Amplifying the culture of inquiry at UTRGV through the Common Indicators System Network

This post is the second in a three-part series by Common Indicators System Network participants, who are sharing their experiences with the Network and how it’s supporting their efforts to improve through evidence. Read the first post in the series here.

At The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) College of Education and P-16 Integration (CEP), we have prioritized developing a culture of inquiry that supports continuous improvement. This priority is even written into the mission of our college, which calls on us to engage in “continuous improvement through curricular and technological innovation” and lead “through evidence-based decision making and data literacy.”

Joining the Common Indicators System (CIS) Network, a national group of trailblazing educator-preparation programs working together to gather credible evidence of candidate knowledge and skill and program performance, was a great opportunity to support and advance that culture of inquiry.

There were existing efforts underway within CEP to build a culture of inquiry, including work to develop and revise assessments that would support evidence-based decision making, and faculty interest in better understanding the effectiveness of our graduates. We decided to align our participation in the CIS Network to this work in order to maximize the impact on efforts to develop a culture of inquiry.

The CEP assessment committee’s goal is to facilitate and monitor evidence-based decision making at the program and unit levels by reviewing and making recommendations for unit assessments, and overseeing systematic data collection. As part of this work, the assessment committee designed, and is currently refining, a Professional Dispositions Inventory – which is similar in purpose to the Teaching Beliefs and Mindsets Survey used by the CIS Network.

The assessment committee viewed the latter survey as an added opportunity to get feedback on candidates’ beliefs and dispositions, but also wanted faculty in their respective departments to understand the value this additional survey presented. The members of the assessment committee were instrumental in understanding the CIS and presenting it to their respective departments. By doing so, they modeled for the rest of the faculty their commitment to accessing data to facilitate informed decision-making and engaging in inquiry to support improvement. As our faculty continue to be regularly presented with data and also to participate in discussions around data collection instruments, they have become increasingly interested in analyzing data to inform program decisions.

In a separate effort (aligned to accreditation), a group of senior faculty members expressed interest in exploring the impact and effectiveness of our graduates during their first year of teaching. As the group was designing a case study on this topic, we raised the option of using the Beginning Teacher Survey, one of the four indicators in the CIS Network. It was the perfect opportunity to use a new and improved instrument to achieve an existing goal: getting feedback from our graduates on the quality of the preparation we provided. These faculty members welcomed participation in the CIS Network, helped revise the survey items, and provided feedback to finalize the Beginning Teacher Survey.

As our CIS “trailblazing” team members developed inquiry questions that could be answered with data from CIS instruments, it was reassuring and energizing to realize how well-aligned the entire CIS project is to our efforts to develop a culture of inquiry. And as members of the trailblazing team explored our inquiry questions and data needs in conjunction with other institutions, it was eye-opening to recognize how similar the needs and challenges around data are across institutions.

Participation in the CIS will surely help us amplify the culture of inquiry in our college. We hold an annual Data Summit at the beginning of each academic year for faculty from different departments and colleges that collaborate to prepare teachers and school district partners. Together, we review and reflect on our data to identify areas of strength and areas in need of improvement.

At the Fall 2018 Data Summit, we are looking forward to presenting CIS data and encouraging participants to use these data to inform decisions following the inquiry cycle. Participants will have the opportunity to refine our college’s inquiry questions, and faculty will then answer those questions with data from the CIS as well as with data collected at the college level. Having the opportunity to engage in the inquiry cycle is probably the strongest way in which the CIS will influence the advancement of the culture of inquiry in the UTRGV College of Education and P-16 Integration to help us prepare more effective teachers for our communities’ students. It will be a great opportunity to demonstrate how the data that we collect can help us answer important questions about our programs, candidates, and graduates.

Dr. Alma D. Rodríguez is the interim dean of UTRGV’s College of Education and P-16 Integration and a member of UTRGV’s Common Indicators System Network team.

Alma D. Rodríguez

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