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Student & Teacher Perception Surveys: Elevating Stakeholder Voice for 20 Years

By: Jake Rowley on December 12th, 2021

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Student & Teacher Perception Surveys: Elevating Stakeholder Voice for 20 Years


In the fall of 2005, I sat down at my desk in Mr. Powers’ 11th-grade history class and was asked to complete a survey. This was an interesting and surprising development, as no one in my 12 years of schooling had thought to ask my opinion about anything. The survey instructions asked me to consider my experience in Mr. Powers’ class. A notoriously methodical test taker from kindergarten through graduate school, I thought long and hard about each item. I did think Mr. Powers cared about me. I did find his class interesting. He did not ask me to explain my thinking behind my answers. 


The survey covered a range of topics related to Mr. Powers’s instructional quality and the classroom learning involvement as a whole. The survey finished with some background information about my prior academic record, my ethnicity, and the education level of my parents. I found the entire experience fascinating and was overjoyed that someone had finally thought to ask students about our perception of our classroom experience. I would learn years later that this questionnaire was the Tripod 7Cs survey.


Many years after sitting in Mr. Powers’ class, I found myself in the class of Harvard University Professor Dr. Ron Ferguson, the pioneer of the Tripod 7Cs survey. Ron developed the first iteration of the 7Cs survey in 2001 with educators in Shaker Heights, Ohio. 


Some 20 years since its inception, the 7Cs framework remains one of the most widely used student perception tools in the country, with millions of student observations (one of which is mine) about tens of thousands of classrooms. Featured in the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project, a host of research has found the Tripod 7Cs to be reliable and valid measures of teaching effectiveness. 


The 7Cs survey helps teachers find strengths to share, and opportunities for growth; it gives them a roadmap by which they can serve students even better. The suite of diversity, equity, and inclusion surveys (student, teacher/staff, and family) equip school and district leaders with the data they need to understand the status quo, identify trends, and strategize and mobilize to address inequities. The standard teacher survey captures concepts like school leadership, the quality of professional development, and school-wide academic press. Arguably most pressing at the moment, though, is the well-being of our teachers. The lifeforce of our education system.


Anecdotally, three veteran teachers have told me that this is the most trying school year of their careers. The strain this pandemic has put on our teaching force is profound. Teachers have had to innovate and iterate to adapt to changing health and safety protocols, classroom setups, and curricula. Many are trying to teach students who have not been in a classroom setting in 18+ months. 


The Tripod teacher survey centering on social and emotional wellness gives teachers a chance to share the reality of their year, good or bad, in a systematic way. While school and district leaders tend to have a sense of their workforces’ collective wellbeing, deploying the Tripod survey gives them hard data to base their action steps on. 


I’ve come full circle with the survey I originally took in Mr. Powers’ classroom. In fact, I’ve spent the past eight years working with Ron and the rest of the Tripod survey team to revise, develop, and deploy a range of survey offerings that bring meaningful data from stakeholders into the hands of those who need it. Systematically capturing feedback from stakeholders -- like I was, so long ago -- through a well-designed survey that informs improvement efforts and tracks progress towards goals. 

About Jake Rowley

Jake is passionate about helping districts collect and make meaning of quality data. He also can be found playing soccer nearly every night and nervously watching Liverpool Football Club take on the world.

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