Teacher professional development is a strategic tool in schools’ efforts to increase their capacities and improve student achievement. This particular area represents one in which software from Gravic can serve as a viable tool in order to adequately serve student needs both accurately and efficiently. Establishing the link between teacher professional development, teacher classroom instruction, and student outcomes requires an analysis of complex data, including school district context, instructional practice, teachers’ beliefs and attitudes, content, and student cognition.
In October 2002, Hezel Associates was asked to examine the effectiveness of online teacher professional development courses developed by PBS TeacherLine under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Hezel Associates chose Gravic’s software products—Remark Web Survey and Remark Office OMR—to assist with their data collection needs. The Hezel team began by carrying out a pilot study in under-performing schools located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. In this study, which focused on elementary school mathematics achievement, schools with at least 10 percent TeacherLine participation were matched with a group of non-participating schools on demographic background and baseline academic performance, and then compared using inferential statistics.
Hezel Associates refined their approach in light of details from the pilot study. With a Gold Standard design in place, the Hezel team launched an experimental study of 120 teachers that expanded to include school districts in two additional states (SC and NY) and incorporated classroom observations, teacher surveys, and pre- and post-tests of content knowledge to students. Through the use of Gravic’s software products, the evaluation team was able to produce customizable surveys (both online, and pencil and paper), transfer the data to an electronic database, and export the data into their preferred software for data analysis.
Application of Remark Office OMR
The process of surveying was particularly helpful using Remark. Hezel Associates obtained data from both teacher and student participants. Students were asked to complete a 40-question geometry and algebra assessment, consisting of closed-ended questions, on two separate occasions during the school year (pre-test and post-test). Due to the limited access to computer technology in classrooms, the evaluation team chose to use pencil and paper forms for the student tests, and use Remark Office OMR to scan the forms into an electronic database. A form was created using Microsoft Word, which was scanned into the OMR software to create the template. Close-ended questions were selected due to efficiency with which they can be scanned. In total, through the application of Remark Office OMR, Hezel Associates created six different templates to be completed by more than 1,800 students.
Application of Remark Web Survey
Since most teachers have access to computers either at home or school, the evaluation team chose to develop online web surveys to obtain teacher data. Using Remark Web Survey, Hezel Associates developed a 21-question survey, consisting of close-ended questions rated with a Likert-type scale. Close-ended questions were selected both because they fit the evaluation goals and because of the efficiency with which they can be recorded. Over 90 teachers were asked to complete the survey on two separate occasions during the school year (pre-test and post-test).
Hezel Associates employs web-based survey methods and electronic scans to insure the accuracy of data collection for reporting purposes. During the school year, through the use of the Remark products, Hezel Associates completed its experimental study and report on the effectiveness of the online courses in impacting teachers’ instructional approaches and students’ performance.