I recently participated in a halfday advisory board meeting in which Teach for America shared its new approach to coaching recruits. It was a treat to learn more about the Cultivate Survey, developed by my colleague Camille Farrington who manages the UChicago Consortium on School Research.  Camille is currently adapting the survey for use by TFA coaches to use with new corps members. 

The Cultivate Survey is an innovative way to gauge variation in how students experience their classroom learning conditions and, equally important, demonstrate how those conditions shape their mindsets, motivation, and use of learning strategies. The survey takes 15-20 minutes to complete and is taken by middle and high school students twice a year. Rather than being asked general questions about their school experiences, students are randomly assigned to respond to questions about one of their classes each year (e.g., math or ELA). This unique approach generates data that can be used to prioritize efforts to fine tune learning conditions by subject area and by grade-level.

Even more important, the survey validates what every student knows – learning conditions really matter. Farrington says this well: Farrington says this well:  

Students’ classroom experiences shape not only their academic learning— 
but also their beliefs about 
what kind of person they are, 
what they are capable of, 
what kind of place school is, 
how people feel about them in school, 
what kind of world they live in, 
 whether it’s a place that is kind and fair, or brutal and indifferent. 
All of these beliefs are being shaped every minute, every day, in every classroom—and as you can clearly imagine, they have a powerful influence in the course of a young person’s life, well beyond school. 

We talk a lot about student voice. But surveys like Cultivate give every student a common opportunity to use shared language to describe a specific experience in a way that helps them see the dynamic connections between teaching and learning. We should all applaud UCCSR’s commitment to not only partner with Teach for America but also collaborate with the Project for Education Research That Scales (PERT) to align companion tools* to provide progress monitoring data to individual teachers. I am eager to follow how the data produced from the multiple uses of Cultivate will help shape more transformative learning experiences for young people.  

*PERT and UCCSR collaborated to align the conditions for learning in Cultivate with those in Elevate, PERT’s professional learning program for individual teachers.

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