NOTE — National Observational Teaching Exam


On-screen: [ETS® NOTE. ETS® National Observational Teaching Exam.]

Speaker: Deborah Ball: Director, TeachingWorks

Speaker: Deborah Ball – We’re talking about massive change in the way we prepare teachers, and what we look for before we let someone begin teaching.

Speaker: Stephen Lazer: SVP, Student and Teacher Assessments, ETS®

On-screen: [(Photos of teacher and students).]

Speaker: Stephen Lazer – What we’re trying to do with NOTE is change the nature of the examinations that are used to determine whether the graduates of teacher preparation programs can actually teach.

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon: Director, Product Management, ETS®

On-screen: [(Photo of teacher working on her computer).]

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon – Traditionally we ask teachers to tell us what they know. With NOTE we’re asking them to show us what they know. And it represents real progress in the field of teacher licensure certification.

On-screen: [ETS® NOTE. A Better Way to Identify Teachers Who Are Ready to Teach.]

On-screen: [Video of Student Drivers on driving course.]

Speaker: Stephen Lazer – Governments give out licenses that allows you to do certain activities. So for example, we license drivers. But unlike the way we license drivers, showing that you can actually teach has not really been an explicit part of teacher testing.

On-screen: [Illustration of children working at their classroom table; Teacher recording notes on a notebook while watching the children on her computer monitor.]

Now with new technologies that allow us to build simulations, we can actually make this part of what we test people on to give them a teacher’s license.

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon – NOTE is based on simulation technology. We think it represents a real opportunity for assessments to assess in more real-life scenarios and contexts.

On-screen: [Teacher recording notes on a notebook while watching the virtual students on her computer monitor.]

For NOTE, we ask teachers to sit in front of a computer, in front of a virtual classroom, and give an on-demand performance of their teaching ability.

On-screen: [Illustration of virtual students working at their classroom table. They are raising their hands to answer questions.]

Speaker: Teacher – What did you get?

Speaker: Child – Um, I said three plus seven.

Speaker: Teacher – Three plus, now wait, is that a full sentence?

Speaker: Child – Mmm, mm. You need three plus seven equals ten.

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon – The students themselves, they’re avatar students. They are virtual representations of real students, where teachers can interact and talk to them. So it gives a very real-life, lifelike experience for teacher candidates.

On-screen: [Teacher recording notes on a notebook while watching the virtual students on her computer monitor.]

Speaker: Teacher – Okay class, so I want you to do is to take out your pens …

Speaker: Deborah Ball – What startled me as a person who has taught for a long time is that interacting with these avatars feels and sounds and is so much like talking to real children. It’s all very strange if you’ve never seen it before but it’s brilliant, because the assessment really permits us to see how candidates respond to the kinds of things that come up.

On-screen: [Teacher talking to virtual students on her computer monitor.]

Speaker: Teacher – Yes you can.

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon – We work very closely with TeachingWorks to develop tasks, to develop rubrics, and to make sure everything’s working correctly. The NOTE assessment is based on three High Leverage Practices.

On-screen: [TeachingWorks, University of Michigan. High-Leverage Practices. The heart of the TeachingWorks strategy is to ensure that all teachers have the training necessary for responsible teaching. We focus on a core set of fundamental capabilities that we call “high-leverage practices.” High-leverage practices are the basic fundamentals of teaching. These practices are used constantly and are critical to helping students learn important content. The high-leverage practices are also central to supporting students’ social and emotional development. These high-leverage practices are used across subject areas, grade levels, and contexts. They are “high-leverage” not only because they matter to student learning but because they are basic for advancing skill in teaching. 1. Leading a group discussion. 2. Explaining and modeling content, practices, and strategies. 3. Eliciting and interpreting individual students’ thinking. 4. Diagnosing particular common patterns of student thinking and development in a subject-matter domain. 5. Implementing norms and routines for classroom discourse and work. 6. Coordinating and adjusting instruction during a lesson. 7. Specifying and reinforcing productive student behavior. 8. Implementing organizational routines. 9. Setting up and managing small group work. 10. Building respectful relationships with students. Etc.]

Speaker: Deborah Ball – High Leverage Practices are very frequent, common tasks of teaching. And it’s called ‘high leverage’ because when you do it well as a teacher, it has direct results for children’s learning. NOTE is a sample of the high leverage practices. And we chose ones that were so crucial that we wanted to make sure they were on a licensure assessment. So the Explaining Core Content assessment is actually staged in such a way that we can see the candidate’s ability to talk in a way that children can understand and that the content is actually accurate, understandable.

On-screen: [Modeling and Explaining Content. (Teacher with virtual students in classroom.)]

On-screen: [Leading Classroom Discussion.]

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon –  For Leading Classroom Discussion, it’s a five-student classroom and they’re asked to lead a discussion about a topic either in math or ELA.

On-screen: [Elicit Student Thinking.]

Speaker: Deborah Ball – And the third one had to do with being able to elicit and interpret students’ thinking. You almost can’t think of a more central practice of teaching than the ability to get a child to talk to you about his or her ideas and be able to figure out what to do next.

Speaker: Teacher – And did you get any other, um, number sentences?

On-screen: [Child in classroom.]

Speaker: Child – Oh yeah, um. I took eight plus two …

Speaker: Stephen Lazer – TeachingWorks brought with it deep knowledge of these High Leverage Teaching Practices on which the simulations are based. What we bring to the table, I think, is deep knowledge of how assessments work, and how you might turn new technologies such as simulated classrooms into assessments of these key practices. Simulations give you several advantages over putting people in a classroom. Simulation lets you have variety.

On-screen: [Teacher with headphones on.]

It lets you take five or six fairly short tasks and ask prospective teachers to show you they can actually implement the specific practices that are key to teaching, and can work with the specific content.

On-screen: [Virtual students in classroom raising their hands.]

Second, simulation gives us the opportunity for greater fairness. All of our test-takers will face the same sorts of environments, will face students with similar reactions, and will get a measure that really gives us an opportunity to fairly compare everybody against the standard.

On-screen: [Photo of a school.]

On-screen: [Teachers teaching their virtual students in a classroom.]

Speaker: Deborah Ball – The United States has always had a very high turnover in the teaching population. But that problem has become more dramatic in the last 20 to 30 years. And so therefore, there is a group of us around the country who are really concerned that they be able to do a set of really core things that are central to their work at good enough levels of skill right at the beginning.

On-screen: [Teaching monitoring virtual students on her computer monitor.]

Speaker: Stephen Lazer – We’ve been in the teacher licensure business since our foundation in 1947. This will be the most revolutionary change in teacher licensure, in my opinion, since the first use of standardized testing as part of teacher licensure.

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon – It’s a real step in the right direction. I think it gives people an opportunity to show the things that they know and that they can do.

Speaker: Deborah Ball – And that was the innovation with NOTE, is to assess candidates’ actual ability to be solid first-year teachers.


On-screen: [Teachers working with students.]

Speaker: Edmund Wyatt Gordon –The hope of the NOTE team is that we are able to facilitate having great teachers in every classroom.

Speaker: Deborah Ball – Teaching really matters for the life chances of children. And therefore the decision about whether they’re ready to have classrooms full of children matters a lot for the future of the country.

Speaker: Stephen Lazer – This is a way to make sure that anybody you let into a classroom will be ready to teach on their first day of school.


On-screen: [ETS® NOTE. ETS® National Observational Teaching Exam.]

End of NOTE – National Observational Teaching Exam video.

Video duration: 05:53