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Upper Yarra Secondary College

Using the Student Survey on Teaching for school improvement with Upper Yarra Secondary College


Upper Yarra Secondary College has been using Pivot’s Student Survey on Teaching since 2017, when they were introduced to the tool through a School Improvement Project. We spoke with Meredith Nursey, Assistant Principal, about how the Student Perception Survey on Teaching Effectiveness has allowed teachers to reflect on teaching practice across departments, whilst also opening discussions with students about their classroom experiences.


Why is it important for teachers at Upper Yarra Secondary College to get feedback from their students?

Gathering feedback from our students is important as it allows us to gain the student’s perspective on whether our classrooms are engaging and effective. From student feedback, we gain an understanding of our strengths and how to embed these, whilst also being able to take strategic action in addressing our weaknesses. Student feedback provides us with the opportunity to adapt our teaching practice based on evidence in order to deliver the best educational experience possible to our students. By gathering student feedback in this way we’re building rapport and positive relationships with our students and helping to build their confidence as they develop a voice in the classrooms by sharing their honest feelings about how things are going. 


What have you learnt from the Student Perception Survey on Teaching Effectiveness about your student’s experiences at school? 

In terms of positives, we have learned that our students think we know the content we teach very well and that students feel respected by their teachers. Surprisingly for us, our data has indicated that engagement levels are lower than expected across many classes. We’ve investigated this further with our students and discovered that most students find their learning to be engaging when they have the opportunity to work in small groups rather than individually or as a whole class, so we’ve been able to adapt teaching in these ways to better suit our students. 


How have you shared results from the Student Perception Survey on Teaching Effectiveness with staff and students? 

Results from our survey cycles were shared at a domain level, with teams identifying strengths and weaknesses in the data. We spent time discussing the variables that would have impacted the results as a team. Together, we found the different visualisations of the data in the Pivot platform to be really helpful and used the Summary Report, Heat Map and Scatter Graphs as well as the Detailed Question Breakdowns in order to really deep dive into the data. As a result of these discussions, each domain identified a ‘Problem of Practice’ focus area and developed a ‘Professional Learning Community (PLC)’, based on the data. 

A strategy used within the PLC’s included talking to students about the feedback they had provided and engaging in rigorous class discussions about what/why/how particular results were present in individual classrooms. Another strategy used by staff was to ask students to fill in exit slips after talking to them about the data so that students had the opportunity to confidentially share examples or reasons why they answered a certain way.

At the end of the PLC cycle, which lasted for approximately 10 weeks, Domain Leaders delivered a presentation to all staff about their individual PLC and the strategies they’d used in response to the data and learnings they’d gained.


What changes have been made to the teaching and learning practices at Upper Yarra Secondary College as a result of using the Student Perception Survey?

Many changes have been made to our teaching and learning practices as a result of the Student Perception Survey on Teaching Effectiveness. Firstly, it is now common practice for us to speak with students and gain feedback from them with regard to their experiences in the classroom, whereas historically this was not the case. 

These surveys have also allowed us to make strategic and effective changes to our curriculum and pedagogy. The work of the PLCs in using the data has allowed us to look more closely at our instructional model of the gradual release of responsibility, especially in terms of our learning intentions and how we reflect on our success criteria at the end of each lesson. In terms of improving engagement for students we have modified our lesson planning to improve our use of “hooks” and small group work each lesson.

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