… an art of teaching is seeing the commonality in diversity, in having peers work together, especially when they bring different talents, errors, interests, and disposition to the situation, and understanding that differentiation relates more to the phases of learning – from novice, through capable, to proficient – rather than merely providing different activities to different (groups of) students. (Hattie, 2012)
Teacher Leadership Standard 10: Understand Effective Use of Research Based Instructional Practices, was met during my completion of two action research courses with a focus on the school setting.
I have taught for a number of years so I have quite a variety of instructional strategies to draw from. However, I quickly learned that I was stuck in a rut and using the same strategies over and over. During our Survey of Instructional Strategies (EDU 6526) course I learned several new strategies I had never heard of as well as pulling out some that I had not used in some time. Meeting this standard not only changed how I teach in my own classroom, but also how I approach the professional development that I lead as a teacher leader in my building.
Embarking on my first action research project was daunting. The time of year, the demands in our classroom and the demands of a full graduate school workload loomed over my head. At first I was going to approach my 3rd grade team with the proposal to use advance organizers in our math lessons. Yet, I felt the need to share the knowledge and “tune up” that I have experienced in my practice through this class with my colleagues. Bonnie Green, a fellow cohort member and teacher at Lakeview, approached me with an idea of doing the action research project together and using our staff as the “students”. She too felt the urgency to share our knowledge with our staff and I jumped at the chance to collaborate with her. The following is our journey in this project.
In Stage 1, we started with identifying the problem we saw in our school and wrote our inquiry question. We knew that the teaching staff in our building is very talented, but our school climate is currently in a state of healing. In recent school years, morale was low among teachers. The atmosphere in the building was more competitive than collaborative. In addition, our school was assigned an ELL program, causing a quickly changing demographic in our student population. This resulted in teacher anxiety over best practices for serving ELL students. We decided to approach our principal with our idea and request feedback. She shared our vision and felt that a professional development workshop around this learning would be beneficial to the staff. She offered us staff meeting time to introduce the concept. We decided to use that time to administer a “pre-teaching” survey. Our inquiry question was: What impact will teaching colleagues instructional strategies have on their level of comfort in implementing these effective strategies in their classroom?
Stage 2 was focused on data collection and research. We surveyed the staff on their “comfort level” on four instructional strategies: Synectics, Non-Linguistic, Cooperative Learning, and Advance Organizers. In addition, we asked for further clarification as to a student sub-group they would like strategies for. We offered them the following choices, Level 4 students, ELL, Safety Net and IEP’d students. Following that survey we analyzed the data gathered and designed a workshop model interactive presentation based on the data and the identified needs and desires of our staff. The lowest level of comfort was in Synectics. The next areas were Non-Linguistic and Advance Organizers which had similar numbers. The group which teachers wanted us to provide specific strategies for was the ELL students. We were very purposeful to have the presentation include a high participation by all members. They were not an audience, but a member of a collaborative group. On the May LEAP day we taught the workshop on multiple learning strategies by guiding participants through various activities utilizing the strategies we were teaching about. Anticipation_Guide_for_Advance_Organizer_and_Activating_schemaHere is the presentation Prezi we used – http://prezi.com/vixndwhqeyxr/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share
At the conclusion of the workshop we conducted a post survey and gathered closing data. Following that, we requested feedback on the presentation from participants.
During Stage 3, we used that data and feedback to formulate our conclusion and guide recommendations and next steps. We saw a significant increase in the comfort level teachers felt in using these instructional strategies. In addition, the feedback showed that teachers wanted more teacher led professional development in the future. Many referenced the positive and collaborative atmosphere of the workshop and expressed a great desire to participate in that type of work again. This evidence led us to the conclusion that teaching colleagues about instructional strategies in a collaborative format had a positive growth impact on their comfort level, and therefore, their implementation of these strategies in their classrooms. Action Reseach Final
After many hours of work, I feel that this was a very productive use of time. Bonnie and I both learned and grew from this experience. Our staff was energized and provided with many tools they could implement immediately. The feedback was hugely positive and many asked for more workshops such as this and follow ups in the fall. I am hoping we can honor that request and create that natural “next step”. Above all, the opportunity for our staff to “toot their own horn”, collaborate, and share successes, brought positive morale back to our staff and enabled us collaborate without competition in a way we haven’t been able to in a very long time. We left with smiles on our faces and a renewed passion for our craft. I am excited for our next steps and continuing to build on this work in the future.
In my future work as a building administrator, I see using these instructional strategies to be key in designing and leading staff meetings and professional development. Good teachers can spot good teaching immediately. Using research based instructional practices to aid in their learning will both earn their respect and attention and will also provide training on strategies they can bring back to their classrooms. This experience of teaching and using these strategies with my peers taught me that good teaching transcends age and does not only occur within the confines of the classroom.
Anderson, Steven. “Four Box Synectics – Stokes County Schools Strategies For Student Engagement.” Four Box Synectics – Stokes County Schools Strategies For Student Engagement. Stokes County Schools. Web. 16 May 2014.
Couch, Richard (1993). Synectics and Imagery: Developing Creative Thinking Through Images. In: Art, Science & Visual Literacy: Selected Readings from the Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association (24th, Pittsburgh, PA. September 30 – October 4, 1992). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 363 330)
Dean, Ceri B., Elizabeth Ross, Howard Pitler, and Bj Stone. Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2012. Print.
Dubas, Justin, and Santiago Toledo. “Using Marzano’s Taxonomy To Enhance Feedback Strategies For Students And Faculty.” Texas Lutheran University (2012): n. pag. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <http://bul.sagepub.com/>.
Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.
How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2008. Print.
Sagor, R. (2011). The Action Research Guidebook: A Four-Stage Process for Educators and School Teams (2nd Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California, United States of America: Corwin.