Let's Measure What Matters

Illustration by Kate Moore.

Illustration by Kate Moore.

Everywhere I go people in the education world are talking about one thing: efficacy. With a sea of apps, activities, games, and platforms available to educators, how do we know what works? How can we be sure that we’re investing time in activities that improve student outcomes?

As educators, when we take the time to bring a new tech tool into the classroom, we want to feel confident that it’s supporting the delivery of excellent instruction and creating an impactful learning experience for our students. As an administrator, when you roll out a new tool or curriculum for in-class use, you want to know if teachers are using it and if it’s making a difference in the quality of instruction. Many classroom activities, worksheets, games, and tools are fun and easy to use. But when we’re talking about educating students, we know that fun isn’t enough. We need to raise the bar and clearly communicate the value of the tools we use in class.

As the Chief Educator and one of Pear Deck’s co-founders, my highest priority is making sure that we’re designing tools rooted in sound pedagogical practices. We aren’t working to build the most popular or most entertaining apps; we want to create tools that help teachers make meaningful connections with each of their students every day. As a company, our design decisions are driven by a desire to support teachers as they work to create classroom learning communities that are collaborative, compassionate, and deep-thinking. You can see this in the questions built into Pear Deck; in our slide templates which encourage critical thinking, social emotional learning, and metacognition; and now, in the way we organize our data and reporting.

Moving Beyond Metrics

In the past, we provided metrics that helped admins understand how often teachers used Pear Deck. This is useful data, but our best customers and advisors challenged us to go deeper. It’s not enough to just know that Pear Deck is being used; the real question is, how are teachers using Pear Deck? Are they using it to solve instructional challenges?

We dug into these questions and created a framework that marries data to real instructional challenges. Each month we select a new teaching challenge and view data through that lens. The result are monthly reports tailored to a theme. These reports give admins real intelligence about how Pear Deck is supporting quality instruction across buildings and districts, along with suggestions for how to encourage great teaching.

For example, one challenge we face as educators is helping students navigate their emotions, their stress load, and interpersonal relationships — especially in this brave new world of constant digital communication. So this month, our efficacy reports are focused on Social Emotional Learning. For administrators, the Social Emotional Learning theme is expressed in a report that shows them how their teachers are using Pear Deck to encourage self-awareness, self-management, and empathy.

The reaction to these reports has been incredibly positive. It’s clear that administrators are desperate for this kind of meaningful information. In fact, these have been so well-received that we’ve created corollary reports for individual teachers.

Every week that you present with Pear Deck, we send you an email with your engagement numbers. If you’re already a Pear Deck teacher, you’ve probably seen it many times!  But now we’re sending you extra information about how you are using Pear Deck to meet different instructional challenges. This month, in keeping with our focus on Social Emotional Learning, you’ll find stats in your weekly email about how many times you’ve engaged students in thinking about their stress levels, about the perspective of another person, or about a self-management strategy.

As Matthew Lynch points out in The Tech Edvocate, “Data drives our schools, but it’s supposed to do more than measure student progress. When used appropriately, data improves instruction.” Cultivating self-awareness, encouraging critical thinking, differentiating instruction to meet diverse learning styles, giving students agency: these are all important, and so hard to do well every day. Our efficacy reports are designed to surface real instructional challenges, and bring attention to them, so that over time your strategies for facing those challenges become more developed and habitual.

If you’d like to see an example of our Efficacy Reports or share an idea for an instructional challenge that you’d like to see us focus on, please reach out to hello@peardeck.com!

Michal Eynon-Lynch