Using TES Teach in the “Lean” Classroom

By Gabe Baker, Content team

Startup philosophies aren’t just for techies anymore. Skilled teachers around the globe are applying a startup mentality to their classrooms: build something fast, gather feedback from students, refine, and repeat. You don’t need to have read the book that started it all: The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, to try the same approach in your own classroom. You can make your class a lean, mean, learning machine with our tool TES Teach, which provides teachers and students a way to create interactive, digital lessons for the classroom.

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Before getting into the finer points of TES Teach, let’s delve into Ries’ original methodology. The Lean Startup took the entrepreneurial world by force when it was published in 2011. One of its core principles is the “Build-Measure-Learn” loop, a process in which a startup forms a hypothesis, measures its impact on users, and learns from the results to iterate accordingly and build anew. By using the build-measure-learn loop, startups can quickly determine how to generate value for their users without wasting precious resources and time on ideas based on guesswork, as opposed to ideas based on meaningful user feedback. In the education sphere, teachers can adapt this loop for their classrooms. In fact, it’s been happening for quite some time under the name of “iterative education” or “outcome-based curriculum design;” it seems like startups actually have a lot to learn from the education world!

Want to see how you can use TES Teach to support “lean” startup principles and your own “build-measure-learn” loop? Here are some steps.

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Before you build

Before you build, you should have a hypothesis. To keep things simple and your lesson focused, this hypothesis could be along the lines of: “If students go through my TES Teach lesson, they’ll be able to _______.”  

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Build your first TES Teach lesson

Hypothesis in hand, it’s time to build. For a primer on building a lesson, check out this quick guide or this more detailed one.  Under the “lean” philosophy, you shouldn’t spend too much time creating your first lesson on TES Teach. What you want in the end is what Ries and startups everywhere call the MVP “minimum viable product,” which for our purposes is a bare bones version of your lesson that’s still substantial enough for you to begin collecting meaningful data from students. This way, you can begin measuring, learning, and iterating ASAP, and you won’t waste an inordinate amount of time constructing a lesson that turns out to be ineffective. Once you have your minimum viable lesson, it’s time to deploy it and to begin the “measure” phase.

Measure your results

When Reis describes this “measure” phase, he emphasizes actionable metrics as opposed to vanity metrics. The things that you measure and the questions you ask should be clearly linked to your original hypothesis. Measuring other things, although they might be useful or interesting, won’t help you refine your lesson in pursuit of your educational goals.

Use the embedded multiple choice quizzes in TES Teach to measure your hypothesis, and for short answer or essay questions, simply type in your questions through the text input, or put them in a document and upload the document. When it comes to multiple choice questions, keep in mind that not every question has to revolve around getting your students to show that they know certain facts. You might simply ask, “Was the item you just viewed in this lesson helpful to you?” The available answers might be “Yes,” “No,” or “Sort of.” The data gathered from that question could be quite helpful as you go through the next phase. Students may also demonstrate their understanding to you by creating a TES Teach lesson of their own!

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Learn

Once your students have gone through your Minimum Viable Lesson, and you’ve gathered data, you’ve entered the “Learn” phase. If you’re measuring the right things, you’ll be able to see if your original hypothesis was true.

As is usually the case, your lesson may have worked for some students but not for others, and it’s worth exploring why. Perhaps it didn’t work at all, and that’s okay! Based on the data you’ve gathered, it’s time now to refine your TES Teach lesson, to “rebuild” and iterate so that your hypothesis holds true for more students. You can easily edit your lesson with the editor.

You may want to “A/B test,” startup terminology for offering different versions of the same product (in our case, lesson) to different students or classes to see which is more effective. TES Teach makes “A/B testing” easy, because you can create a copy of an existing lesson with a click of a button and then begin modifying it. Perhaps you’d like to see if having more Youtube videos in the lesson makes it more effective, or if including some resources from TES Resources was helpful. Maybe you discovered that you weren’t asking the right questions, and you need to modify accordingly. Once you’ve rebuilt, it’s time to re-enter the “Learn” phase, and so the cycle continues. After a few cycles, you’ll find that your TES Teach lesson has gotten increasingly more effective, as it’s been informed by meaningful data from students.

Conclusion

There you have it. TES Teach can be a great tool for implementing the “build-measure-learn” loop, since it allows you to quickly create a lesson with a number of easily-modifiable components. In contrast to the startup world, what’s at stake in this context isn’t product sales or more users, it’s the education of our students. So stay lean, teachers! It puts students at the center of your curriculum design, encourages you to to reflect and improve, and allows you to quickly learn from failures in pursuit of educational success. We think TES Teach can help you do it.

Do you have other questions about TES Teach specifically, or EdTech generally? Find me on Twitter at @gabrieljbaker and I’d be happy to chat.