About Student and Teacher Voice Initiatives: Incorporating Feedback Surveys to Improve Educators' Practices in Victorian Secondary Schools

Year: 2019

Author: Finefter-Rosenbluh, Ilana, Barnes, Melissa, Wilkinson, Jane

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teaching evaluation is critical in capturing teacher effectiveness, and has two primary objectives: a) being a tool for educational leaders to manage teaching and learning processes; and, b) being a tool for teachers to improve their practice. Current teaching evaluation procedures, which are primarily based on test scoring systems, seem to fail in delivering these desired outcomes; adding up to studies showing that peer and principal observation-based evaluations can generate stress and anxiety among educators and have a negative impact on student learning (e.g., Finefter-Rosenbluh, 2016;Harris, Ingle & Rutledge, 2014; Hogan et al., 2017; Kraft & Gilmour, 2017; Thompson, 2013). To address this, studies suggested a 360-degree feedback (e.g., Gehlbach et al., 2018), namely, using teacher feedback surveys and student feedback surveys as an assessment and improvement strategy that can help boost teachers’ openness to the use of student feedback surveys on teacher practice. Acknowledging that student surveys correlate with student outcomes on standardised tests (e.g., Wallace, Kelcey & Ruzek, 2016) and both student and teacher surveys have the potential to provide a practical framework for teaching and leadership improvement, this study explored how such surveys intended to assess and improve teachers’ and leaders’ practices are employed, perceived and modified in the Australian context, specifically in Victorian secondary schools. As Australian education policy enters an era of accountability with increased focus on teacher inputs and outputs (Barnes & Cross, 2018), this study is timely in exploring how the implementation of such surveys not only sheds light on teachers’ and educational leaders’ perspectives surrounding school and teacher evaluation and accountability, but how survey data can be used to improve practices rather than simply evaluate them.

This study was conducted in two Victorian secondary schools that were chosen for having a strong student voice culture which includes students’ participating in Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) initiatives. The schools represent a range of culturally and socio-economically features, having diverse student and teacher population. Implementing the student surveys to 1250 students of 55 teachers, and incorporating teacher surveys to 80 teachers, in addition to conducting teachers’, principals’ and students’ focus groups, preliminary data revealed crucial well-being and pedagogical so as managerial necessities for effective implementation of the surveys. Outcomes include the determination of feedback effectivity and efficient feedback programme implementation complemented with well-being initiatives which can significantly benefit education policies, educators' work and student learning.