SRU College of Education promotes data-driven teaching


classroom and students

JUNE 19, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Data, data, data: It's everywhere and now Slippery Rock University students undertaking their student-teaching assignments on their way to becoming full-fledged teachers will have even more data on which to base, and improve, their classroom teaching skills.

Keith Dils, dean of SRU's College of Education, in partnership with Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, has secured a $150,000 Pennsylvania Department of Education Eligible Partners grant to help provide professional development for student teachers, University supervisors, local school district cooperating teachers and principals in a variety of western Pennsylvania regional school districts.

Professional staff stipends are included as part of the program, which is already under way and will be expanded beginning with the start of primary and secondary schools in August.

"This new grant allows us to train local teachers, local principles and our University student-teacher supervisors working in the various participating districts classrooms to make data-driven decisions," Dils said.

"Everyone knows there is a lot of testing going on in today's classrooms and that means there is lots of data that needs to be interpreted and analyzed. There is a need to use the data to see trends, and someone needs to examine what those trends mean and how a teacher, or student-teacher, can best make use of those trends in the classroom learning environment to further enhance student learning," he said.

Dils headshot


"By looking at the data, we hope educators will find ways to make use of the trends that are being reported. They will need to figure out what pedagogies are best to use and how best to make use of their classroom teaching time to even further benefit their students," he said.

The grant will also provide support to enhance the safety of schools, help limit bullying issues and encourage a safe and secure learning environment, Dils said.

SRU has already teamed with schools in Sharon, Mercer, Seneca Valley, South Butler, Commodore Perry, Greenville and Pittsburgh City Schools, which with 2,500 teachers, is the second largest school district in the commonwealth, to offer the program that will encourage more collaboration between the classroom teacher, student teacher, University supervisor and school principal to further improve student learning, Dils said.

The program is expected to involve 30-40 SRU students undertaking their state-required student-teaching coursework each semester during the 2015-16 academic year.

"This package of professional development activities will also help our student teachers and their supervisors take on a new perspective in classroom management. The system will enable those evaluating and coaching our student teachers to provide 'just in time' learning modules that will help our student teachers improve so that they can better manage their classroom environment while practicing their teaching," he said. "Of course, all of this is tied to Pennsylvania's Common Core curriculum of learning."

"By looking at the data generated, participants in the program will be able to see where they need to change their teaching approach to ultimately benefit their students," he said.

The overall program will examine both major projects as well as individual teaching units. The system will help indicate where remediation might be needed, giving the student teacher and the classroom teacher more information on which to base their teaching philosophy and methods, or improve their overall teaching skills.

"And," he said, "most of this will be done online using the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Standards Aligned System. Everyone involved will be able to find online modules that will be aligned with their specific area of weakness in order to improve their teaching," Dils said.

"If an educator is found to be weak in say their 'questioning techniques,' as they present a learning session, they will now have the tools to help them specifically improve in this area. The system will give them video clips and interactive activities designed to build their teaching skill in that area, or will refer them to further readings by authorities and experts to help them develop new skills or expand on existing skills," he said.

"We think this program will make our people more efficient and effective. This professional development will offer tips on teaching the Common Core, which requires more in-depth knowledge in math and more abstract thinking skills. Overall, it will help

our student teachers, and those teaching our student teachers, to better prepare students to see patterns, perform better on assessments designed to measure higher level thinking skills and apply teaching skills earlier to help a teacher do a better job in specific areas," he said.

"Since most of the training will be done online, the tools will also help create a better teacher, quicker," he said.

The current grant runs through the end of the coming academic school year, but there is hope the program will be continued with an additional three years of funding," the dean said.

Research for Better Schools, an independent evaluator, has been tasked with monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of grant.

MEDIA CONTACT: Karl Schwab | 724.738.2199 |