BetterLesson: A Critical Strategic Shift to Focus on the Teachers

November 1, 2018

Source: Avi Chai Blog


It’s now been about eight years since AVI CHAI became interested in the field of personalized learning and the potential that this new model of education has to impact student growth and classroom experience. We concentrated our efforts on supporting a shift to blended learning, the strategic combination of teacher-led instruction and technology, as a way of creating more student-centered classrooms, where teachers are personalizing instruction based on data from technology platforms. Of course it now is satisfying to witness the adoption of these methods in many North American day schools. At the same time, we have learned a great deal about the most effective ways to approach this work to help schools actually make these changes.

While those ventures were successful, they ultimately impacted only a small fraction of day schools. So, about four and a half years ago, we shifted our strategy to work directly with teachers. We realized that for this shift in pedagogical practice to take hold, the unit of change was the classroom. We set out to provide professional development to as many teachers as we could—reflecting a wide range of experience and years in the field—before we close at the end of 2019. After funding a scan of the field to learn what was available in general education, we became interested in the work of BetterLesson. BetterLesson provides personalized professional development for teachers via biweekly online video coaching. They had already developed a rich database of lesson plans and an online video bank of master teachers employing personalized learning strategies. Coaches work with teachers one on one to explore and try new tools and methodologies that will help them embed new these practices into their classroom routines.

From a pilot of 46 teachers from 14 schools in 2016, the program has grown exponentially. Last year 295 teachers from 58 day schools participated. In the current academic year there are 195 new teachers from 54 schools and 95 teachers who have returned to continue coaching for a second, third or even fourth year.

Positive Results
Evaluation and survey results demonstrate the positive outcomes of the program back in the classroom. Here’s what we know:

  • Last year’s cohort registered a 8/4 satisfaction rating. When asked how likely they would be to recommend BetterLesson Coaching to a colleague, the group answered with a 9.1/10 average likelihood rating.
  • After just one year (12-16 coaching sessions), participating teachers shifted their mindsets and practices related to personalization, most commonly in the area of differentiation. Teachers also made shifts in practice related to formative assessment, small group work, and student self-reflection.
  • The shifts that teachers made in their practice as a result of BetterLesson coaching typically represented small steps towards personalized instruction, such as experimentation with a new teaching strategy.
  • Teachers were much more likely to experiment with new practices as a result of coaching than to build on existing ones. This experimentation often entailed perceived risks or new ways of thinking on the part of the teachers, pushing them out of their comfort zones and expanding their repertoires.

As AVI CHAI looks towards its sunset, we are looking for partners to continue these efforts – additional communities that would be interested in starting regional cohorts and funders that might sustain the momentum.

Read the entire post at the Avi Chai Blog


Updated: Dec. 19, 2018