Lisa Bennett and Cathy Yun were writing a grant proposal when it hit them: they couldn’t answer their most important questions with the data they had. Bennett, the coordinator of the multiple subject teacher credential program at Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education, and Yun, the coordinator of the school’s early childhood education teacher credential program, wanted to understand how their candidates were progressing towards developing skills and knowledge for teaching during their time in the Fresno teacher preparation programs.
With a goal of understanding the candidate experience holistically, Bennett and Yun wanted to bring together data including coaching feedback, student reflections, dispositions surveys, course based assessments, performance assessment scores and advising sessions. However, like many schools of education across the CSU, the data at Fresno State were stored in a hodgepodge of disconnected systems including paper files, homegrown databases and spreadsheets, and vendor software. Locating and gaining access to the data was challenging, and data from the same teacher candidates couldn’t be linked across the different systems. Some important data points weren’t tracked or stored systematically at all.
Faced with the need to get a comprehensive perspective to support program improvement, Bennett and Yun knew the existing mishmash wouldn’t work. Bennett recalls wondering, “How on earth are we going to even access let alone analyze all of the pieces of paper that are all over the place?” They also saw that colleagues with different needs—such as grant reporting and accreditation—were running into similar data challenges. Seeing an opportunity to overhaul the data system in a way that could provide broad benefits across the school of education, Bennett and Yun began investigating possible software solutions, with a goal of having a system that would allow supervisors, coordinators, and faculty to be able to track candidate progress through the program and in their development of key teaching skills.
Choosing a path forward together
For a major shift in data systems to be successful, Bennett and Yun felt it was important that their colleagues in the Kremen School of Education have a voice in the process. They identified three software vendors who offered a candidate data management product, and invited each vendor to provide an online demonstration of their respective products and their capabilities. After meeting with each of the three potential vendors and examining the different strengths of each product, Bennett and Yun invited Watermark’s Tk20 to Fresno State to provide an in-person demonstration and question/answer session with all the faculty and staff.
They also used these gatherings as an opportunity to air out and articulate the shortcomings of the current system that faculty hoped a new system would resolve. Getting a better sense of their colleagues’ concerns and needs helped Bennett and Yun build enthusiasm for how a new system could support their shared work, such as common course-based assessments.
“We really got our faculty to understand what we were trying to achieve and how this would replace a system that … was too complicated and no one knew how to use,” Bennett says.
Bennett and Yun credit Dean Paul Beare and Associate Dean Laura Alamillo for trusting and supporting them to do the research on options for candidate data management systems. In the end, the decision to adopt Tk20, one of the three platforms considered, was unanimous.
Written by: The CSU News. Read the full story here.