Visualize This: Teacher Negotiations

For this week’s post I wanted to focus on the insight visualizations can bring to teacher negotiations and staff engagements.

Because each staff member is able to share his or her thoughts, in his or her own words, the individual thoughts collected in a Thoughtexchange represent the unfiltered voice of a district’s workforce.

Once staff assign value to the thoughts that resonate most, and the thoughts are organized into themes, a road map of their priorities and viable courses of action emerge. Data visualizations make it easier to spot where attention is needed by revealing additional patterns, trends and correlations.

In the case of teacher negotiations, data visualizations can provide fast insight into where tension exists between staff and administration and what issues everyone can agree on. They can also reveal drivers for satisfaction, and conversely dissatisfaction, as well as point to where solutions can be found.

Getting the lay of the land

Understanding how all of the groups at the negotiating table feel about the issues being discussed is critical to keeping discussions productive. Our heat map visualization provides this information at a glance. It can be customized to show the groups that are important for your district, and in this case, compares how teachers, professional and administrative staff feel about each of the topics being discussed.


The areas in red represent concern or dissatisfaction, the green areas represent appreciation, and blue represents mixed sentiments. The darker the color, the stronger the sentiment.

Looking at this example, we can quickly see that Teacher and Staff Workload and Funding and Budget are a concern for all groups, but much more so for teachers and professional staff.

Why is there a difference of opinion? What factors are contributing to it? Looking at the individual thoughts under these themes can provide answers and reveal the courses of action that should be taken.

Getting to the root of concerns

Clicking Teacher Staff Workload lets us see the individual thoughts that express concerns about this issue. Again, the areas in the darkest red represent the strongest concerns.


Thought 524 (T524) and Thought 634 (T634) stand out as areas of high concern. Clicking on each will reveal the thought that was shared.

Sometimes there are too many demands being made on teachers.

-Thought 524, provided by a teacher, supported by 19 people and assigned 58 stars

Expectations. Meetings and extra duties were excessive. The focus is not on the students any longer.

-Thought 634, provided by a teacher, supported by 17 people and assigned 54 stars

These thoughts reveal that the workload concerns are related to the administrative demands outside of the classroom. Addressing this specific pain point will make teachers and staff feel heard, which builds trust it in the negotiations process. It will also save time by keeping the discussion focused on the issues that could make the largest impact on the outcome of the process.

Identifying causes of satisfaction

As part of the analysis we offer, our team was able to find a mathematical correlation between participants’ thoughts about communication and their satisfaction with the district overall. In other words, staff members who were happy with communication were more likely to be satisfied with the district overall. This suggests that communication is a possible driver of satisfaction.

Clicking on the Differences Between Satisfaction view in the heatmap’s Quick Links reveals the themes affecting satisfaction. Clicking on the Communication theme reveals the thoughts that connect communication with satisfaction. The individual thoughts in this theme will suggest possible courses of action.

Most district personnel is willing to listen. If teachers have a question, most district personnel listen to their question/request and provide support if possible.

– Actual thought provided by a teacher, supported by 15 people, assigned 51 stars

This appreciative thought suggests that when possible, communication with the district works well.

Confusion. We are often given conflicting information depending on who we ask or when we ask.

– Actual thought provided by a teacher, supported by 16 people, assigned 61 stars

No Connection. This is a large district, in the past it was easy to get questions answered and concerns voiced about curriculum. Teachers were also able to ask for help, resources and thoughts from IST that were directly paired to those in curriculum. It’s no longer possible. ISTs helped teachers to feel supported

– Actual thought provided by a teacher, supported by 15 people, assigned 57 stars

These concerned thoughts reveal that availability and consistency of message are two ways that otherwise effective communication channels are breaking down.

Much like addressing the workload concerns above, addressing these specific aspects of district communication can bolster satisfaction and build trust.

What negotiation strategies have been useful for your district? Have similar concerns arisen with your staff, and if so, what solutions proved most effective?

About the Author

Natalie Michelson

Natalie is our Director of Research & Analysis and has a background in analytics and process design and a degree in economics from Pomona College in California. She has a passion for innovation, people and new technology and spends most of her time finding new ways to simplify and share stakeholder insights from educational communities across North America. A happy Vancouverite, Natalie plays recreational volleyball, ultimate frisbee and softball and loves any activity involving the ocean or mountains.

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