The development of the SchoolTalk app has been a collaborative partnership between the developers of the app, responding organically to how teachers, learners, and parents at Stonefields School, connect and use assessment to design powerful teaching and rich learning.
This case study will link SchoolTalk’s four main ‘functions’ to some related Hattie’s Effect Sizes to ascertain the effect/impact of these functions:
Increase teacher efficiency
Develop learner agency
Create reports on demand
Involve families in learning
Over several years, Hattie has provided a list of the relative effects of different influences on student achievement and found that the key to making a difference was making teaching and learning visible. The effects are in bold with the effect size in brackets ( ).
1. Increase Teacher Efficiency
This function of the SchoolTalk app provides tools for teachers to design learning using a teacher dashboard that enables teachers to visibly share their learning calendars and planning with other teachers and learners, using a teacher dashboard. This links strongly to
Teacher Clarity (0.75). Hattie stresses the importance to clearly communicate the intentions of the lessons and the success criteria. Clear learning intentions describe the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values that the student needs to learn. Teachers need to know the goals and success criteria of their lessons, know how well all students in their class are progressing, and know where to go next.
So, what impact does increasing teacher efficiency have?
"Everything is one place, learners and teachers progressions, learning design and goals. So it keeps us accountable because it is visible to learners, other teachers, and parents. Some resources are at the ready so we are just having to look in one place. School Talk allows for a shared understanding of where students are in their learning" - Anita and Sammy
"This helps all the teachers in the hub be on the same page, shared planning, clear expectations for learners, teachers, support staff, relievers. It means that learners can go back and check what the learning was and what tasks they needed to do. No fear of it being rubbed off the whiteboard or forgetting what the teacher says. Great visibility for parents as well, especially for the older years when learners stop telling their parents what they do each day." - Amy
And, what do learners say?
"It shows what I need to do each day on the calendar. Normally, I like what I need to do and SchoolTalk helps me with this. Before SchoolTalk, I felt confused because I wanted to know what I was doing and not worrying I like how I can go back and finish the learning if I need to." -Lewis, Year 3
"It helps me in my learning because every time we go on SchoolTalk we know what we’re doing because then I have a head start of everything. It makes me quick to my activities and getting everything ready. Before SchoolTalk it was fun but normally we would have to stay on the mat to know what to do but now with SchoolTalk that doesn’t happen. I can get started quickly." - Ted, Year 4
"When you don’t know what’s going on for the day, you can just go onto SchoolTalk and it helps you. Your teachers can attach learning they want you to work on and by a single click, you can access it." - Rose, Year 4
"SchoolTalk helps me to find what are my next steps and goals. You can find out what you’re doing for the day which is important because you don’t need to wait for the teachers. It makes me feel prepared for learning." - Ashikka, Year 6
"I like being able to see what I’m doing and also tomorrow or the next day. It prepares me to get ready for learning like if we’re doing literacy I can get resources ready for that learning, or I can practice numeracy problems at home before the lesson. With the progressions, I think it’s good to look further ahead to help me know what’s coming up. I’m prepared ahead of the lessons now. I can also see what I was learning in the past, it’s good to be able to see what I have done. Especially if I want to do more of it, I can show those examples from before." - Keira, Year 7
2. Develop Learner Agency
Through SchoolTalk learners can take a more active part in their learning, by justifying how they know what they know. They are able to stretch their learning by doing extra activities, and self-paced learning offered via the resource library.
This function of SchoolTalk connects to three effect sizes.
Self-reported grades (1.62) involves the teacher finding out what are the student’s expectations and pushing the learner to exceed these expectations. Once a student has performed at a level that is beyond their own expectations, he or she gains confidence in his or her learning ability. SchoolTalk enables learners to see their progress and take ownership of driving their own learning.
Assessment capable (1.44) highlights the importance for students to know where they are going, how they are going, and ask where to next. Hattie says that in order for students to understand how to do this, they need to have "clear learning intentions and success criteria". It also involves providing exemplars and rubrics. The learning progressions in SchoolTalk are rubrics with expected developmental learning outcomes, which enable learners to make incremental progress steps.
Teacher Student relationships (0.72 ) found that the relationship between a student and their teacher was incredibly important. It can be a direct indicator of success and engagement. Agentic learners recognize their teachers as valuable resources whom they need to work in partnership with.
So, what impact does this function have on teacher practice?
"This affords learners the capability to look through the resource library in order to explore what a progression is asking them to do, which in turn allows them to successfully and articulately co-construct success criteria. The flow on from this is that the learners are part of the learning process, and gain ownership and comprehension behind the "why" of the learning design." - Mel
"The students are able to know what they know, where to next and areas of their learning they still need to work on through a visual means on School Talk. This helps the teachers explain the ‘why’ behind the learning. Students are driven to achieve the progressions." - Sammy
"The students become more cognisant that there are constantly ways to extend their learning. There is no race to finish work first, because students know that once the work is completed that there are new learning pathways to follow (their next learning steps). Students fall in a range of those that are able to then form their own actions to extend their learning and those that can then discuss with me what their next learning will look like." - Alan
"SchoolTalk gives us as teachers a platform for instant access to results and next steps. Also, it helps us start the conversation with the learner about what their next steps mean and how we together will guide their learning, and begin to develop their assessment capability." - Kyle
"Learners are good at checking in when they want a progression or a piece of learning looked at. They are able to ask what kind of workshops they might need from their teachers to progress further." - Amy
"This impacts on my effectiveness as I am able to show the children our progressions and we can walk through the steps together so this helps me see which children understand their progressions and which I need to support to build an agency." - Naomi
And what do the learners’ think?
"It’s easy to access and you can easily put your learning in that you have done. You can see your next steps in learning and think about whether you have to move on whether you need to focus on it more in order to be successful in that stage of the learning. I think SchoolTalk has helped me to be more efficient in what I’m doing. I don’t need to wait for the teacher I can make myself a better learner." - Riley, Year 6
"I like how SchoolTalk shows our progressions because I can see where I am in my learning and what I need to work on. The calendar is amazing because I get to see what’s going on each day. It helps me to talk about my day and what home learning can do. I like how SchoolTalk shows me what I have achieved and my next goals. The resource button helps me with my next goals." - Hirresh, Year 4
"SchoolTalk is good because the teachers can see all your learning easier. I can get to my learning quicker and don’t have to wait. SchoolTalk is easy to use because all you have to do is click on things that you want to do. Before SchoolTalk we had to just do only learning in our books, now we can do more learning, like maths and literacy - more access to learning. I use technology more because of SchoolTalk, it helps me learn how to use technology. I have more control of my learning because I can go on SchoolTalk and look at learning the teachers have given me, highlight what my progressions I know I can do, or I use resources to do it myself - especially the videos help a lot. It makes me a better learner because SchoolTalk teaches me stuff about all the subjects I need to know." - Nathan, Year 4
"It was really complicated to do progressions before because you had to do a whole lot of highlighting, whereas now with SchoolTalk you just submit and the teacher checks it. It’s a lot easier to upload and you can insert more, like files, images, videos to show as evidence. You can learn independently now and wait less for the teacher. SchoolTalk has made me want to do better in my learning. I like to check off more goals so that it makes me a better learner at subjects." - Mina, Year 6
3. Create Reports on demand
This function in SchoolTalk enables teachers, learners and parents to see learners’ current progress anytime. This enables teachers to make informed and timely decisions when teaching, provides a school-wide overview of learners’ progress and gives parents detailed reports on their child's progress and next steps.
This function relates to the following effect sizes:
Teacher estimates of achievement (1.62), which reflects the accuracy of teachers’ knowledge of students in their classes. The on-demand capability of creating a report enables this function of SchoolTalk to provide accurate and current data to inform authentic teacher decision-making.
Providing formative evaluation (0.9) refers to any activity used as an assessment of learning progress before or during the learning process itself. Through the transparency of current learning intentions on SchoolTalk teachers are able to give descriptive feedback to students: "What is your goal? Where are you in relation to it? What can you do to close the gap?". This is often initiated by learners submitting evidence, justifying and discussing their progress through an online dialogue with their teacher.
Collective teacher efficacy (1.57), at a whole school level, involves helping all teachers to understand that what each one of them does has a significant impact on student results. SchoolTalk enables “collaborative conversations based on evidence”, which is critical in modern learning environments where open dialogue is critical to successful teaching and learning.
Teacher expectations (0.53) have a huge impact on learning outcomes. How do teachers make learning challenging according to the Goldilocks principle: Not too hard, not too boring? SchoolTalk enables teachers to analyse student progress, through creating gap analysis reports and selecting just right, just in time learning.
So, what impact does this function have on teacher practice?
"The gap analysis tool has aided me in designing relevant learning to meet multiple needs of learners. With this tool, I can create reports on any area of our curriculum goals and cluster accordingly meaning that I am building my own practice in teaching outside of the silos. These reports also allow me to keep track of learners progress by monitoring uploading of evidence, as well as helping me inform both learners and parents of next steps." - Heath
"We have the evidence to back up any conversation about learning to support putting plans in place collaboratively." - Kyle
"Learners are understanding the purpose of their learning, knowing exactly what they have to do in order to be successful and are able to articulate, justify and decide on their next learning steps." - Sammy
"Before in other schools, this would take a very long time and the data would be in a variety of places but this helps me plan as I have all this information in the one place and I can search different areas of learning for different students to compare and see next steps very easily." - Naomi
"The gap analysis button, for me, has meant that I no longer have to guess the level at which any and all of the learners are working on. Through the gap analysis, the exact progressions are clear which enable the teachers to design rich, real and relevant learning that will fit these learners needs. The capability of flexible grouping learners through this tool also allows us to focus only on the specific learners that need it, rather than a one-size-fits-most approach which can be prevalent otherwise." - Mel
4. Successful implementation strategy and timing
This function of SchoolTalk supports parent involvement by giving them a window into their children's learning, share current goals and explains how can they help at home.
This function relates to the following effect sizes:
Parent involvement (0.51) regarding parental involvement occurs when parents have high expectations for the learning and achievement of their children and when they take a more active approach to learning. SchoolTalk enables parents to be active and informed partners with their child, in their learning.
Teacher Credibility (0.90) is vital to learning, and students are very perceptive about knowing which teachers can make a difference. There are four key factors of credibility: trust, competence, dynamism and immediacy, and the students' perceptions influence home-school relationships. SchoolTalk ensures that teacher credibility is open and transparent.
So, what impact does this function have on teacher practice?
"As a teacher, I am able to provide real-time updates for parents with evidence of learning. This allows parents to be more involved in the learning within the hub. Parents can see what we are teaching so together we are making a difference for the learners. Parent voice, learner's voice." - Kyle
"SchoolTalk enables parents to be active and informed partners with their child, in their learning, particularly with the resource library! I find that in the higher year levels, parents don't fully grasp what a progression is asking their child to do to be successful. The resources scaffold the parents into making sense of the progressions whilst giving them ideas on how to help their child at home. It creates a strong, united partnership between school, learner, and whanau which makes the learning journey a lot more cohesive." - Mel
"As SchoolTalk is so open and transparent, the learners and their parents are able to look ahead and see exactly what is coming up, what will be covered in each workshop and understand the steps the teacher is taking in order to support the learner to reach their next step. The amount of parent meetings is lessened considerably, as they are able to access and see their child's learning and progressions through the app at any given time. It also has reduced the number of parents coming in and asking for justification about why we are doing a certain topic or strand, as all learning is designed around the needs and gaps of their specific child." - Mel
What do learners say?
"I think it’s a great learning tool that helps us to keep on top of our learning. Like every morning my sister and I look at SchoolTalk before school because we like to be organized. It’s easier because at home you can see what you’re learning too. You don’t have to wait for the teacher to physically hand you your learning." - Keira, Year 7
"It has changed me as a learner because every time I go on I find something yellow and work on it at home and school to practice." - Ted, Year 4
And, what do parents think?
"SchoolTalk is excellent because I can check to see how my child is going at any given time."
- Parent of Stonetields school
"SchoolTalk is brilliant for parents. It reduces any parental anxiety about how your child is progressing at any point in time. We can log in any time and make sure our children are not falling behind in any area. But better than that, we can see what their next learning steps are and get them going on home learning that is relevant to them as individuals. This is something we do with our children, with them leading us through their achievements and gaps, and helping decide what they should work on for home learning." - Margaret
"I really like that I can go in at any time to see what my daughter is working on and is working towards in her learning journey. I also love the fact that she can articulate her progress within her learning and how she uses SchoolTalk. It's a great tool for helping the learner take charge of their own learning." - Dee
5. Possible roadblocks to watch out for
So, how effectively does SchoolTalk bring efficiency to learning?
Feedback from all of the users of SchoolTalk shows that it is valued as a tool for teaching and learning, as evidenced by the 2017 survey feedback and the community survey.
Teachers and learners both state that they value the clarity and visibility of knowing what the focus for learning is and the development of assessment capable learners who know what they are learning, where they are going and what their next steps are. This visibility also enables learners to develop agency and take control of their own independent learning, through building strong relationships with their teachers.
Teachers state that the time spent to create reports on demand using SchoolTalk is efficient and effective, especially the gap analysis tool, providing formative evaluation, which enables them to design learning which is rich, real and relevant to the learners’ developmental stage. The ability to link assessment to teaching and learning is also acknowledged as a feature for parent involvement, knowing how their children are progressing and what they are learning on a daily basis.
The development of the SchoolTalk app is responsive and adaptive to user feedback and a future development includes the extension of the learning progressions at year 8, to develop more challenge and clarity for emerging adolescent learners. Due to the successful implementation of SchoolTalk at Stonefields School, which is being shared nationally and internationally, many other schools are now adopting or adapting the application for their own school, populating it with their own language of learning and curricula.
In conclusion, SchoolTalk is proving to be both an efficient and effective tool, by enabling teachers to design rich and relevant learning, using real-time analysis of learner’s progress.
References: Effect Sizes
Case Study compiled by: Wendy Rundle, April 2018