Product Review: observe4success

12/14/2012 By: Bob Sprankle

Product: observe4success (www.observe4success.com)

By Bob Sprankle

Retail Price: $1,200 per year, per school (volume discounts available)

observe4success is a Web-based observation/evaluation software tool, primarily geared for school administrators to assess teachers and staff. It is customizable to meet the user’s needs, making it possible to build a personalized assessment system. It operates equally well on any device that can access a Web browser.

Quality and Effectiveness
observe4success is all about simplicity, allowing those who have little or no familiarity with data collection software to start using it immediately with a clean and intuitive interface.

Ease of Use
Users can simply choose the templates that observe4success has already created, offering content that they’ve put together (based on educational research from 14+ researchers to create a comprehensive look at what is happening in all aspects of the classroom). These categories themselves can be further refined by clicking or un-clicking Categories or Subcategories that the user would like included in their own reports.

For instance, one Category already created by observe4success is “Classroom Environment.” Selecting that category leads tos additional subcategories that can also be selected:

  • Inviting And Orderly
  • Classroom Libraries
  • Word Wall
  • Expectations Posted And Enforced
  • Processes To Manage Materials And Resources

An administrator may decide to select several subcategories or all that are offered. Each selection has to be clicked, which with some Categories or Subcategories can be cumbersome. It would be helpful if there were a “select all” feature (for instance quickly turning on all the choices I listed above), and then de-selecting the one or two items you don’t want (for example, I could first “select all” and then “uncheck” the item “Word Wall” item, saving time).

Users can use the “canned” Categories offered by observe4success, create their very own Categories and Subcategories from scratch, or use a mixture of both.

Creative Use of Technology
Users have an unbelievable amount of choices in how they can collect their data. Forms could be short for “3 Minute Walkthroughs” or much “beefier” for longer observations. Data can be collected in a variety of ways: checkboxes, 3 through 7 point scales, dropdowns (filled in with your own criteria), and even a timer.

Users can have a variety of different forms and a variety of “observers.” I was pleased to see that observe4success had even supplied a “Peer Visitation Form,” allowing for colleagues to give feedback as well.

The real benefit from observe4success takes place when all the data have been collected, as there are a myriad of ways to aggregate and make meaning from the data. For instance, as an administrator, I could look at growth from an individual teacher over time, or I could look at an entire grade level’s growth that that teacher belongs to. Of course, this can extend to subject areas, complete schools, and even the entire district.

Suitability for Use in a School Environment
Clients of observe4success are given a wonderful live demo with a customer support representative in setting up your their own system. However, it would be nice to support this with video tutorials on each feature, for when users need re-teaching.

The greatest feature that observe4success offers is that you, the user, have complete control over editing, modifying, altering, or creating as many different types of forms as you’d like, with no additional fee because you have complete access to the creation of the forms. Many other companies would charge for your own individualized needs; observe4success doesn’t because they put you in charge of its creation.

Reports from all data collection can be exported and viewed in many different forms (graphs, .cvs files, scales, etc).

One feature that I'd love to see included is a way for those being observed to also be able to have input into the observation report. In other words, providing an area where the teacher could explain in writing exactly what was happening during a part of the lesson that perhaps the administrator might have misinterpreted. That would surely advance the goal of conversation for this product.

OVERALL RATING
Even though you’re given plenty of support and a live demo from observe4success, its power is in its simplicity and intuitive setup for anyone to quickly create a new observation form.

Top Features:

  • Works on any device that can connect to a browser on the Internet
  • All data is safely backed up at observe4success.
  •  Completely customizable for each district/school/administrator’s needs—especially important as we start to embrace Common Core Standards and STEM standards.
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