From Paperwork to Pedagogy
Founded in 1887 in Spokane, WA, Gonzaga University offers undergraduate studies in 92 fields and 26 graduate programs to more than 7,000 students. Home to five teacher certification programs, the School of Education prepares candidates to become reflective learners and exemplary practitioners by assessing their performance in their teacher certification courses that incorporate experiential learning activities in a variety of school settings as a cornerstone of the curriculum.
As enrollment in Gonzaga’s Teacher Education programs expanded, managing the many complexities around tracking candidates’ progress and coordinating field placements and assessments became increasingly difficult. Their long-standing approach to assessment involved paper-based processes that had become inefficient, cumbersome, and unsustainable.
For example, the simple act of scripting observational data in a field notebook while evaluating teaching lessons in the field took the reviewer’s focus away from the teaching practice being observed in the classroom. Having to transcribe the observations to document the assessments placed an enormous burden on faculty back on campus. Additionally, the SOE’s paper-based processes didn’t provide the opportunity to give feedback in real time or intervene at crucial times—such as when a candidate was at risk of failing to meet the program and State expectations.
The SOE realized that to support teacher candidates, university supervisors, and cooperating teachers and manage critical assessment activities more effectively, they would need to transition to a more systematic and efficient approach.
Gonzaga’s SOE developed an initiative to implement an assessment management system that would improve and manage activities in the field and better support teacher candidates, university supervisors, and cooperating teachers on- and off-campus. To ensure the right fit for their programs’ needs, SOE staff identified several features and capabilities that would address their specific needs. The SOE began searching for solutions with the following criteria:
- Secure, online platform with a user-friendly interface and built-in reporting
- Functionality to observe candidates, log evaluation data efficiently, and provide immediate feedback
- Data archiving for historical reference and tracking students’ progress over time
After considering several products, the SOE decided to implement Via by Watermark™ in all Teacher Education certification programs. The platform’s field experience management tools would give Gonzaga’s SOE an effective, efficient, and more scalable way to manage field placements and gauge candidate performance; coordinate activities among supervisors, cooperating teachers, and site staff; and organize student evidence for State certification.
Fostering a Culture of Improvement
Transitioning to a more systematic approach using Via by Watermark helped the SOE develop an environment that supported ‘closing the loop’ on assessment. By empowering faculty, university supervisors, and cooperating teachers with user-friendly tools in an online system, evaluators were able to simultaneously observe and assess teacher candidates in the classroom.
Following their observations, faculty could then use Via by Watermark to provide formative assessment and share meaningful feedback in real time. This enriched the learning experience and helped advance the assessment process by allowing students to reflect more deeply and improve their practice.
Simplifying Documentation of Evidence
Adopting Via by Watermark to manage field experience activities also gave faculty, teacher candidates, and administrators a simpler way to manage important documents without having to keep track of multiple pieces of paper. The secure, online platform systematically captured, organized, and preserved documentation required by the State for teacher certification and program approval.
Notably, the SOE used Via by Watermark to track and log candidate placement hours. Rather than manually entering time logs, SOE staff saved time, increased accuracy, and ensured completion of this requirement with the help of tools in Via by Watermark. This enabled them to intervene proactively if students fell behind. All faculty and staff, including advisors and cooperating teachers, could easily access these data and coordinate efforts to provide the necessary support.
Following the successful adoption of Via by Watermark in Gonzaga’s teacher certification programs, the SOE is planning to implement the platform to support edTPA submissions beginning in fall 2018. Additionally, they are examining how to expand their use of portfolios available in Via by Watermark to manage faculty tenure and promotion as well as all documentation required for State licensure. The SOE is also exploring the use of showcase portfolios as a way to promote a culture of reflection and richer learning experiences across the entire SOE community.
Over time, the SOE will leverage Via by Watermarks’ deep reporting capabilities to gauge outcomes achievement and gain insights to inform continuous improvement.
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