Guest-authored by Alma Rodriguez, Ed.D., Dean of the College of Education and P-16 Integration at The University of Texas—Rio Grande Valley 

Many teacher preparation programs are looking for more efficient ways to use data to make informed decisions about program improvement and to prepare quality teachers. After exploring building our own dashboards in-house, we in The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) College of Education and P-16 Integration (CEP) have found the perfect avenue to make data accessible to our faculty to inform their practice: The Ed-Fi Teacher Preparation Data Model (TPDM). UTRGV is an early adopter of the TPDM and is almost ready to launch CEP Teacher Preparation Dashboards. The TPDM initiative supports all three of the major goals we have for our program: quality, a culture of inquiry, and positionality. Being early adopters of the TPDM has positioned our college at the forefront of data use.

Encouraging a Culture of Inquiry

We have been working for four years to develop a culture of inquiry among our faculty. We want our faculty to ask important questions about their practice, our student performance, and how to achieve quality and positionality for our program. Data is essential to answer those questions.

Teacher in the classroom with young students

We don’t want our faculty to make decisions solely based on anecdotal information—which is the case for most teacher preparation programs in the country—and we don’t want our faculty to operate under a culture of compliance where we only focus on minimum standards and checking off boxes for accountability and accreditation purposes.

Instead, we want our faculty to focus on the continuous improvement of our programs in authentic ways that explore how to prepare better teachers who are better prepared on day one. We see the Ed-Fi TPDM as the perfect tool to facilitate this process. When our faculty make the necessary revisions for continuous improvement, always informed by student performance, the quality of our program will be enhanced.

How We Got Started 

We started working with UPD Consulting in 2017 when they conducted a scoping project to determine our challenges and opportunities in data use and management. UPD has helped us with the development of the Teacher Prep Data Model.

Our primary TPDM goals are:

  • To track our graduates from admission, through our teacher preparation program to completion, and then on to their initial year of teaching
  • To integrate data from our multiple systems into a single Operation Data Store
  • To create dashboards that will allow our faculty to access rich data when making decisions

In order to follow our graduates once they’re hired as teachers of record, we have established data-sharing agreements with partner school districts. In doing so, the TPDM has been a vehicle to strengthen our partnerships.

Our Vision for a Data-Driven Program

Last fall at our annual Data Summit, our faculty got a preview of what the TPDM dashboards will be able to do and they were excited about the possibilities. Our vision is to use the dashboards both broadly and in focused ways.

To continue gathering feedback, we also look forward to establishing regular deep dives into data in more focused, program-specific meetings led by program coordinators and department chairs. Ultimately, we want our program coordinators and chairs to use the dashboards regularly to conduct their business in data-informed ways. And our program coordinators will be able to assess student learning outcomes with more ease.

Adult student holding laptop

TPDM Lessons Learned

The building of the TPDM has not come without challenges. Navigating multiple complex data systems and ensuring the data flows smoothly into the ODS is a huge task. Therefore, the collaboration of the UTRGV IT Enterprise has been essential to allow UPD to navigate our systems. One of the UTRGV Associate CIOs sits on our weekly steering committee meetings and addresses challenges as they arise.

Knowledge transfer sessions are also key to build capacity among our IT colleagues so they can update the dashboards when necessary. Communication between the college systems analyst, UPD, and our IT staff is essential. They speak a common language, yet they each bring different knowledge to the table to complete the puzzle.

College and institutional leadership is another key component for the successful building of the TPDM. The Dean and the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs share the same vision and can, therefore, leverage resources at both the college and institutional levels. Overall, flexible thinking is needed to modify timelines and processes as challenges arise.

Next Steps for our TPDM Work

As our dashboards are close to being ready for widespread faculty use, we are already planning next steps. One of our next projects will be to develop college data governance processes in alignment with the institutional data governance protocols. We are also planning the establishment of data use processes.

To promote data use, we have identified TPDM experts—chairs and associate deans—who will train and model the use of the dashboards for the faculty. Once our dashboards are ready and being used, we plan to request feedback from dashboard users so that we can address any issues they may encounter. We want to identify which dashboards are most useful to users, and why. In sum, we plan to build genuine opportunities for our faculty to use data to answer important questions, thus promoting a culture of inquiry at UTRGV.

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