heads. This requires consistent quality in governance, operations and administration to create the values, rules, and goals that will attract unusually talented teachers and encourage them to stay in the classroom.  

By engagement I'm referring to the depth of commitment to the mission, culture, strategies, and leadership of the school. This can be measured by the person's investment in preparation, willingness to learn and adapt, development of relationships, attendance, peer leadership, etc.

Great Teachers are Hard to Replace

Want to keep great teachers? Consider why they chose the teaching profession in the first place and what drives them to continue to improve their craft. Teachers overwhelmingly identify with the fulfillment that results from improving their students’ lives. According to TNTP's Perspectives of Irreplaceble Teachers research, the best teachers rated these factors as the top 5 most important to them:

  1. Being able to help students develop intellectually and academically
  2. Working with students who face economic or social disadvantages
  3. Working in a school that has a compelling philosophy and with respected colleagues 
  4. Getting students excited about a subject
  5. Being able to help students develop socially and emotionally

Teachers are Co-Creators

Establishing and cultivating Shared Purpose is the priority for maximum engagement. The job or salary isn't the center of this relationship--life-changing purpose is. Teachers and staff aren't just employees of the school--they're co-creators of a daily, inspiring, active learning experience. They want to be part of something valuable, to belong, to influence, to engage. They want to stand with the administrative leadership as owners of that purpose, not just a means to an end. 

Dialogue with your teachers to gain agreement about the school's shared purpose. Identify the unique contributions of each person and each instructional team to the school's success. Build commitment to this shared purpose and direction, providing time for planning and colloboration. Create a compelling image and story of the school's ideal future and consistenly revisit these messages.

Other practices to build engagement include:

  1. Establish consistent Presence in the classroom
  2. Consistently provide genuine positive feedback
  3. Schedule time to listen
  4. Write a Thank You note (handwritten is preferred)
  5. Establish a coaching process for each employee of the school, focusing on strengths, instincts, and adjustment to increase ideal results

School boards and administrators are trying to implement teacher evaluation systems that improve teacher practice and student learning, with the ultimate goal of continuous improvement. To achieve this goal, the teacher evaluation system needs to be designed and implemented with teacher enagagement and development at the core. Effective teachers don't need to be convinced of the importance of student progress--nearly all measure their success based how successful their students are in future classes and how students perform on teacher-created and standardized assessments.

Deal with the Weakest Link

Teacher engagement is also enhanced through effective management of underperforming employees. As in every other organization, administrative leaders will be judged on how well they deal with the "weakest link" or those who clearly are not meeting expectations and are actually undermining the purpose of the school. "Chances are, for every spirited, engaged teacher you observe, you will see two who are just going through the motions. And for every 10 teachers, you will see one who is undermining the teaching and learning process through their active disengagement." (Gallop Blog, Shane J. Lopez, Gallup Senior Scientist)

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