Leadership in Education

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Course Description:

This course is an exploration of the administrative process, role of leadership, theories related to administration and leadership, and an examination of the basic principles of leadership, work motivation, decision-making, and communication. In addition, the course examines the principles of school culture that influence student achievement.

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Washington Principal Leadership Standard 1

Visionary Leadership: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by leading the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by school/program and community stakeholders.

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Strand 1 – Advancing a school- or program-wide shared vision for learning. Residency

Articulate purposes and rationale for a site-specific vision for learning consistent with the district-wide vision. Demonstrate how schools develop an inclusive shared vision that promotes success for each student.

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Strand 2 – Putting the vision for learning into operation. Residency

Identify objectives and strategies to implement a school vision. Analyze how systems are affected by a shared vision and suggests changes to an existing system. Demonstrate ability to develop school improvement plans that align structures, processes, and resources with a vision.

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Strand 3 – Developing stewardship of the vision. Residency

Demonstrate understanding of the leader’s role as keeper of the vision while establishing a means to involve stakeholders in keeping the vision. Evaluate how the vision serves the needs of students, staff and community. Demonstrate understanding of how to use the vision to facilitate effective communication, nurture and maintain trust, develop collaboration among stakeholders and celebrate efforts and achievement of the vision.

Washington Principal Leadership Standard 5

Ethical Leadership: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.

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Strand 1 – Using the continuous cycle of analysis for self-assessment of professional leadership Residency

Understand and exemplify the standards, responsibilities, and indicators for the principal’s role in a democratic school. Create a professional growth plan, identifies needed growth, plans professional growth activities, and gathers evidence to document that professional growth leads to school improvement and increased student learning. Engage in self-analysis of own values, behaviors, and dispositions, including awareness of own ethnicity/culture as it relates to others.

 


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Course Goals:

The goal of this course is to give those leading and working in Washington Public Schools the ability to:

Competence (Knowledge)

  1. Demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed to be effective leaders and administrators (Standard 1,3)
  2. Actively explore and reflect upon the nature of leadership, collaboration and inclusion, and empowerment in school settings. Understand the expectations the public holds for school leaders (Standard 1,2)
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with the ISLLC Standards for School Leaders, the Washington Principal Leadership Standards and their indicators (Standard 1)
  4. Be able to draft a Visionary Leadership Analysis (VLA) of their own school (Standard 1,5)
  5. Be able to draft a Reflection on Leadership Standards to critique and recommend areas and methods of improvement in their own leadership skills (Standard 1,5)
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of current research findings in educational leadership and analyze and reflect on implications for practice in their own school context (Standard 1,6)
  7. Demonstrate an understanding of contemporary issues affecting education. (Standard 6)
  8. Comprehend literature, research, and theory associated with organizational climate, particularly as it is manifested in schools (Standard 1,2)
  9. Understand research and scholarship on school culture and its relationship with meaningful school vision, values, and goals (Standard 1,2)

Leadership (Application of Knowledge)

  1. Involve and empower stakeholders to articulate and accomplish the mission and vision of a school community (Standard 1,4)
  2. Assess their own leadership style and articulate their own professional philosophy about education and school leadership (Standard 1,5)
  3. Identify characteristics of and designs strategies for a collaborative work environment within the school (Standard 1,2)
  4. Analyze data gained from multiple stakeholders to diagnose and evaluate the development, implementation, and sustainability of a vision (Standard 1,2)
  5. Utilize data gained from multiple stakeholders  to identify perceptions of the work environment (Standard 1,2, 4)
  6. Demonstrate leadership dispositions that convey a missions-focused perspective of school leadership aimed at leading schools to a culture that respects and cultivates the spiritual dimension of humanity exemplified by care, reconciliation, character development, openness, mutual respect, trust, and freedom to learn. (Standard 4,5)

Dispositions (Character)

In addition to gaining Knowledge and Applied Knowledge the student should demonstrate leadership dispositions related to each standard as follows:

In addition to gaining Knowledge and Applied Knowledge the student should demonstrate leadership dispositions related to each standard as follows:

Dispositions for WPL Standard 1: The candidate’s required course product (VLA) should provide an opportunity to demonstrate and discuss the following dispositions:

16. the educability of all students;

17. high standards of learning;

18. continuous school improvement;

19. culturally responsive programs and leadership;

20. ensuring students’ success;

21. willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices.

 

Dispositions for WPL Standard 5: The candidate’s required course product (VLA) should provide an opportunity to demonstrate and discuss the following dispositions:

 

  1. the right of every student to a free, quality education;
  2. bringing ethical principles to the decision-making process;
  3. subordinating one’s own interest to the good of the school community;
  4. accepting the consequences for upholding one’s principles and actions;
  5. using the influence of one’s office constructively and productively in the service of all students and their families;
  6. development of a caring school community.

 

 


 

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Eight Keys to the Spiritual Dimension of Leadership

 

Throughout the Leadership in Education course, we were asked to reflect on the eight keys to the spiritual dimension of leadership. I really appreciated being able to learn more about spirituality in leadership and the morals and values of an effective leader. Nowhere else have these important characteristics been discussed and studied. Yet, they are so very critical to being a successful leader and human being.

 

Key 1: The Principle of Intention or Moral Purpose

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Before making a plan of action, it is important to think about what you want to happen. If we don’t have an underlying intention, we won’t have a guide in which to follow when making decisions. We won’t have a destination or end point in mind. If we don’t know where we are ultimately going, we can’t know the way to get there. We need to know ourselves and be clear about our own intentions and why we feel the way the we do. We need to ask ourselves…What are the underlying emotions or thoughts that are guiding my intentions? What is motivating me to have those intentions? In order to be effective leaders, our intentions should be focused on helping others. However, we can help ourselves in the process. Our intentions are sent out as energy into the Universe in a ripple effect, and touch more lives than we can ever know. “We all affect eternity by our thought patters, our words, and our deeds” (Houston, Blankstein, & Cole, 2008). This is a heavy load to bear! I never really thought that far out. I know that my actions and intentions affect others, but I hadn’t really considered the idea that they will affect eternity. When I really think it through, I see how this happens. I can affect one person and that may change how that person relates to another person. This pattern is continuous. We all make impacts on others and those impacts can change lives and future lives. As a Safety Net reading and math teacher, I need to think about my underlying intentions about my students. I know that they are struggling in either reading or math, but my assumptions are that all students can learn and achieve. If I keep this in mind while teaching and planning lessons, I will continue to have high expectations for my students and will creatively work toward meeting their needs. I will advocate for them and will involve other stakeholders, such as parents, in helping students achieve their goals. If I wasn’t consciously aware of my intentions, I might not expect as much out of my students.

Key 2: The Principle of Attention

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We are always telling our kids to “pay attention”. But what does it really mean? What does it mean to give something or someone your attention? “Attention is a way of focusing energy – your energy: mental, physical, and emotional (Houston, Blankstein, & Cole, 2008).” By focusing our energy and tuning out distractions, we make choices about what we are attending to. As a leader it is important to know what we want to focus our attention on based on our intentions and our plan of action. If we focus energy on things or people that will further our intentions, goals, and plans, we are on the right path. If we get distracted by everything that comes at us daily, we can get side-tracked easily. There is a very interesting study that was done on attention and focus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo I have shown this to my students and had them try it out. We then talked about attention. What you plan on focusing on is what you usually attend to. What you don’t plan on focusing on is hidden or tuned-out.

Key 3: The Principle of Unique Gifts and Talents

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Each of us has our own gifts and talents, which we need to uncover and cultivate. When I think about this, I think about a farmer with a field to plant. The farmer needs to research and learn about which crops will inherently grow better in the climate, location, and soil type that she has. Once she figures out which crops to plant, she needs to constantly be tending to and caring for the plants in order for them to maximize their growth and realize their true potential. We are like the farmer in this scenario, except instead of finding out which crops will do best in the environment that they will be grown in, we need to look inward to see what gifts and talents will grow the best within ourselves. Once we figure out what those are, we need to tend to them and continually help them along in their growth and development. As teachers, we help our students to find and cultivate their own gifts and talents. As administrators or teacher leaders, we help our colleagues to uncover, grow and celebrate their strengths. In order to find out what our gifts are, it is important to try new things and take on new challenges. If we don’t take the time to try new things, we may never uncover the hidden jewels that are our talents and our passions.

Key 4: The Principle of Gratitude:

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A couple of quotes from the book Spirituality in Educational Leadership resonated with me. “Have an attitude of gratitude.” “Gratitude creates plenitude.” These are good things to keep in mind and they are catchy sayings which helps us to remember them. Sometimes we get so busy with our own “stuff” that we forget to thank people who have helped us or have done something for us. We should take a few minutes to thank them. This small courtesy can really change someone’s life and/or feelings about them self. During my first year of teaching 3rd grade, I had a student who was very challenging and didn’t even want to be at school. I worked hard to make a connection and get to know this student better. The student came to have a growth mindset and loved coming to school. At the end of that first year of teaching, this student’s mom took the time to write a thank you letter to me and also sent it to my principal to let him know what a positive change she had seen in her daughter that school year. One of the things she said in the letter was… “The most dramatic change we see in M is her improved self-image. Her (I can’t) attitude has been transformed into one of (I can, if I try). M now talks about college, when just one year ago, she said she was going to quit school as soon as she could. Now she really enjoys going to school; looking forward to Mondays, rather than longing for Saturdays.” This letter has made such an impact on me. When I am having a hard day, I look back at that letter to remind myself of why I am a teacher and that I can do it! I remind myself that I am making an impact on my students. As an administrator, I think it is critical to take the time to thank teachers, parents, students, and community members for things they do to help. You never know what an impact it will have on them. I know that I am encouraged to do my best and exert extra effort when someone has appreciated what I have done.

 

Key Five: The Principle of Unique Life Lessons

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“One of the difficulties many people have when confronted with a problem is that they start stepping forward to meet it when often more progress may be made by stepping back” (Houston, 2008). Usually when I encounter a problem or a difficult situation, I try to figure out a solution right away. I want to get past it as soon as possible. However, I should take the time to look at the whole situation and see the big picture before I jump in to try to solve the problem. I try to look at problems or mistakes as learning experiences. Just as in growth mindset, mistakes “grow your brain” more than getting the correct answer right away. Mistakes, problems, and difficult situations are the things that help us grow as human beings. However, we usually try to stay out of those situations or avoid them because they are uncomfortable. I also try to keep a positive frame of reference when I’m in a difficult situation. It’s all how we perceive the problem as to how it will affect us.

 

Key 6: The Principle of Holistic Perspective

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There is a children’s picture book based on an old Indian folktale, called Seven Blind Mice. Here is an excerpt from the Amazon.com listing about the book which illustrates the sixth key principle. “It’s a pillar,” says one. “It’s a fan,” says another. One by one, the seven blind mice investigate the strange Something by the pond. And one by one, they come back with a different theory. It’s only when the seventh mouse goes out-and explores the whole Something-that the mice see the whole truth.” Each mouse only notices a part of the “whole thing” and doesn’t get the full picture. They are all very wrong in their assumptions about what the “thing” is. When one mouse finally explores the “whole thing”, they all finally know what it actually is.

As leaders, it is our job to be that final mouse who explores all the details to find the whole. That mouse went back and shared his findings with the other mice. We can share our findings as well. We can help others to see the whole picture, along with the details.

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I also really like a particular quote in our text for this key principle. “Enlightened leaders help others recognize not only that they are part of something larger than themselves, but also that every part is vital and important to the success of the whole.” We can look at our school staff as the “whole picture” and each person is an integral part to the whole. We all work collaboratively to create the whole.

 

Key 7: The Principle of Openness

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“Openness involves letting things in, especially things you don’t want to hear, and letting things out, as in openly speaking your truth, especially when it is not popular or good politics.” The recent presidential election in America has shown us that people are not as open as they hoped or claimed to be. Being open to only views that match your own is not truly being open. Being open is being able to listen to other perspectives and share your own in a civilized way. It does not mean you have to change your views. However, if we are open to listening and also to sharing our ideas, we might as a country come to an understanding of each other and be able to work together and get along. We might need to remember the saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We can think about how we might feel if we were the other person and ask ourselves the question of how we would want to be treated? This sounds like an easy thing to do, but I think the principle of openness is the hardest one to do in practice.

 

Key 8: The Principle of Trust

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“Trust that people are innately good and treat them accordingly.” (Houston et al., 2008, p. 32)

I think along with being a trustworthy person, we need to put our trust in others as well.

“The very act of trusting people unleashes a powerful force that empowers them and brings out the best in them.”  (Houston et al., 2008, p. 32)  Just as students will rise to the high standards we ask them to meet, so too will others rise to meet the challenge of our trust in their abilities. We have a choice in how we relate to others. We can have a trusting attitude, or we can micromanage and give others the feeling that we don’t trust them to follow through. As a leader, I will strive to be both trustworthy and trusting. “If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.” Mother Teresa

 

 


 

During this class, we also reflected on the six Washington State Leadership Standards and analyzed our strengths and weaknesses related to those standards based on managerial and personality assessments that we took. The following are summaries of the six standards and an action plan to achieve the standards.

 

Standard 1 – Visionary Leadership

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The first WSP standard focuses on visionary leadership. This standard moves from creating a shared vision, to implementing that vision. It concludes with continual evaluation, communication, and collaboration in order to follow through with and/or make adjustments to the shared vision. The foundation of this vision is the improvement of student learning and growth and success for all students. The school vision should be aligned with the district vision and should be co-developed and supported by the school and community stakeholders. The principal should be able to articulate this vision in order to increase understanding and support. The vision should be based on student data and research-based strategies of instruction. The vision must be constantly evaluated and adjusted by looking at student data, changing circumstances, cultural competence, and identification of barriers to success. Objectives and strategies to carry out this vision must be identified and analyzed and resources need to be addressed. Along with this process of the evaluation of effectiveness comes the giving and receiving of feedback to help guide further steps and plans. This evaluation should determine how the vision is meeting the needs of students, staff and the community. Along with making adjustments and creating shared responsibility, celebrating successes toward the progress of the vision is critically important.

Standard 2 – Instructional Improvement

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The second WSP standard focuses on instructional improvement. It emphasizes establishing and maintaining an effective school culture, improved student learning, and intentional professional development. Student learning and cultural perspectives and customs need to be taken into account when developing a School Improvement Plan. The principal should encourage collaboration between all stakeholders and should use a variety of strategies and systems to promote student success. Continuous learning should be the school mantra for both student and staff development and learning. Programs, systems, and technology should all be continuously analyzed to determine whether they are contributing to student growth. Staff should feel that everyone is on a team together to improve student learning and should participate in a continuous cycle of analysis, assessment, and collaboration to increase student growth. The principal should supervise instruction while continuing to hold the trust of the staff. The principal should also help staff to look at curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessments to align them with school, district, and state learning goals. A principal should keep in mind students’ language, cognitive, and cultural needs when looking at instruction and strategies. The WA teacher and principal evaluation criteria should be used to reflect on and analyze a principal’s own growth and needs, along with guiding teachers and staff to analyze and reflect on their own areas of success and areas of needed growth. A principal should help to determine the barriers to student growth and help to create plans for how to overcome them. Based on student learning and staff needs, a principal should help to collaboratively create a staff development plan and should work to build leadership capacity among stakeholders. Supervising, coaching, and helping to create a cycle of inquiry for student learning are all critical roles of the principal in order to ensure that the school is offering its students the   most effective teaching techniques and skills in order to advance their growth and learning.

Standard 3 – Effective Management

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The third WSP standard focuses on effective management. It emphasizes using a continuous cycle of evaluation and reflection to improve student learning by analyzing systems, management of the organization, operations, and resources, to ensure a safe, effective, and efficient learning environment. A principal should model, inspire, and collaborate with others in this continuous cycle of analysis. Organizational theory is the basis for the development of procedures and programs to promote safety, behavior management, equitable practices, and increased student learning. A principal should be aware of and comply with legal and ethical issues and bargaining agreements. The principal should maintain records and practice confidentiality of those records. Communication, collaboration, and feedback are all critical to the effective management of a school. It is also important to encourage shared responsibility of management operations. The principal needs to take into consideration how financial, human, material resources, and scheduling affect student learning and how to maximize these resources for the benefit of all students.

Standard 4 – Inclusive Practice

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The fourth WSP standard focuses on inclusive practices. It emphasizes collaboration with families, diverse communities, and mobilizing community resources to ensure equitable practices and achievement for all students. Family engagement positively affects student success. It is important to reach out to, include, and involve families and diverse populations in the support of students. We assume that all stakeholders have the best interests of students in mind and want students to learn and achieve. Culturally responsive techniques should be used when communicating with families and communities. Staff, families and stakeholders are all part of the school team and should regularly collaborate together and work to build positive relationships with each other.  The principal should make sure that students are taught about biases and stereotypes and are given the opportunity to interact with students who are different from themselves. This standard also includes mobilizing community resources and funds for student achievement.

Standard 5 – Ethical Leadership

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The fifth WSP standard is ethical leadership. It focuses on increasing student success through self-assessment of professional leadership and by being fair and ethical. The principal should create a professional growth plan which identifies strengths and areas for improvement, with plans for professional learning and assessment, in order to further student achievement. It is also important for a principal to analyze their own biases, values, and behaviors. One must lead based on high moral and ethical standards and stay within legal frameworks. Others must be treated with fairness, respect, dignity, and equity. The principal must acknowledge their own values and beliefs and use them to guide their actions and decisions. They must also serve as a role model for the highest standards of ethics, fairness, respect, and equity.

Standard 6 – Socio-Political Context

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The sixth WSP standard is socio-political context. This standard focuses on understanding and influencing local, state, and national policies as they relate to education, in order to improve learning and achievement. Schools have a responsibility to contribute to a democratic society and advocate for equitable services and funds to benefit all students and families. A principal should develop systems that value diversity and prepare students to live and participate in a democratic and global society.

Course of Action Plan

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The WSP standards document gives excellent ideas for growth for each of the six standards. In order to enhance my leadership skills, I would like to delve more into my school’s current continuous improvement plan in order to better understand the details of my school’s vision and goals. I also plan to continue to participate in my PLC group within my school to further my skills in the cycle of continuous improvement through analyzing student data, creating formative assessments, collaborating to come up with effective strategies and systems, and reflecting and making adjustments on those as we analyze student data. I plan to lead parts of staff meetings and staff developments in order to practice working with groups of adults. I also think it would be very beneficial to observe or talk with staff from different schools to get a wider perspective on effective administrative practices.

 

I would like to be on a hiring team for prospective staff members so that I can learn more about the process of hiring the most effective people. I would like to go on more learning walks around both my own school and in classrooms at other schools to see different teachers, strategies and systems in action. I would like to attend budget meetings with my principal and office manager to learn more about the effective use of school resources and the challenging decision making process when it comes to how to allocate school funds equitably. I recently researched school discipline theories and systems, but would like to learn more about best practices in the area of school-wide and differentiated discipline. I need to delve more deeply into my own teacher contract in order to understand the language of the contract so that as an administrator, I will have a foundation of knowledge in this area.

 

In order to build up my experience in working with families and community members, I would like to attend a school board meeting and become more involved in the school PTSA program. I would like to look into community opportunities and funding sources or grants to benefit our students.

 

Through doing all of these things, I feel that I will be able to learn more about the role of school leadership and will be helping myself to learn about and internalize these six WSP standards. I will also be learning more about myself, my values, leadership, and management styles and will be working to create my theory of action on which to base all of my future decisions as a school administrator.

 

 

 


 

During this class I worked on two large projects to help me to build my leadership skills. One of them was an annotated bibliography on discipline issues and approaches. The other was a Visionary Leadership Analysis (VLA) in which I analyzed my current school’s visioning and decision making processes and based on school data, reflected on the effectiveness of the school in meeting its goals and realizing its vision through collaboration and communication.

 

Annotated Bibliography: Discipline Issues and Approaches

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Through the articles that I read and the research that I studied related to discipline in schools, I have come to some conclusions regarding effective discipline models and strategies. According to Fenning et al. (2008) 72.5% of administrators surveyed felt that discipline issues were an increasing component of their jobs. Discipline is something that every school and every individual teacher must contemplate and determine which system and strategies they will use. “The important realization is that there is not one perfect discipline approach. Teachers must discover what works best for themselves, their students, and their specific situations” (Morris, 1996, p. 12). That being said, teachers and administrators need the tools and knowledge about research based discipline strategies in which to choose from. Alsubaie (2015) states that teachers should take courses on effective, research based discipline strategies.

Morris (1996) states that discipline fits into two broad categories, reactive and proactive. Reactive discipline is punishment without instruction and often includes exclusionary methods. Proactive discipline is when a plan is in place for how to deal with behavior issues before they arise and has a teaching element to it. Morris (1996) states that the majority of research that he studied showed that the proactive approach to discipline is more effective than the reactive form. However, the reactive approach seems to be much more common in schools. Fenning et al. (2008) conducted a research study on high school codes of conduct handbooks and found that suspension and expulsion were the most common consequences for all types of behavior, including mild behaviors. Proactive discipline consequences only occurred 10% of the time in the codes of conduct. Lewis and Burman (2008) surveyed teachers to find out what management style they preferred to use, based on the three categories of Control (teachers in charge), Management (teachers organize students to make decisions), and Influence (student voice is equal to the teacher’s voice). They found that overall, teachers would like to have more student input in classroom discipline decision making. More teachers chose the Management and Influence styles over Control. However, they found that there were many roadblocks to including more student voice. These roadblocks include the following: too many things to do, class size, classroom size/layout, and a lack of administrator support.

A variety of different discipline systems and strategies were covered within my research including behavior modification/assertive discipline, Restorative Justice (RJ)/Restorative Approaches (RA), Love and Logic, and Positive Behavior Supports (PBS). Palardy (1996) said that behavior modification and assertive discipline (both based on a system of rewards) have been shown to be successful, but that they have many drawbacks to their use. He states that they should not be the only discipline method used in schools and that they don’t work with all students, in all situations. These two systems treat the symptoms and not the causes of the behavior. They usually only offer short-term benefits and don’t always transfer to new situations. Palardy (1996) also feels that these systems devalue a student’s self-discipline. He concludes that teachers should try to get to the root of the problem behavior, foster student self-discipline and also use preventative discipline methods in addition to reactive ones. McCluskey et al. (2011) took a deeper look at RA/RJ (based on repair, restoration, and prevention, rather than punishment) and found that according to research, it seems to have had a “positive and sustained impact on most schools” (McCluskey et al., 2011, p. 105). However, many schools that use RA/RJ, still rely on punitive disciplinary methods and feel that RA/JA are not firm enough. In addition, teachers stated that RA/RJ oftentimes didn’t match up with the school’s discipline policies and weren’t sure how they would work in challenging behavior situations. Fay and Funk’s (1995, p. 26) proactive Love and Logic system is based on three basic rules. These three rules are 1) Use enforceable limits; 2) Provide choices within limits; and 3) Apply consequences with empathy. The authors have used a multitude of research on discipline and practical experiences to design this behavior system. I also read about the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) system, which is a three-tiered approach for school-wide, classroom/small group, and individual behavior supports. Morrissey, et al. (2010) described the need for more proactive discipline approaches. “Traditional reactive approaches to discipline are repeatedly failing to improve the behaviors of many students, including students from diverse populations and with exceptionalities” (Morrissey, et al., 2010, p. 27). Based on the research that they studied, they found that PBS tends to work well in both elementary and middle schools. The authors conducted a case study to see how well PBS worked in a high school setting. The findings were hopeful as the rates of office discipline referrals dropped after implementing PBS. The authors however, caution readers that more research needs to be done in order to generalize the findings.

Based on all the research articles that I read, I agree that we need multiple discipline systems and strategies to meet the needs of all students. I feel that teachers should have the opportunity to learn about and use more research based proactive discipline approaches and that school codes of conduct should reflect those approaches and rely less on reactive, exclusionary consequences. I think PBS is a great framework to use for overall school discipline. Within that framework, I see a place for different research based strategies such as behavior modification/assertive discipline, RA/RJ, and Love and Logic techniques. An important take-away that I got while researching was that a school should have clear discipline policies and approaches and that staff should model and directly teach the accepted behaviors. They should be more proactive than reactive and should be more about teaching desired behaviors instead of resorting to punishments.

 

Visionary Leadership Analysis (VLA)

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Redmond Elementary is a diverse school with high academic standards. Based on assessment data, some students are highly achieving, and others are not making the gains that we would hope to see and that we strive as educators to create. The achievement gap is still alive and strong at Redmond Elementary. Even though the staff is motivated to help all students achieve and grow, something seems to be missing.  The missing piece that might just build an even stronger school community with all stakeholders and increase student achievement, could be the co-creation and continual focus on a school vision that all stakeholders can get behind and support. When everyone agrees on and values a common set of goals and beliefs, a path is created toward success.

 


 

Reflection

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This class has been very helpful in increasing my understanding of the leadership standards and how they play out in the school setting. Because of this class, I plan to use the eight keys to the spiritual dimension of leadership as guides to my decision making and actions as a school leader. I plan to be collaborative and inclusive when creating, implementing, and evaluating a school vision. In this way, I will be creating a more positive school culture by working together with all stakeholders to create a common purpose. I plan to model a commitment to high expectations for students and staff, through collaborative practices, shared decision making, analysis of data and research, and continuous learning and improvement. Along with creating a positive school climate and culture, I plan to collaboratively monitor data to determine gaps in achievement and design programs and strategies to overcome the barriers to success.

 

 


 

References:

 

Houston, P. D., Blankstein, A. M., & Cole, R. W. (2008). Spirituality in educational leadership.    Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin.

 

Owens, R. G., & Valesky, T. C. (2015). Organizational behavior in education: Leadership and     school reform. Boston: Pearson.

 

Mayworm, A. M., & Sharkey, J. D. (2014). Ethical considerations in a three-tiered approach         to school discipline policy and practice. Psychology in the Schools, 51(7), 693-704.

Alsubaie, M. A. (2015). Educational leadership and common discipline issues of elementary         school children and how to deal with them. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(13),         88-93.

Palardy, J. M. (1996). Taking another look at behavior modification and assertive discipline.         National Association of Secondary School Principals. NASSP Bulletin, 80(581), 66. 88-93.

McCluskey, G., Kane, J., Lloyd, G., Stead, J., Riddell, S., & Weedon, E. (2011). “Teachers are    afraid we are stealing their strength”: A risk society and restorative approaches in school.            British Journal of Educational Studies, 59(2), 105-119.

Morris, R. C. (1996). Contrasting disciplinary models in education. Thresholds in Education,        22(4), 7-13.

Lewis, R., & Burman, E. (2008). Providing for student voice in classroom management:    Teachers’ views. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 12(2), 151-167.

Fenning, P., Golomb, S., Gordon, V., Kelly, M., Scheinfield, R., Morello, T., & … Banull, C.        (2008). Written discipline policies used by administrators: Do we have sufficient tools of    the trade? Journal of School Violence, 7(2), 123-146.

Zeller, N., & Gutierrez, M. A. (1995). Speaking of discipline, … : An international perspective.     Thresholds in Education, 21(2), 60-66.

Fay, J., & Funk, D. (1995). Teaching with love & logic: Taking control of the classroom.    Colorado, United States: The Love and Logic Institute, Inc.

Morrissey, K. L., Bohanon, H., & Fenning, P. (2010). Positive behavior support. Teaching            Exceptional Children, 42(5), 26-35.

 

 

Communication and Collaboration

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Teacher Leadership Standard 4: Engage in analysis of teaching and collaborative practices.

Communicates regularly and effectively with colleagues, parents, and students through a variety of mediums. Collaborates with other professionals to bridge gaps between schools and community and between departments/disciplines within schools.

Washington Principal and Program Administrator Program Standard 2, Strand 3:

Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining coherent, intentional professional development.

 COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course addresses the responsibilities of professional educators beyond the classroom, specifically communication and collaboration with peers, colleagues, administration, district and state personnel. Teacher leadership and school improvement processes provide the framework for these explorations of effective collaboration.

COURSE GOALS:

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Competence

  1. Students will learn the major theories of adult learning and how they apply to ongoing professional improvement
  2. Students will demonstrate knowledge about effective professional practices.
  3. Students will analyze the context and needs of a school.
  4. Students will plan appropriate actions for improving communication and collaboration within the school setting.

Character

  1. Students will examine factors related to collaborating with peers that hinder or promote student learning.

Service

  1. Students will apply knowledge about school improvement practices that will maximize student learning.

Leadership

  1. Students will articulate elements necessary to create systems that are positioned to maximize student learning.

 

Teacher Leadership

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Teacher leadership is a critical component of school improvement. Over the years, this idea has come to the forefront of educational thought. In the past, leadership within the school was thought to reside only within the ranks of management. As educators, it is our paramount duty to believe that all students can and will be successful. We are charged with making connections with all students and making sure that they have what they need to succeed. This is regardless of where they come from, who they are, what their race, nationality, religion, etc. is. Since we have moved education beyond just meeting the needs of the ‘average’ student, we have found that this task is much too large for only the school administration to effectively pursue. As the African saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, so it is the same for educating a child. Principals, teachers, parents, and students all need to come together and embrace a vision for school change that helps to move learning forward. Teachers have stepped up to the task and are working together and collaborating for school improvement and improved student learning. I have experienced this first hand within the schools that I have taught in. Teachers become leaders on committees and team up with others to bring about needed changes within the school. In addition, I have been participating on collaborative data teams for many years. We work together to determine student needs, research strategies and techniques to bring about desired results, try out those strategies, assess our students, analyze the data, and make decisions together about whether those strategies brought about the improvements we had hoped for or determine what other strategies we might try next. These cycles happen on a continuous basis throughout the year. We are constantly communicating with each other and collaborating to help all students to succeed.

Adult Learning Theory

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Zepeda (2008) explained that there in not just one theory of adult learning. However, she states that… “The cornerstone of successful professional development is the way in which adults are engaged in learning (Zepeda, 2008).” Adult learning should be active, experiential, self-directed, and based on projects. The learning should be relevant and meaningful to the adult learner.

There are similarities and differences between how adults and children learn. Adults and children are both motivated to learn about things that are relevant to their lives and that they have an interest in. Children, however, must learn all subject areas in school, some of which they might not be interested in or feel have a relevance to their lives. Adults, on the other-hand, are typically learning new things because they are interested in them or know that they will help further their careers or hobbies. Children don’t get a choice about what they learn. Whereas adults usually choose the direction of their learning. Adults also have many more life experiences from which they can draw, than do children. Adults are more self-directed in their learning than is typical of children’s learning. One of the similarities of learning for both adults and children is that learning can and oftentimes should be social. Working in groups and sharing ideas is a great way for both children and adults to learn. Also, making learning active, concrete and hands-on for both adults and children helps to keep them involved and motivated.

The following is a list that I have come up with related to adult learning theory. This list is based on readings and discussions that I have participated in throughout this course.

Adult Learning Theory Characteristics

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  • trust
  • collaboration
  • active engagement
  • project based
  • enjoyable experience
  • respect
  • personal interactions
  • small groups better for communication and learning
  • leaders encouraging yet insistent
  • supportive
  • important goals
  • relevant learning
  • can be used right away
  • clear road-map to final outcome
  • inquiry
  • reflections
  • conversations
  • sense of purpose based on core beliefs
  • ongoing and long-term learning – not one shot events
  • ownership
  • value participant’s experience and ideas
  • follow-up support
  • job-embedded learning
  • connected to current job context
  • Different modalities of learning (provide for different learning styles)
  • self-directed
  • action learning
  • experiential learning
  • sharing of information
  • informed by research
  • social

Utilizing Teacher Expertise

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I like the ideas that Zepeda offers in chapter 4. She suggests that we have teachers fill out a faculty expertise survey (p. 74). On page 79 she suggests that we create an “In-House Professional Development Resources” list with the teacher’s names, subject areas or grade levels they teach, and areas of expertise/interest. This could help both the administrators and the staff. Administrators would know who might be able to lead or help with professional development in different areas. In addition, if the staff has this information, they could go to one of their colleagues for help or ideas on a certain topic. Finally, this would hopefully boost morale and each teacher’s self-confidence, because they know that their skills and experience are valued and honored. I would love to learn more about my colleagues and would love to help others in areas that I have more experience.

Collaborative Book Studies

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I have done two book club study groups that were offered through our district to Safety Net teachers. There was a list of books we could choose from. These groups were voluntary and we could get clock hours for participating. We got a group of teachers together and chose a book. The district purchased the books and gave them to us. We picked our dates and times that we would meet. We split the book up by chapters to read before each meeting. The district gave us discussion questions as a guide to structure our meetings. We decided to meet at a restaurant and have appetizers while we discussed the books. This made for a much more relaxed environment and got us out of the school building. It was also a great team building experience. We learned a great deal about the topic, learned more about each other, had fun, and got clock hours. It was a great experience. They offer these book clubs multiple times a year. I haven’t been able to participate in the last two years however, due to having so much work in my Master’s program.

Professional Development Plan

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If I were to change how PD was done at my school, I would work with the staff to analyze our continuous improvement plan (CIP), collaborate together to determine areas of learning needs and make sure they were aligned to our CIP, school and district visions. I would also take an inventory of the staff to find out what each person’s areas of expertise were, in order to have resources to draw from. I would create an overarching plan, go over it with staff, and post it for all to see. We would continually revisit our needs and make adjustments or additions to our PD plan. I would also love to offer book study groups as a PD option, as well.

Professional Learning and Collaboration

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“People are more likely to be ambitious and industrious when five conditions are satisfied” (Zepeda, 2013, p. 2).

  1. Success seems feasible on goals that are clearly defined;
  2. The goals seem important;
  3. The experience is enjoyable;
  4. Supervisors are both encouraging and insistent;
  5. Peers are supportive.

“People need to feel successful while they are learning” (Zepeda, 2013, p. 3).

According to Zepeda (2013), in order to support professional learning we should…

  • Build a supportive culture
  • Give teachers voice
  • Make student learning the focus
  • Make it research based
  • Offer job-embedded learning
  • Create opportunities for collaboration

 

Program Evaluation Should be Collaborative

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As Zepeda states on page 20 (Zepeda, 2012), program evaluation should be participatory and collaborative to be most effective. Many professional development programs and courses that I have taken have had us fill out evaluation forms at the end of the session or day. I think this is a very worthwhile exercise. They can be anonymous, so people are more comfortable putting down their thoughts. There are some important things to remember when getting this kind of feedback though. Participants should be given enough time to really think about what they want to say and suggestions they might have for future sessions. Oftentimes, this evaluation is done in a rushed way after the session is already over. Many participants just want to get home. The evaluation needs to be incorporated into the class or session time so everyone can be as thoughtful as possible when filling it out. In addition, we oftentimes feel that all of our ideas and thoughts end up in a black hole, never to emerge again. We think, why bother filling it out in the first place. However, I have been in programs and classes in which they have collected all the forms and have read them aloud to the group at the next session, showing that they value the opinions of the participants. You will get more honest feedback if the evaluation is done anonymously and if the participants know that you will be sharing the feedback with everyone. In addition, sharing that feedback might trigger additional ideas and thoughts from the group.

 

Family Engagement for Improved Student Achievement

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It is important to include parents in the decision making process and help them recognize that they are valued members of the school family. Washington State Leadership Standard Four is based on these same ideas – improving students’ learning and success by collaborating with families and the community, seeing diversity as an asset, and by acquiring and sharing knowledge and resources in order for the betterment of the school and student achievement. “A common and mistakenly held view is that learning happens only in schools. A large body of research confirms the positive relationship between family engagement and student outcomes” (Weiss & Lopez, 2015). Doing these things not only builds trust and support in our school community, but they also help to build academic success. I feel that even more can be done to embed family engagement into our everyday school processes in order to improve student learning, growth, and success.

Both family engagement and family involvement are terms used to explain ways that schools work to get families to participate in the education of their children. However, family involvement can be looked at as ‘doing to’ and family engagement can be looked at as ‘doing with’. In other words, family involvement is one-way communication from a school to families and parent engagement is two-way communication between families and the school. It is important to focus more on engagement than involvement. Instead of telling families about projects the school deems important and trying to get parents to volunteer to work on them, schools should strive to include families in the conversation to come up with what the community as a whole believes are the projects or causes that should be worked toward for school improvement and student learning. Staff should listen to families and work together with them as a team. Families should be welcomed into the school community and share in the decision making process. They will have more motivation and buy-in for the causes that they have helped to champion than in the projects that have been thrust upon them. Families are an integral and essential part of the school team. Power and authority should be shared among families and staff.

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In order to plan effective staff development in the area of engaging families to improve student learning, we need to take a look at how adults learn. Zepeda (2013) explained that there is not just one theory of adult learning. However, she stated that, “The cornerstone of successful professional development is the way in which adults are engaged in learning” Zepeda (2013). Adult learning should be active, experiential, self-directed, and project based. The learning should be relevant and meaningful to the adult learner. Adult learning should also be job embedded. “Adult learners are self-directed and their learning is optimized when their experience is recognized and utilized in the learning process” (Chen, 2014, p. 407). “The adult learner has an innate desire to learn, is an active agent in the planning and execution of her/his learning, and s/he values immediately relevant and problem solving-based learning” (Chen, 2014, p. 407).

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When working with adults, we should move away from pedagogy (children) and move more toward andragogy (adults). Andragogy is more learner-centric and pedagogy is more instructor-centric. “Andragogy focuses on the following assumptions: Adults require that the instructor provide a rationale for why they need to learn the new information prior to learning it [need to know]… adults have a defined identity… they dislike being told what to do, as is often the case in a pedagogic learning environment [self-concept]… they become fearful when placed in a pedagogic learning environment where the teacher seeks to be an authority figure, rather than a facilitator of knowledge [motivation to learn]… adults are ready to learn when they make a decision that the content to be provided in the learning experience will be helpful for their real-life activities [readiness to learn]” (Gilstrap, 2013, p503).

Based on these theories and foundations of adult learning and the idea that, “One unifying element tied to all adult learning theory is experience” (Goddu, 2012, p. 170), I plan to tap into the expertise and knowledge base of the staff at my school. They will be working together to problem-solve what types of professional development and strategies we should use to help them to improve their practice. I plan to offer guidance and a framework for learning, but plan to empower the staff to create something meaningful and motivating for them to work toward for the improvement of student learning.

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Throughout this course, I have learned a great deal about collaboration and communication. I have learned that adult learning is very different from child learning. I will definitely keep the theories of adult learning in mind when planning professional developments and learning opportunities. In addition,  I will make use of the expertise on my staff. Everyone has something that they can share and teach others about. It is important to recognize others for their gifts, talents, education, and experience and to utilize those talents to improve the culture of the school and increase student learning. Planning of professional development and the evaluation of programs and strategies should be collaborative. All stakeholders should be involved in creating a vision for the school and should be active participants in working toward that vision. Collaborating and communicating effectively with all staff and stakeholders is critical in order to make that vision a reality.

 

References:

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for    long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92 (6), 1087-1101.

Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine.

Lopez, G. (2001). The value of hard work: Lessons on parent involvement from an (im)migrant    household. Harvard Educational Review, 71, 416-437.

Chavez-Reyes, C. (2010). Inclusive approaches to parent engagement for young English   Language learners and their families. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of        Education, 109, 474-504.

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. 2nd Edition. New York: Eye on          Education.

Chen, J.C. (2014). Teaching nontraditional adult students: Adult learning theories in practice.       Teaching in Higher Education, 19 (4), 406-418.

Gilstrap, D.L. (2013). Why do we teach? Adult learning theory in professional standards as a       basis for curriculum development. College & Research Libraries, 74 (5), 501-518.

Goddu, K. (2012). Meeting the Challenge: Teaching Strategies for Adult Learners. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(4), 169-173.

 

Professional Learning and Collaboration

“People are more likely to be ambitious and industrious when five conditions are satisfied” (Zepeda, 2013, p. 2).

  1. Success seems feasible on goals that are clearly defined;
  2. The goals seem important;
  3. The experience is enjoyable;
  4. Supervisors are both encouraging and insistent;
  5. Peers are supportive.

 

“People need to feel successful while they are learning” (Zepeda, 2013, p. 3).

According to Zepeda (2013), in order to support professional learning we should…

  • Build a supportive culture
  • Give teachers voice
  • Make student learning the focus
  • Make it research based
  • Offer job-embedded learning
  • Create opportunities for collaboration

Based on these conditions that Zepeda spells out for effective professional learning, one collaborative processes stand out to me as being very effective and one that I have also had the opportunity to participate in. The collaborative process that I would like to discuss here is Book Study Groups.

I have participated in two book study groups that were offered through our district Safety Net program. There was a list of books we could choose from. These groups were voluntary and we could get clock hours for participating. We got a group of teachers together and chose a book. The district purchased the books and gave them to us. We picked the dates and times that we would meet. We also split the book up by chapters to read before each meeting. The district gave us discussion questions as a guide to structure our meetings. We decided to meet at a restaurant and have appetizers while we discussed the books. This made for a much more relaxed environment and got us out of the school building. It was also a great team building experience. We learned a lot about the topic, learned more about each other, had fun, and got clock hours. It was a great experience. They offer these book clubs multiple times a year. I feel that everything about this collaborative professional development fits in with Zepeda’s research based adult learning theory and effective professional development. I also like the idea of having teacher groups propose a book that they would like to read in a book study group. They could submit the request with reasons why their team would like to read the book and what they are hoping to get out of it. Administrators can look at the request, ask clarifying questions if necessary and then provide the books to the group. Teachers could also present what they learned at a staff meeting. Hopefully they could earn clock hours as well. In this way, teachers would be learning about something that they specifically see a need to learn about to improve their own teaching practice. So far, the book study groups that I been a part of have all come from the district level. It would be nice to be able to set up a program of offering book study groups at the school level as well. Book study groups offer differentiated professional development, give teachers choice, are fun, are team building, job-embedded, and very collaborative.

Zepeda, S. J. (2013). Professional development what works (Second ed.). New York, NY:       Routledge.

Does Professional Development Align with Adult Learning Theory?

Based on my readings of adult learning theory, I have come up with a list of many of the qualities that should be the foundation for professional learning programs. They include or should be based on the following…

  • trust
  • collaboration
  • active engagement
  • project based
  • enjoyable experience
  • respect
  • personal interactions
  • small groups better for communication and learning
  • leaders encouraging yet insistent
  • supportive
  • important goals
  • relevant learning
  • can be used right away
  • clear roadmap to final outcome
  • inquiry
  • reflections
  • conversations
  • sense of purpose based on core beliefs
  • ongoing and long-term learning – not one shot events
  • ownership
  • value participant’s experience and ideas
  • follow-up support
  • job-embedded learning
  • connected to current job context
  • Different modalities of learning (provide for different learning styles)
  • self-directed
  • action learning
  • experiential learning
  • sharing of information
  • informed by research
  • social

My current experience with adult learning and professional development has been varied. Some of the trainings/programs do not align with adult learning theory and some definitely do. In my experience, I have attended many professional learning seminars or speakers that have covered topics that have not been near and dear to my heart (have not helped me to further my teaching goals). Oftentimes, these are one shot events and don’t have any follow-up or guidance what-so-ever after the session is finished. I am very often excited and energized by these experiences, but don’t actually put the new learning to use. When I get caught up in my day-to-day teaching, these new ideas get put into a pile on my desk and I forget about them. This doesn’t fit with the idea that adult learning should be ongoing and long term and should have follow up support.

In addition, many of the trainings that my district puts together for our in-service days, are geared toward the “masses”. I teach intervention math and reading groups and many of the trainings we receive from the district aren’t at all related to my teaching situation. I get frustrated because I feel that I am wasting my time sitting through something that doesn’t pertain to me or my students. I feel that my time could be better utilized with more personalized training and professional development opportunities. This doesn’t fit in with the adult learning theory that states that learning should be relevant and connected to my current job context.

On the other hand, there are many professional development programs that I feel have been very valuable to me and have followed adult learning theory well. Some of these include book study groups that were optional to join. We were able to choose the book and the group participants. We were also able to choose the dates, times, and locations that we met. These groups were social, we shared information, the topics were relevant to our current situations, and were self-directed. We trusted the other members of the group and collaborated with each other to learn and discuss the new material. The learning was ongoing, was in a small group and we had ownership over the book we chose and how we discussed it.

Another professional development that is based on adult learning theory is classroom visits. As teachers, we are often in our own little worlds. We don’t “get out much” to see how other teachers teach. We can learn so much from visiting other teachers’ classrooms and seeing how they teach. I have done this before and it is immensely helpful. After the classroom visit, we had a debriefing session, in which we could ask questions and get things clarified. We could also follow up with emails and phone calls afterward. The teacher that is being observed feels that their ideas and methods are valued and is excited to share with others. The teachers who observe get to see other perspectives, ideas, and strategies that they might not have thought about before, or had forgotten about. The adult learning theories that this method follows are that it is social, collaborative, supportive, reflective, action based, relevant, is the sharing of information, and can be ongoing.

Our PLC teams also follow adult learning theory well. We work together on grade level teams to look at student data, discuss learning difficulties, and come up with strategies that we will try out in our classrooms. We then come back together, discuss if the strategies were effective or not, look at student work and data, and fine-tune our strategies. This is a continuous, cyclical process in which student learning is our main goal. We respect and trust each other. We collaborate and are actively engaged in the process. We value the experience and ideas of our colleagues. PCC’s are definitely job-embedded learning and directly relate to our teaching contexts.

These are just a few examples of the professional development programs/opportunities that I have experienced throughout my teaching career. Some of them follow adult learning theory and others do not. As a teacher leader or administrator, I will try to consciously keep the ideals of adult learning theory and the experiences I have had in the past (both positive and negative) in mind when putting together professional development opportunities for my colleagues or staff. Our goal should always be to enhance student learning and should be the foundation of all professional learning. Keeping this in mind and the ideals of adult learning will definitely help when deciding professional development topics and the structure of the programs and the learning itself.

The Ever Evolving Path to School Improvement

Teacher leadership is a critical component of school improvement. Over the years, this idea has come to the forefront of educational thought. In the past, leadership within the school was thought to reside only within the ranks of management. As educators, it is our paramount duty to believe that all students can and will be successful. We are charged with making connections with all students and making sure that they have what they need to succeed. This is regardless of where they come from, who they are, what their race, nationality, religion, etc. is. Since we have moved education beyond just meeting the needs of the ‘average’ student, we have found that this task is much too large for only the school administration to effectively pursue. As the African saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, so it is the same for educating a child. Principals, teachers, parents, and students all need to come together and embrace a vision for school change that helps to move learning forward. Teachers have stepped up to the task and are working together and collaborating for school improvement and improved student learning. I have experienced this first hand within the schools that I have taught in. Teachers become leaders on committees and team up with others to bring about needed changes within the school. In addition, I have been participating in collaborative data teams for many years. We work together to determine student needs, research strategies and techniques to bring about desired results, try out those strategies, assess our students, analyze the data, and make decisions together about whether those strategies brought about the improvements we had hoped for or determine what other strategies we might try next. These cycles happen on a continuous basis throughout the year. We are constantly communicating with each other and collaborating to help all students to succeed.

Even though we are all involved in this collaborative effort to move student learning forward, there are policies and structures in place that sometimes impede this effort. I have seen this first hand with the Special Education laws. Right now, as a safety net teacher, I am pushing into a 5th grade math class to support students in their learning, along with the classroom teacher. We started the year with 18 students who have struggled in math. We worked on improving their self-confidence and are approaching math instruction with a more hands on approach. We have gotten excellent results so far and students are coming to believe that they can achieve. Then, the special education teacher finalized her schedule and started pulling out four of our math students to receive their 30 minutes of daily specialized math instruction. They were being pulled out during our core instruction time and arriving back in the middle of the lesson. Their Special Ed. instructor would give them something to complete when they came back to math class, but often they either struggled to understand what to do on the assignment or they finished so quickly that they had nothing to do. We wanted to include them in our lessons, as we had at the beginning of the year, but when they come back, they have already missed so much that they would have a very hard time understanding what we are doing. We had a meeting with the SPED teacher and looked at the students’ IEP’s. They have goals in computation and story problems. We hoped that she could push-in to help support them during instruction instead of pulling them out, but she said that she legally needed to focus her time on their specific goals. I have a hard time understanding how students who are so far behind in math already, are only getting 30 minutes of math instruction (in their IEP goals) instead of over an hour of daily math that the other kids are all getting. How is this equitable and how are they going to survive as they go to middle school and high school? I see this as a path to failure and the students only getting farther and farther behind. I’m not sure how to deal with this situation. Some teachers would just be happy to have these students out of their rooms so they have fewer students to instruct. These students are capable learners and I feel that it is a huge disservice to them the way things are currently being run.

 

Standards-based Assessment – Course Reflection

assessment

Teacher Leadership Program Standard #11: Utilize formative and summative assessment in a standards-based environment.

According to the course syllabus, the following are the course description, goals, and guiding questions…

Course Description

The aim of this course is to develop attitudes and skills necessary to provide sound classroom assessment experiences for learning that yields accurate, usable information for students, teachers, and parents, while also assisting teachers as they develop the skills and judgment needed to integrate assessment into instruction.

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Goals

The primary goals of this course are to 1) to develop a sense of assessment vocabulary and conversation, and 2) to define and implement a strong understanding of sound classroom assessment practice and experiences within an authentic classroom context.

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Guiding Questions

Three guiding questions that help us move us move in the direction of the goals stated above are 1) What do I want my students to learn (in terms of standards) 2) Where are my students currently in their progression of learning? And 3) How can I help support their learning?

Assessment for Learning:

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Five Key Strategies

  1. Share learning expectations
  2. Elicit evidence
  3. Feedback
  4. Self-assessment
  5. Peer-Assessment

Formative Assessments:

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At the beginning of the course, I felt that formative assessments were assessments done throughout the lesson or unit to determine student understanding. They could be quick, such as thumbs up/down/or sideways or exit tickets. They could also be observations made by the teacher as students progress through the lesson/unit. They might be a mid-unit assessment to see what students know and what they still need to more clearly understand. I use formative assessments to monitor and adjust my teaching. Throughout the lesson, I have used quick checks and have observed students to check for understanding and misconceptions. As I do these quick formative assessments, I try to clear up any misconceptions that students may have and I also re-teach or move on, based on how well my students seem to be understanding. I stated that I wanted to learn more about different types of formative assessments, how to design them to give the best data in the shortest amount of time, and how to better analyze and use them to adjust my teaching.

Sharing Learning Targets with Students:

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In the past, I have shared learning expectations by going over a rubric and sharing success criteria with my students to show them what we would be learning and the steps we would be taking to reach our learning goals. Other times, I have started with a question such as, “Why do you think it’s important to learn about fractions?” This gets a discussion going and helps students come to understand the real world importance of the learning that will be taking place. They have more buy-in when they have discussed the purpose of the learning. We revisit those reasons throughout the unit as a reminder of why we are doing what we are doing and that our learning target relates to those reasons. I’m was excited to learn a variety of new ways to introduce and teach learning targets to my students through this course. I also wanted to learn ways that I can hook my students into the lesson and help them to understand the learning targets, but not take up too much time since I only have my small groups for about 30 minutes a day.

Eliciting Evidence of Student Learning:

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In the past, I have used multiple ways to elicit evidence of student learning. I often use individual white boards and either have students answer questions and hold up their white boards or I observe them as they are doing the work on their boards. Using the game of Jeopardy (teacher created questions based on the unit) is a fun way to engage students in the material and also to assess whether they are understanding it or not. I break the class or group into two teams. Each student has a mini white board and has to solve or answer the question. Then they share their answers with their team and come to a consensus about the correct answer. The other team has to do the same thing in order to check their answer against the opposing team’s answer. http://exchange.smarttech.com/search.html?q=%22jeopardy%22 (Links to an external site.). I also love to use hands-on artistic ways for students to show what they know. I have students draw a picture or make a play dough sculpture to demonstrate what they have learned or read. I then have students share out with the group using their artwork as a prop. Sometimes I will have them act out what we have learned or what they have read. Since I mainly teach small groups of students, we are constantly having group discussions in which I can observe how students respond and I adjust my teaching as necessary based on their responses. I’ve had students answer a question or put down their ideas on sticky notes and post them on a chart. I have used the thumbs up/down/sideways to find out if students feel like they are “getting it”. I really like the idea of the question cards (A, B, C, D) for students to hold up as they answer a question. I have never used this technique, but I’m definitely going to in the future. Through this course, I wanted to learn about additional ways to check for understanding with my students that are quick, informative, and interesting to my students.

Feedback:

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I totally agree with Wiliam’s (2011) quote that, “Feedback should cause thinking.” Feedback should cause students to think more closely about the work that they have done and what incremental steps they can take to work toward achieving or surpassing the standards. According to research, feedback in written comments is best delivered without a grade attached. This is due to the fact that once a student sees his/her grade, they are not as likely to carefully read the comments. It also seems more final if a grade is attached. This most often informs the student that no additional work can be done to improve the grade. Therefore, why bother looking at the comments very closely. Feedback should be given in time for students to make adjustments to their work so that they get closer to or achieve the goals of the lesson/unit. If they have time to rework their assignments, they are more likely to take the comments to heart. Feedback can come in so many different forms. Comments can be written or oral and can come from the teacher or from peers. Feedback is most effective when directly aligned to the success criteria or rubric for the assignment. It’s also great if students can reflect and give themselves feedback on how hard they worked or how closely their work aligns to the success criteria or rubric.

This year, I plan to give more feedback throughout the units that I teach, basing it on the success criteria and the standards we are working toward. I would like to try to get away from putting grades on too many assignments, so that my students will focus more on the comments and how they can improve their work. I will make sure that they have time to make adjustments as we go along. I would also like to have my students give more structured peer feedback using rubrics or checklists. In addition, I plan to have my students reflect more on their own work and give themselves feedback based on lesson criteria. I would also like to have my students track their progress more, so that they know how close they are to meeting the standards and what they need to do to get there. I hoped to answer the following question through this course. How do you know how much feedback to give so that students have the information that they need to reach standard, yet do not get overwhelmed in the process?

Peer/Self Evaluation:

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Two videos that I watched from Success at the Core were very well aligned with Wiliam’s suggestions for peer/self-assessment. In the first video (Channel, 2014) https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/peer-conferencing, the teacher had the students peer edit each other’s writing. The steps that he had students go through were…

    • Step 1 – Praise (with an “I like” and specific details from the text)
    • Step 2 – Suggest elaboration
    • Step 3 – Ask questions
    • Step 4 – Make an Action Plan

This teacher had students use a graphic organizer to guide them through the peer editing process. He also made sure that students used specific examples from the text to point out what they liked, areas for elaboration, and pose questions about the text. Each student also made an action plan on what they were planning to do next after the editing process. Peer conferences are an excellent way to conduct formative assessments.

The second video was based on guided groups for formative assessments (Channel, 2014) https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/guided-groups-formative-assessment. After a lesson, this teacher had students annotate their own papers with the following letters…

    • A – Stay for additional help
    • B – Have clarifying questions
    • C – Ready for independent-work

Right away, the teacher was able to see who still needed help or didn’t understand the assignment or concepts. She was able to help those students while the ones who were ready to move on, went back to their desks to work. As students who needed the extra help started to understand, she had them change their letter to a “C” and leave the group to work individually.

Wiliam (2011) advocates for both peer and individual assessments, saying that often-times students learn more working with a peer than with the teacher. Wiliam (2011) says that “The purpose of peer assessment should be simply, and purely, to help the individual being assessed improve his work.” That’s what the students in the first video were doing. They were systematically working through a graphic organizer to help their peers to fine-tune their writing. Wiliam (2011) also states that “…activating students as owners of their own learning can produce extraordinary improvements in their achievement.” In both videos, the students were definitely actively participating in their own learning and the learning of their peers. Both of these videos were for writing lessons. I am wondering how they would have worked for other subject areas.

Integrating Assessment into Instruction:

As a teacher leader, I plan to use my new knowledge about the importance of formative assessments to help support my colleagues in building awareness, skills and capabilities in this area. For one, my grade level Data Team would be a perfect place to start. As I work with my team on effective strategies for helping our students to reach their learning targets, I can introduce some of the research and techniques that I have found on formative assessments. We can add these to our strategy list and use them with our classes and groups. In addition, I can talk with my principal about the possibility of presenting some formative assessment strategies at a staff meeting and letting teachers know that I can be a resource for them. I can also add a page to our school Haiku site with information and strategies for formative assessments. This way, teachers can access the site and get information anytime they need to.

Learning Progression:

“A learning progression is a carefully sequenced set of building blocks that students must master en route to mastering a more distant curricular aim. These building blocks consist of sub-skills and bodies of enabling knowledge. More and more education authorities are now identifying learning progressions as a potent way to help teachers plan and monitor their instruction and, as a result, enhance their students’ learning” (Popham, 2016). Throughout this course, I worked on putting together a learning progression for a 4th grade reading intervention group. The orange circle is the main objective. The blue boxes are the building block skills. The green boxes include the types of formative assessments included in the progression. The tan colored boxes include the specific questions/hinge questions for the formative assessments.

Learning Progression

 

Assessment into Action Project – Feedback:

Rationale Statement

Providing high quality, effective feedback is extremely important for improving student learning. According to Hattie, the average effect size of classroom feedback is .79, which is nearly double the .4 average benchmark. Therefore, Hattie places “feedback in the top 10 influences on achievement” (Sutton, Hornsey, & Douglas, 2012).  I chose this topic because it was an area in which I wanted to learn more about and improve in my teaching. While reading Embedded Formative Assessment, I was shocked when Wiliam shared the table on page 115 about the possible responses to feedback (2011). I was amazed that feedback can go so terribly wrong in so many instances. Out of the eight possible response scenarios, only two of them were positive (Wiliam, 2011). Giving quality feedback is essential in helping to move students forward in their learning. In order to have higher student achievement, I wanted to research best practices in giving feedback, both in the “what” and in the “how”. I have studied growth mindset and I have seen how gearing feedback to this type of mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset can have great benefits.

Research Questions

Through my research on feedback, I hoped to answer the following key questions. How does feedback support learning? What makes feedback effective? What are some useful strategies to convey this feedback to my students to move learning forward? Additional questions that I was hoping to answer also included the following.  How do I give focused, specific feedback that directly relates to the learning target? How can I best build a growth mindset among my students? How do I gear feedback to build on that growth mindset? How much is too much feedback? How can I best structure peer and personal feedback? How can I best have my students follow through on the feedback that they have received or have given themselves? How do I structure time for feedback and student revisions within a curricular unit/lesson?

Action Plan

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Within my Safety Net reading and math classes this coming year, I plan to implement many of the new things that I have learned about giving effective feedback to my students in order to help them to move their learning forward. As Hattie states, “When students understand their goals and what success at those goals look like, then the feedback is more powerful (Sutton, Hornsey, & Douglas, 2012).” I plan to help my students to understand and interact with the learning targets for each lesson. Sharing success criteria, rubrics, and exemplars will help my students to see where they are headed and how to get there. Through the use of continuous  formative assessments, my students will know where they are on the path to their goals and I will be able to adjust my teaching to meet the needs of my students. My students will be tracking their own learning progress and making individual goals that will scaffold them toward achieving the learning targets. I will keep parents in the loop as well, by giving them information about our learning targets, resources that they can use to support their child, and feedback about where their child is and what the next steps are in helping them to reach their goals. Through the use of teacher, peer, and student feedback, students will be receiving guidance to help them along on their learning journey and help them to become more self-reflective about their own learning and progress. I plan to give my students time in class to discuss their work with me, go over the comments on assignments (either on their own or with a peer) and then have time to process that information, create an action plan for moving forward, and make the necessary revisions or changes. “Don’t provide students with feedback unless you allow time, in class, to work on using the feedback to improve their work (Wiliam, 2011).” I plan to give more comments on assignments or tasks without assigning grades at the same time. “As soon as students get a grade, the learning stops. If grades stop learning, students should be given them as infrequently as possible (Wiliam, 2011).” I really liked the example that Wiliam gives on page 130. A teacher wrote comments on strips of paper instead of on students’ assignments. Then she gave small groups of students their papers back and the separate comment strips. The groups had to determine which comments went with which assignments. This seems like a very powerful way to help students to really analyze and internalize the feedback not only for their own work, but for the work of their peers, in a non-threatening way (Wiliam, 2011).

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“Learning in classrooms will be considerably enhanced if students embrace this idea of ‘It’s up to me, and I can do something about it.’ (Wiliam, 2011).” I plan to build a positive learning environment by teaching my students about the brain and having a growth vs. fixed mindset. I plan to praise students for their effort and not their intelligence. I also plan to praise students for their hard work and not how fast they get through an assignment. I will continually reiterate the fact that challenges and mistakes are opportunities to grow our brains. I want my students to understand that intelligence is not fixed at birth and that through developing a growth mindset, they can take on challenges and grow their ‘smarts’ (Dweck, 2007). I will use a student survey to help me determine where my students fall on the mindset continuum. After teaching about the brain and growth mindset, I plan to reassess using the same measure. In order for my students to view challenges and mistakes in a positive light, I plan to share stories of famous people and the failures that they went through on their paths to success. I also plan to teach them that the word FAIL has a new meaning…F-irst, A-ttempt, I-n, L-earning. I want them to see failures and challenges as part of the learning process and necessary in order to grow their brains. I also plan to encourage my students to understand the power of the word ‘yet’. Whenever they say that they can’t do something, we will add the word ‘yet’ to the end of that statement, so that they can see that learning is a work in progress and not an end product (Dweck, 2010). I plan to use children’s literature, videos, discussions, partner sharing, drawing, physical demonstrations and diagrams, etc. to help my students internalize information about how their brains function and about the benefits of having a growth mindset. “Therefore, what we need to do is ensure that the feedback we give students supports a view of ability as incremental rather than fixed: by working, you’re getting smarter (Wiliam, 2011).”

One question that I had about feedback was – How much feedback is too much? According to Susan Brookhart (2008), the amount of feedback given to a student is very individualized. Instead of trying to “fix” every error a student makes, I plan to take that student’s background knowledge, motivation, and personality into account when determining the “right” amount of feedback to give them. Brookhart (2008) suggests that we give students enough feedback so that they know what to do next, but not so much that the work has already been done for them. She also suggests giving feedback on two to three main points, gearing feedback toward the learning targets, and sharing at least as many strengths as weaknesses. I plan to use the “Two Stars and a Wish” technique, which was referenced in many of the research sources that I found, with my students this year. This strategy should work well for peer and self-reflection. In Wiliams (2011), he gives an additional variation to this technique. He suggests having students put the comments on sticky notes and after students have responded to the comments, the teacher collects them and goes over them with the class, analyzing how helpful the comments were. If I use this strategy, I will be helping my students to understand how to be more reflective and how to write comments that will help to move learning forward. I also like the feedback frame, “I noticed…, I wondered…”  shared in the following video on the Teaching Channel. https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/student-to-student-feedback-nea. Using a feedback frame such as this one, would help to narrow the focus so as to not overwhelm the student with too much feedback.

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Through my research, I found some interesting ways to use technology to enhance the giving of feedback. Many of these, didn’t seem to fit my teaching situation, but I plan to try to incorporate some form of technology into my feedback repertoire.  A couple of tools that I found to help with giving both written and oral feedback are GoogleDocs (voice and written comment features) and Evernote (audio notes). Using podcasts is another way to use technology tools to provide feedback. Here is a link to a video on how to give feedback using podcasts  https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/student-feedback-through-technology. Jing is another great tech tool to use to create video feedback https://www.techsmith.com/jing.html?gclid=COX8taCDqc4CFZBhfgodt8gN5w. It also introduces resources on giving effective feedback. Kahoot is a site to create online quizzes that students and teachers can use to get immediate feedback on student responses. Here’s how to create a Kahoot online quiz … http://mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2014-12-13T05:00:00-06:00&max-results=5. Another interesting idea that I might like to try this year is having my students create eportfolios to track their progress throughout the year. Here are a couple of sites related to eportfolios… https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=31&category=Toolbox&article=Which-e-portfolio-tool-is-best-for-you and https://www.digication.com/.

As a teacher leader, I plan to use my new knowledge about effective feedback to help support my colleagues in building awareness, skills and capabilities in this area. For one, I think my grade level Data Team would be a perfect place to start. As I work with my team on effective strategies for helping our students to reach our learning targets, I can introduce some of the research and techniques that I have found on feedback. We can add these to our strategy list and use them with our classes and groups. In addition, I can talk with my principal about the possibility of presenting some feedback strategies to our staff at a meeting or on a LEAP day and letting them know that I can be a resource for them to troubleshoot their feedback practices or to offer new research based ideas for them to try out. I can also add a page to our school Haiku site with information and strategies for giving effective feedback. This way, teachers can access the site and get information anytime they need to.

Reflection

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As I reflect on the research that I have conducted on effective feedback, I realize how critical it is to give timely, specific feedback that is related to the learning targets. This feedback should “provide a recipe for future action (Wiliam, 2011).” I need to give my students time in class to reflect on that feedback and use it to move their learning forward. I need to give just the right amount of feedback so as not to overwhelm my students. I need to focus on a few areas within my feedback and not try to fix everything. Using feedback frames such as, Two Stars and a Wish, helps to focus the feedback. I need to look at how I give my feedback through the eyes of my students. In order for them to reflect, internalize, and use this feedback, I need to provide opportunities for them to reflect on their peers’ work as well as on their own. In order for them to become more self-regulated in their learning, we need to practice giving feedback often and look at how helpful that feedback can be. A growth mindset should be taught and encouraged to create a positive classroom learning climate. In order for students to be able to accept feedback, they should see errors as important to the learning process. It’s also important to use many formative assessments without grades attached. Giving written, oral, or technology based feedback without grades is more useful in guiding students to make needed adjustments to their work. Feedback can so often go wrong. It’s important to be intentional and use research based practices and strategies when giving feedback to our students in order to move their learning forward and to build on their motivation to continue learning.

References:

Popham, J. W. (2016). Educational leadership: The prepared graduate: The lowdown on learning progressions. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr07/vol64/num07/The-Lowdown-on-Learning-Progressions.aspx

Pawlina, S., & Stanford, C. (2011). Preschoolers grow their brains: shifting mindsets for greater resiliency and better problem solving. YC Young Children, 66(5), 30-35.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Boosting achievement with messages that motivate. Education         Canada, 47(2), 6-10.

Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.

Konold, K. E., Miller, S. P., & Konold, K. B. (2004). Using teacher feedback to enhance student learning. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(6), 64-69.

Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self‐regulated         learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies In Higher          Education, 31(2), 199-218.

Brookhart, S. M. (2008). How to give effective feedback to your students. Alexandria, VA:             Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education    Pty.

Sutton, R. M., Hornsey, M. J., & Douglas, K. M. (Eds.). (2012). Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism, and advice. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Shute, V.J.(2008). Focus on formative feedback, Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153-    189.

Channel, T. (2015, October 28). I noticed & I wondered Retrieved from             https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/student-to-student-feedback-nea

  1. (1995). Take screenshots and screencasts for free, with Jing. Retrieved August 4, 2016 from https://www.techsmith.com/jing.html?gclid=COX8taCDqc4CFZBhfgodt8gN5w

How to create a Kahoot! (2014, December 10). Retrieved August 4, 2016, from education,      http://mrseteachesmath.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2014-12-13T05:00:00- 06:00&max-results=5

Burke, L., & Servilio, K. (2014, October 6). Which e-portfolio tool is best for you? Retrieved         August 4, 2016, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=31&category=Toolbox&article=Which-e-portfolio-tool-is-best-for-you

Digication. Digication. Retrieved August 4, 2016, from https://www.digication.com/

Channel, T. (2014, May 13). Guided groups Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/guided-groups-formative-assessment

Channel, T. (2014, May 13). Peer Conferencing Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/peer-conferencing

 

Curriculum Design – Course Reflection

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Course Objective:

Teacher Leadership Standard 9:   Evaluate and use effective curriculum design

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At the beginning of this course, I was very familiar with lesson planning, but not as familiar with putting together a unit plan or a year-long pacing guide. Throughout the course I have learned a great deal about both of these areas. “Curriculum development is defined as planned, a purposeful, progressive, and systematic process to create positive improvements in the educational system. Every time there are changes or developments happening around the world, the school curricula are affected.”  (Alvior, 2014)  I believe that this quote is very applicable to curriculum development. Throughout our teaching careers, we have seen curriculum adapt and change to fit the needs of society. Standards are adjusted to meet the demands of the ever changing work environment. As we realize what new skills are needed and which previous skills are not currently as important, we adjust our curriculum to meet those needs. Curriculum is constantly changing. For example, when I first started teaching in 1989, computers were just starting to become available. Most people didn’t even have one in their homes yet. We didn’t have standards to teach computer skills or use computers within our curriculum. However, as the years have progressed, we have seen that computers have become interwoven into our society and are a component of almost every job today. Therefore, we had to adjust our curriculum to meet the needs of what our students would be expected to know and be able to do in the workforce. We now have technology standards and we teach and use technology in our instruction. Curriculum development is a continuous process rather than a product.

In the past, I have designed curriculum for my own classroom and have worked with my data teams to design common formative assessments and have either adjusted district curriculum or have created new curriculum to help us to teach to targeted standards more effectively based on the students we had at the time. I have also been involved in a small group of Safety Net math teachers who have been working for the past couple of years on creating success criteria for other Safety Net teachers to use within their math instruction. In addition, when I was on leave to raise my three children, I developed curriculum for a series of enrichment classes that have run for the past 15 years at local elementary schools and community centers (math, reading, writing, and chess). I worked with others to create and revise the curriculum to meet the needs of our students. I have not been on a curriculum development team for our district, however. I have not been on a curriculum adoption committee either. Within the Lake Washington School District, most of the curriculum is purchased, so I think it would be very enlightening to be on a curriculum adoption committee in order to better understand the process of looking for the most comprehensive and effective curriculum that will help our students to reach or exceed our priority standards.

I’m glad that I took this class about curriculum development. As Beth Handler states in her article, Teacher as Curriculum Leader: A Consideration of the Appropriateness of that Role Assignment to Classroom-Based Practitioners (2010), many teachers are unprepared to take on the role of curriculum developer. She states that research shows that having teachers develop curriculum does not seem to improve student outcomes (Handler, 2010). Teachers need to have more training in both teacher education programs and in-service training if they are to be asked to step into the role of curriculum developer. As I have seen in this class, it is quite an extensive and somewhat complicated process.

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When designing curriculum, units, and lessons, we must take into account the cultural makeup of our student population. The article, “Inviting All Students to Learn” by Hilary Dack and Carol Ann Tomlinson (2015) was very informative on taking into account both cultural and personal differences when planning and teaching lessons. The authors make a point to have teachers learn as much about the different cultures of their students. They suggest researching, talking with others from that culture, and finding out about their cultures through their students themselves. They provide four suggestions to help educators to “become better attuned to cultural variance and help all their students build positive, productive lives” (Dack & Tomlinson, 2015).

  1. Recognize and appreciate cultural variance.
  2. Learn about and look for culturally influenced learning patterns.
  3. Look beyond cultural patterns to see individuals.
  4. Plan inviting curriculum and instruction.

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They also present the idea of cultural/behavioral continuums in order to understand the ways that students prefer to learn.

  • Individualistic————Collectivist
  • Needs to observe————-Needs to test ideas
  • Competitive—————Collaborative
  • Needs external structures—————Creates own structures
  • Challenging of authority—————Respectful of authority
  • Conformity————-Creativity
  • Reserved————–Expressive
  • Fixed sense of time—————Flexible sense of time
  • Information-driven————-Feeling-driven

kids_readingAnother article that I read during this course was Enhancing Core Reading Programs with Culturally Responsive Practices, by Katie Toppel (2015). As I was using the district adopted reading intervention curriculum for my unit planning, this article was especially interesting to me. The author describes being a culturally responsive teacher as “demonstrating care for students, incorporating opportunities for student collaboration, and strategically using instructional techniques to elicit better engagement” (Toppel, 2015). She suggests getting to know students and their families starting from the beginning of the year. One idea that she uses is a personal alphabet. She sends a template home with each student at the beginning of the year and has the family fill out a word or phrase for each letter of the alphabet to help to describe their child’s family, culture, interests, strengths, favorite things, etc. I think this would be a great way to get to know my students better. We could share student lists in class and then I could refer back to them throughout the year to help me differentiate my instruction and make it more culturally and personally relevant for my students. “Partner sharing, often referred to as ‘turn and talk’ is a great way to allow for variations in how students from different cultural groups prefer to communicate” (Toppel, 2015). I am incorporating partner work and turn and talk throughout my unit to help students to learn from each other, have a chance to share their own ideas, and to have active participation among all my students.  “Some students, particularly students who are learning English, will benefit from language supports such as sentence starters or sentence frames” (Toppel, 2015). In the differentiated section of my unit plan, I scaffolded my lessons by using sentence stems for students who are struggling. One additional way that I will be ‘inviting my students to learn” is through the engaging scenario, real world project toward the end of my unit. Students will be working with a  partner to solve a real world problem and can use their creativity in a variety of ways.

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I started this course by coming up with a preliminary unit map, using sticky notes within a matrix. This was the basis for the unit plan that I would be working on throughout the remainder of the course. As the course progressed, I learned about the sections of the unit plan and worked on each one until they came together to form a cohesive and comprehensive unit. As a result of my new learning, I will be able to look at district curriculum units with a new appreciation and understanding of the parts and what into creating the unit. I will feel much more confident being on a curriculum development or adoption team in the future. I will also be able to support my colleagues in understanding and writing unit and lesson plans. The following is the unit that I created throughout this course.

Unit Plan

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References:

Alvior, M. G. (2014, December 13). The meaning and importance of curriculum development.      Retrieved August 16, 2016, from Curriculum and Instruction, http://simplyeducate.me/2014/12/13/the-meaning-and-importance-of-curriculum-development/

Handler, B. (2010). Teacher as curriculum leader: a consideration of the appropriateness of that role assignment to classroom-based practitioners. International Journal of Teacher       Leadership, 3(3), 32-42. http://www.csupomona.edu/ijtl

Dack, H., & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015, March). Inviting all students to learn. Educational    Leadership, 11-15.

Toppel, K. (2015). Enhancing core reading programs with culturally responsive practices. Reading Teacher, 68(7), 552-559.

Ainsworth, L. (2010). Rigorous curriculum design: how to create curricular units of study that align standards, instruction, and assessment. United States: Lead + Learn Press.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culturally Responsive Teaching Course Reflection

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Course objectives:

  1. Articulate the major aims of the multicultural education movement.
  2. Contextualize their present understanding of multicultural education by demonstrating awareness of historical events and persons that helped sensitize Americans to issues of cultural diversity and inequity in education.
  3. Identify the tensions between traditional and multiculturalists approaches to politics and education, and to personally reconcile them in a well-reasoned and defensible manner.
  4. Explain how culture impacts teaching and learning and suggest how increased sensitivity to multiple cultures in the classroom might impact their instruction.
  5. Assume instructional leadership for school-wide improvement in providing culturally responsive instruction.
  6. Develop a reflective stance toward their attitudes regarding all learners.

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What is culture? This is the question that was posed to us at the beginning of this course. Throughout the course, I have learned about the different aspects that make up a person’s culture. As I grew to understand, culture is much more than just language and home country. It also includes race, religion, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, education, social habits and customs, foods, music, arts, values, and more. It goes much deeper than I had ever imagined. A good analogy for culture is an iceberg. The parts of culture that we see are like the top of the iceberg that is above the water. All of the hidden aspects of culture are like the part of the iceberg that is under water. Throughout this course, I had the opportunity to learn more about many of the different aspects of culture, both seen and unseen.

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When incorporating different cultures and perspectives into the curriculum, it enhances students’ educations. Our lives have become much more global than they once were. If we only expose our students to the old, archaic curriculum of the past, we are missing out on a rich opportunity for our students to see beyond their own communities, state, or country. In addition to this, by teaching using multicultural curriculum, we are also helping all of our students to learn more about themselves and others. We are helping to validate the differences in cultures and to have our students see the value that they and others bring to our world. I have found this to be true within my own class groups this year. Our district recently adopted a new reading curriculum and I have noticed a few recent reactions from some of my students. The curriculum is definitely more multicultural. A few of the stories/readings have been about people of Mexican descent. Many of my students’ families are originally from Mexico. My students got very excited when we were reading these stories that portrayed foods, customs, etc. that they could relate to. Another recent story we read was an East Indian folktale. I had never heard this story before, but two of my Indian students recognized the story and felt empowered that no one else knew about the tale. I am very happy that our new curriculum takes this more multicultural approach to the teaching of reading. According to James Banks, “Transformative teaching and learning are characterized by a curriculum organized around powerful ideas, highly interactive teaching strategies, active student involvement, and activities that require students to participate in personal, social, and civic action to make their classrooms, schools, and communities more democratic and just” (Banks, 1996, p. 81). Our curriculum seems to be getting more multicultural, but still has a way to go to become more culturally inclusive.

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Mary McLeod Bethune felt that education was the path out of oppression. Bethune was a highly influential feminist, educator, and activist for social change and equality in America (Banks, 1996). It is important for both our male and female students to get a more balanced education about the history of our country and our world. We need to empower our girls with stories of strong women who have paved the way and who have come before them. We need to teach our boys that all humans are equal and worthy to play a role in our communities, cities, states, country, and the world. The story of Bethune was very inspirational and shows that each one of us is capable of great things, even when coming from humble beginnings. We need to share stories like the one about Bethune with our students to help them to have a more balanced understanding of history.

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Culture plays an enormous role in how people communicate. Spoken language is just encoded culture and different cultures have languages, accents, and dialects that can confuse others who are not familiar with them. Communication goes well beyond just talk. Eye contact, physical movements, and voice inflections are all based on cultural norms. I found it interesting to think about how different cultures’ interactions oftentimes differ. For example, in some Black churches everyone talks or responds out loud. This is in direct contrast to the typical White church, where everyone is silent and listens to the priest or pastor speak. In the classroom we need to keep these cultural communication styles in mind as we relate to our students. In typical schools, the majority of time is spent with the teacher talking and the students listening (passive-receptive) and teachers tend to ask convergent questions. This however, is in opposition with how many students have been brought up in their home cultures. Some cultures tend to ask more divergent questions of their children and don’t follow turn-taking protocols. We need to be aware of these differences and adapt our teaching styles to fit the needs of all of our students. Group work tends to work well for some cultures, so a combination of group and individual work could be more effective.

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It was fascinating to learn about BICS and CALP. It tends to take ELL students 1-2 years to build their Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (social communication). It tends to take students 5-7 years to build their Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (language for academic learning). The tips for teaching ELL students were great to learn. Teaching vocabulary to ELL students is the single most important thing you can do for them to help them build their language skills. Other suggestions include…

    • Summarize learning frequently
    • Give students time to talk with a partner (student to student interactions)
    • Use visuals like diagrams and pictures
    • Hands-on learning
    • Model the thinking process
    • Check for understanding with frequent questions
    • Keep explanations short
    • Teach key vocabulary
    • Scaffold the learning

 

HELLO in eight different languages

“Language plays an important part in the knowledge construction process in at least two major ways: (1) the language that individuals and groups are familiar with and use affects their perceptions of the world and of others (Whorf, 1959); and (2) the language individuals or groups choose to use or to not use sends powerful messages to others” (Newmeyer, 1986) (Banks, 1996, p. 298). Languages are disappearing from use every day. It is important for us to preserve and encourage the use of different cultures’ languages. There are many things that contribute to this loss of language, such as “genocide, social or economic or habitat destruction, displacement, demographic submersion, language suppression in forced assimilation or assimilatory education, electronic media bombardment” (Banks, 1996, p. 301). It is important for us to develop programs to help students preserve their languages and cultures. When students learn English, they don’t need to stop using their cultural language, they just need to add a new language to their repertoire. Bilingual education programs seem like a very effective way of helping students to learn a new language and continue to build on their home language skills as well. This also helps students to feel proud of their heritage and culture. The curriculum should also be culturally relevant (Banks, 1996, p. 315). Banks attributes the success of educational programs to local control, cultural compatibility, and an empowerment of teachers (1996, p. 316).

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The article, Metaphors of Hope (Chenfield, 2004) was refreshing to read. Oftentimes we focus so much on what is wrong with the world and with education that we lose sight of all the amazing things going on in schools and classrooms. Most teachers got into the field of education to make a difference and change lives for the better. I know that is why I got into teaching. By looking at the successes and creative ideas of our colleagues, we can all learn some valuable lessons and strategies to help us with our own students. The more we work with others in the teaching profession, talk with them, observe them, and strategize with them, we will increase our bag of tricks, as well as our understanding of what works, and doesn’t work, in classroom situations.

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In the article, As Diversity Grows, So Must We (Howard, 2007) the author states that many schools are going through a rapid change of demographics and it can be challenging for staff, families, and students to adjust. He offers a five phase program to help schools to meet this challenge (Howard, 2007, p. 8). The phases include…

  1. Building trust
  2. Engaging personal culture
  3. Confronting issues of social dominance and social justice
  4. Transforming instructional practices
  5. Engaging the entire school community

When taking on this challenge, we need to remember that it isn’t easy and that it takes time to accomplish, but can yield great positive outcomes.

I have to admit that when I signed up for this class, I was excited to learn more about cultural awareness, but I really felt that what we would learn would be things that I already do as a teacher. I thought it would be an interesting, but not critical component of my Master’s program and my learning as an educator. Boy, was I wrong! I have learned so much throughout this class and my eyes have been opened to so many new ways of looking at things. My lens has been broadened and I have become more aware of what it takes to become culturally competent. It is a constant learning process that I have just begun. I will definitely carry this new learning over into any administrative position that I might obtain in the future. I will be more aware of looking for how culture affects students’ learning styles and how they approach and feel about education. I will continue to look carefully at our curriculum and supplement it as necessary with culturally responsive materials. I will continue to have high expectations for all of my students and respond to them in a caring and positive way. I will continue to be amazed at how many of my students can know and learn multiple languages. I will learn from my students and have them share information about their cultures and help them to feel that they are truly unique and valued individuals. I will work to communicate with families and help parents to feel welcomed and share with them the multitude of ways that they can become engaged in their child’s education.

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“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” Dr. Haim Ginott.

 

References

Banks, J. A. (Ed.). (1996). Multicultural education transformative knowledge & action historical and contemporary perspectives. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Howard, G. R. (2007). As diversity grows, so must we. Educational Leadership, 16-22.

Chenfield, M. B. (2004). Metaphors of hope. Phi Delta Kappan, 271-275.

Newmeyer, F. J. (1986). The politics of linguistics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Whorf, B. L. (1959). Linguistics as an exact science. In L. F. Dean & K. G. Wilson (Eds.), Essays on language and usage. New York: Oxford University Press.

 

 

Engaging Communities Course Reflection

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The course objectives for “Engaging Communities” were:

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the importance of inclusive practice as it relates to engaging with parents and community members.
  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of collaborative strategies as they relate to engaging with diverse families and community members.
  3. Students will participate in developing a school plan for improving and sustaining school-community engagement.
  4. Students will articulate how effective communication skills and strategies are essential to: market the school to enlist community support; resolve conflicts among individuals and groups; and, build common focus and collaboration to enhance student learning.

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I was excited to take this course so that I could learn more about how to engage families and community members in the educational process and student learning. I knew how important family involvement was, but I didn’t really understand the difference between involvement and engagement. Throughout the course, we learned more about how to distinguish the two and why we should be striving for engagement over involvement.

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Both family engagement and family involvement are terms used to explain ways that schools work to get families to participate in the education of their children. However, family involvement can be looked at as ‘doing to’ and family engagement can be looked at as ‘doing with’. In other words, family involvement is one-way communication from a school to families and parent engagement is two-way communication between families and the school. As a school leader, it is important to focus more on engagement than involvement. Instead of telling families about projects the school deems important and trying to get parents to volunteer to work on them, schools should strive to include families in the conversation to come up with what the community as a whole believes are the projects or causes that should be worked toward for school improvement and student learning. Staff should listen to families and work together with them as a team. Families should be welcomed into the school community and share in the decision making process. Families have more motivation and buy-in for the causes that they have helped to champion than in the projects that have been thrust upon them. Families are an integral and essential part of the school team. Power and authority should be shared among families and staff.

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During the course, I also got a chance to look more deeply into my own school and another school’s community-relations. During the first assignment, which was a school-community case study, I researched a school incident and how it was handled by the administration. I learned a great deal from this case study, as I have never had to deal with a situation involving a bb gun shooting at a bus stop. If I was a principal at this school and this incident happened, I would have followed the same steps that the Dean did while handling the investigation. I also like the idea of a district approved newsletter going out to families. In addition, I feel that I would put together some sort of training or information that would be taught to students, possibly at an assembly, focusing on students telling a trusted adult when they see something happening that shouldn’t be happening. We would also focus on telling the truth and that everyone’s safety depends on all of us watching out for each other. I would like to learn about additional strategies that I could use as a principal to build a more positive and trusting school community. In addition to the case study, I put together a Community Engagement Product (CEP), in which I took an in-depth look at my own school’s collaboration with community members. This project directly addresses WA State Standard 4 and Principal Evaluation Criteria 7. I interviewed staff members and my principal to get more information. It was interesting looking at community engagement from a variety of perspectives and also looking more closely at my school’s demographic data. It’s important that the principal reaches out to diverse groups in the school community. My principal is only in her second year of being a principal and felt that this was an area that she needed to work on. I would love to learn more about how to engage different groups within my school community.

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As far as I can tell, our staff encourages and strives to involve and engage parents. I think that the majority of them wish we had more parent engagement. Many teachers attend PTSA meetings and events to show their support. They also try to connect through newsletters, letters, websites, emails, phone calls, and home visits. One staff member who I was talking with teaches a gifted (Quest) class and has parent volunteers to run her Passport club, grade papers, and go on field trips. She also said that the Quest parents can try to be a bit too involved and want to direct how the teacher teaches. Another teacher in a general education class said, “We have a small group of extremely dedicated, hard-working volunteers!” Another teacher said, “I would like to see both involvement and engagement increased. With our ever evolving community of families from around the world, I am glad that the PTSA is trying to reach out and connect to immigrant families more.” Another Quest teacher stated, “We LOVE our parent helpers because many of our programs would not exist without them. They are instrumental at providing support to teachers and students both inside and outside the classroom. PTSA school related academic functions and afterschool programs are sustained by parent volunteers and enrich kids’ lives.” One of our ELL teachers said, “We have done a lot of things to reach out to and engage our immigrant families this year! I did home visits once a month to help build a school-home connection. I took a classroom teacher with me for most visits. Christina and I have also run ELL Family Game Nights to teach parents how to help build  English vocabulary at home. We did one game night a month focusing on one grade each time.”

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As a principal, I would work collaboratively with parents to improve student achievement. I would strive to build a trusting environment throughout the school and trusting relationship with parents. I would convey to parents the fact that we are partners in the education of their child. I would offer families strategies, materials, knowledge, resources, and supports to help them to help their child to be a successful learner. In addition, I would help families new to the country to understand the school system and the educational process. I would ask parents what their hopes and dreams are for their child and what challenges their child might have . Parents know their child better than we do. If we can help fill in information about their child, it will give us a stronger base to start from. Then we can work together with parents to come up with goals and objectives that we all feel will help their child to be a more successful learner. It is also important to find out what questions that parents might have.

As a principal I would also work to ensure that each student had equal opportunities to access learning. It would be my moral imperative to make sure that each student is learning and achieving their academic goals. In order to do this, I would need to analyze student data and test scores and communicate with staff to find out which students were struggling with their learning. I would then make sure that those students were getting the supports that they needed  (ELL, Sped, Safety Net, etc.) I would continue to look at data and collaborate with staff throughout the year to see how the students were progressing and decide as a team if any additional supports would be needed to help each student to succeed.

Through the process of completing this assignment I have learned many things. I have learned more about the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement and how important it is to actively engage parents as team members in the education of their children. I also learned that an administrator should analyze school demographics and test score data and share that with staff to get a better feel for where the school is and where they want to go from there. It’s important to include parents in the decision making process and help them feel like valued members of the school family. Washington State Leadership Standard Four is based on these same ideas – improving students learning and success by collaborating with families and the community, seeing diversity as an asset, and by acquiring and sharing knowledge and resources in order for the betterment of the school and student achievement.

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Throughout this course, we also read scholarly articles and had class discussions related to each one. The discussion that I lead was on the article “Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams” by Chris Robbins and Linda Searby (Robbins and Searby, 2013). This article was about a research study on parental involvement strategies using interdisciplinary teams at three different middle schools (affluent suburban, mid-level rural, & poverty urban). The research techniques that were used were interviews, journal questions, observations, focus groups, and questionnaires. “One of the primary purposes of middle school interdisciplinary teams is to communicate and engage parents while developing and implementing curriculum based on an adolescents’ developmental needs.” (Robbins and Searby, 2013). Effective middle school teams do the following…

  1. Understand that parent involvement plays an essential role in a child’s education
  2. Maintain an open and approachable attitude toward parents
  3. Serve as a resource to parents
    1. Know the developmental levels of adolescents and communicate these with parents as needed
    2. Help parents with home-based interventions
    3. Help parents to be aware of specific steps they can take to help their child
  4. Approach problem-solving opportunities as a team
    1. Teams meet each week to problem-solve student issues and come up with interventions
    2. Work together to implement the interventions
    3. Conference with parents as a team

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Another topic that we discussed was student homelessness. McKinney-Vento Act was put into effect to help homeless children have a stable educational environment. “Liaisons should therefore establish strong professional development programs to educate the entire district of the policy’s intent. This instruction must cover the basics of the law as well as information to counter the deficit thinking surrounding the issue of homelessness in general and the blaming of homeless people for what they are going through.” (Cunningham, 2014). I feel that I have not been properly trained on this topic by my district.

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Another article that we read and discussed was The School to Prison Pipeline (Elias, 2013). Research now shows that suspending students and removing them from school, doesn’t improve their behavior. Instead, it seems to set up a cycle in which the negative behavior is repeated and many students end up in prison as they get older. A high percentage of the students that are affected by this are minorities and learning disabled students. Instead of pulling students out of school when they misbehave, we need to offer more training and support for teachers on effective discipline techniques. When teachers and staff use less punitive methods, more students tend to stay in school and finish their educations.

I learned a great deal throughout this course. I enjoyed the discussion based classroom sessions. I read about many different educational issues in the assigned readings and learned even more from my peers when we talked about the articles in class. The projects helped me to look more deeply into community and family engagement within my own school and other schools. I learned more about the difference between family involvement and engagement and how to create a more inviting atmosphere and encourage family and community engagement and partnerships.

References

Robbins, C., & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams. School Community Journal, 23(2), 113-136.

Cunningham, K. A. (2014). A Question of Priorities: A Critical Investigation of the McKinney-   Vento Act. Critical Questions in Education, 5(3), 218-232.

Elias, M. (2013). The School to Prison Pipeline. Teaching Tolerance, Spring, 39-43.

 

 

 

Action Research Course Reflection

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The course objectives for Action Research were…

  1. Review a variety of current educational literature and research, examining best practices in the classroom setting.
  2. Explore and apply the Action Research process to provide the foundation for continuous inquiry and an effective solution to an issue.
  3. Understand that Action Research is a distinctive approach to inquiry that is directly relevant to the classroom setting and that it provides the means for teachers to enhance their teaching and impact student learning.
  4. Reflect on the Action Research process by sharing identified research focus, rationale, collection and analysis of data, and inquiry next steps through a presentation to peers.

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At the beginning of this course, I had no idea what Action Research was. I obviously knew what research was, but didn’t know how the word “Action” changed the process. In the past, if I had something that I wanted to learn more about, I would research the topic and learn as much as I could about it. At the beginning of this course, I wondered how different Action Research was from the research that I had always done. Throughout the course, I have learned that the process of conducting Action Research includes:

  1. Observe students and record observations
  2. Analyze observations over time
  3. Choose a problem area
  4. Assess students at the beginning with three measures
  5. Research best practices
  6. Try out new research based strategies
  7. Assess with the same three measures at the end
  8. Make changes or adjustments to teaching practice as needed

This is a continuous, cyclical process that should be part of an accomplished teacher’s routine. Throughout this course, I learned how to observe my students and record my daily observations in a journal. I wrote about things that were bothering me that happened with my students or my instruction. By taking a look at these journal entries over time, I was able to see patterns of problem areas that arose. I chose the one that was bothering me the most and started off on an Action Research project. I found many excellent peer-reviewed journal articles about teaching students about having a growth mindset. As I read through the articles, I saw patterns in the research that showed how teaching about growth mindset can have a positive impact on students’ attitudes, behavior, and achievement. “Researchers have found that in dozens of studies that students with a growth mindset improve more in academics and other skills, and can even be less aggressive and more socially engaged” (Sparks, 2013).

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My thoughts for this study were inspired by research on growth mindsets in the classroom. This research led me to wonder about the connections between students learning about their brains and having a growth mindset and students’ ability to persevere through difficult learning challenges and not give up easily or become distracted. I also wondered about the use of the word ‘yet’ at the end of the statement, “I can’t do it…YET!” In addition, I wondered about how students learning to accept failure as part of the learning process would affect their attitudes and motivation to persevere through difficult learning challenges.

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My plan was to investigate how to build a positive learning environment by teaching my students about the brain and having a growth vs. fixed mindset. My investigation had the potential to increase student motivation, time in learning, raise student achievement levels, and help students to understand that they are in charge of their learning and that challenges will grow their intelligence. “Teaching students a growth mindset results in increased motivation, better grades, and higher achievement test scores. Over a series of sessions, students were taught that their brains form new connections every time they learn, and that over time they can become smarter” (Dweck, 2007). This inquiry supports efforts to increase student performance levels and help students to meet or exceed academic standards. As a classroom teacher, this investigation can help me to develop new skills and strategies in order to help the typically lower performing students to feel better about themselves and know that they can make a difference in how smart they become. One of those strategies is teaching students about the power of ‘yet’. “The word ‘yet’ is valuable and should be used frequently in every classroom” (Dweck, 2010). Instead of students saying, “I can’t do it!” encourage them to say, “I can’t do it YET.” The hope is, that this will also help students to be more self-motivated and encouraging to their peers. It should also help to increase time on task and learning time throughout the period.

The following are excerpts from my weekly journal entries, which show my progression throughout the course:

Week 1: I see many students during my 4th grade math push-in who have low math self-esteem and truly believe that they can’t do the math. They put themselves down and cause disruptions or tune out so that they won’t even have to try. It seems like the 4th grade teacher and I are constantly putting out fires, trying to encourage students, keep them on task, and build their self-esteem. We are both wiped out each day at the end of the hour long period.

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Week 2: This week I noticed that many of my students seemed to get frustrated easily. During math group I had students who got frustrated when they didn’t pass a multiplication time test. Sometimes they feel like they will never be able to pass. However, I don’t think any of them practice at home in order to pass the tests. I think they just expect that they will either pass or not pass. They don’t seem to attribute it to the amount of effort that they put in. Students in math class will jump to a conclusion that the material is too difficult for them before they even try. Some of the students got frustrated when they got problems wrong during our math work time. They don’t seem to understand that mistakes are a part of learning.

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I think it will be very useful for me to conduct my action research project on empowering students to understand and be responsible for their own learning. I would like to research mindfulness and how it can help my students to have a more positive self concept, understand that mistakes are part of the learning process, and that the effort that they put into their own learning will create changes in their brains. I want them to be able to increase their frustration threshold and understand that they all have the power to learn and make a difference in their own lives and futures.

Week 4: I took my teaching partner out for dinner to discuss my plans for the project. Since we team teach for this class, I don’t feel like I can just try out anything that I want, without running it by her. Last week, I did give the three different assessments to my students as a baseline. One was multiple choice and the other was short answer and drawing a picture. I also used observation and had a check off sheet that I recorded data on while I was in the class. This was difficult because I was trying to observe, record data, and help kids with their math activities too. I’m sure I missed quite a few things while I was working individually with students. I put together graphs for the two surveys and have also been organizing my materials and conducting additional research in order to plan out my lessons to start on the program this Monday. I’m hoping that students will develop positive attitudes about mistakes and the learning process. I am also hoping that they will learn that taking on challenges and doing things that are hard for them will grow their brains. I’m hoping they will develop perseverance and more positive self-concepts.

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Week 5: I started teaching my 4th grade math students about the brain and how their brains learn new things this week. I think my kids are really starting to get it and I have seen small changes in their behavior and outlook on their abilities. We keep talking about how challenges grow the brain and that mistakes actually help the brain grow more than if you didn’t make any mistakes. This is a huge concept for the students that I work with. My plan for the next few lessons is about the importance of making mistakes and perseverance through those tough challenges. My students have been very receptive to the new learning and way of viewing themselves. I am hoping that it will actually have life-long benefits.

Week 7: I only saw my math group two times this week. I did do about 5 to 10 minutes at the beginning of those two math classes for my AR project. My students have been very interested in and receptive to learning about the brain and growth mindset. One student who gets really frustrated when she makes a mistake is starting to come around to understanding that mistakes are a part of learning and making them helps you grow your brain. Another student who usually has a bad attitude toward math, told another student that it was ok to make a mistake and to keep trying.

YouTube Growth Mindset Videos

Week 8: We watched additional YouTube videos about making mistakes, the brain, and growth vs. fixed mindset. We discussed famous people who have made mistakes or had other people tell them that they couldn’t do something, but they kept trying. Later that day one of my students came up to me and said she had seen a commercial for a new movie called “Eddie the Eagle” and that it was about a man who wanted to be a ski jumper in the Olympics, but everyone told him he couldn’t do it. She made the connection to what she was seeing in her own life. I have given my kids reminder sheets for them to put into their binders. One was a new way to look at failures…

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A-Attempt

I-In

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I also gave them a sheet about growth mindset vs. fixed mindset. I have noticed many of my students have chosen on their own to put these sheets on the outsides of their binder under the clear plastic. This way they can see it all the time. Yesterday I had the kids fill out a page with writing and drawing about what they have learned so far about the brain and growth mindset. I put these all together and printed a coloring book for each of them and gave it to them today. They were super excited!

Fixed vs Growth Mindset Poster

Through analyzing the data from my Action Research project I found a correlation between teaching my students about their brains and about having a growth mindset, with a decrease of problem behaviors and more positive academic self-concepts. I enjoyed conducting the Action Research project and have added the teaching of growth mindset to my strategy toolbox. My students seem much more positive about learning and now seem to have fewer frustration outbursts and melt-downs.

Negative Behaviors

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I plan to continue to do more informal Action Research projects on my own and with colleagues in order for us to improve academic achievement and/or to decrease disruptive student behaviors or attitudes. Action Research can be done anytime there is a problem or situation that needs to be solved.

As a leader, I would use Action Research to help myself and others target trouble areas and take time to work on immediate classroom needs instead of always doing blanket one-size-fits-all professional developments. Showing staff that you care about their specific issues, and that you will give them time to spend with colleagues doing an Action Research project based on those needs, will go a long way in establishing a trusting environment. This should also lead to increased student achievement and an increase in caring and supportive classrooms environments throughout the school. In addition, when teachers feel heard and get help from others with issues they are struggling with, they will most likely be happier with their jobs. School will be a more positive place to be and staff turnover should hopefully be decreased.

Resources

Pawlina, S., & Stanford, C. (2011). Preschoolers grow their brains: Shifting mindsets for greater resiliency and better problem solving. YC Young Children, 66(5), 30-35.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Boosting Achievement with Messages that Motivate. Education Canada,    47(2), 6-10.

Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even Geniuses Work Hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.

Sparks, S. D. (2013). ‘Growth Mindset’ Gaining Traction As Ed. Strategy. Education Week,          33(3), 1-21.

Willis, J. (2007). Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success. Childhood Education, 83(5), 310-315.