HBA Launches Teacher Effectiveness Cohort

Teachers in the pilot group of the Teacher Effectiveness Cohort meet to view each other's teaching videos and to discuss strengths and areas needing improvement. Photograph courtesy of Faye Takushi.

With the new school year starting, not only are HBA students adjusting to school life, but some of their teachers have been trying something new in their classrooms.

Twenty middle and high school teachers have volunteered to be part of HBA’s first Teacher Learning Cohort, an initiative aimed at improving classroom instruction through self evaluation and peer coaching.

Teachers in the cohort record themselves in their classrooms while they teach. They then review their own footage for self-evaluation and reflection. Afterwards, the teachers meet up in small groups—or cohorts—to review the videos, and everyone strategizes together on how to improve and better their teaching.

English Department co-chair Faye Takushi, who is spearheading the effort, said that the school recognized the need for a process to help teachers continually improve their teaching skills. Along with a new evaluation system in which administrators, instead of department chairs, evaluate teacher performance, the Teacher Learning Cohort initiative is aimed at professional development, starting with the area of classroom management. “Seeing each other and videotaping yourself gives you another perspective of how you teach,” she stated. Takushi believes that if there are strong teachers, there will also be strong students who are learning better because of the teachers.

There both veteran and new teachers in the cohort. Science teacher Claire Mitchell says that she has never participated in a teacher development project like this, even though she has been teaching for eight years. While she thinks it is nerve-racking to record herself, she finds the exercise effective, as other teachers can provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. She added that watching other teachers’ videos can also be inspiring and helps give her ideas for how she can improve her own teaching. Since participating in the cohort, Mitchell has changed some class routines and she said that it’s still a work in progress.

Science teacher Sean Shiroma, on the other hand, has only taught at HBA for three years. He says he joined the cohort so he could become more effective as a teacher. He believes that this method of improving classroom management is very eye opening because he gets to see from different perspectives and is able to learn from other teachers. He said, “Hopefully, it’s also effective in showing the students that we as teachers are trying to get better and that we’re trying to develop our teaching.”

English Department co-chair Dynah Ustare is a veteran teacher in the group and believes that effective classroom management is a necessary skill for every teacher. She explained, “You can be the most brilliant teacher on the planet, but if you can’t manage your class properly, your brilliance is gonna go out the window and the class will follow.”

The cohort is set to run through this quarter and starting next quarter, the school will expand the initiative and require all middle and high school teachers to participate. Takushi explained, “Teachers will have to videotape themselves and watch themselves and share clips of what they do well and what they need to do better. We’re going to work on classroom management first and then later on we’ll expand to other parts of teaching.”

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