Methods

Component #2

Sample Details

· Entry point was a brief presentation to all staff members at four schools introducing and describing the SWS Initiative and inviting teacher volunteers from K-6


· Initial in-class, weekly observations began in October to determine SWS focus group


· SWST observations were scheduled, but not limited to, literacy and numeracy periods, but also included flexible and creative moments in other subjects such as Science and Religion to understand wider notions of learning


· Observations within each classroom ranged from intervals of 30 minutes or more


· The final selection of SWS focus students was based on a collaborative decision with the host teachers based: on the triangulation of data (student observations, student conversations and samples of student work) and our ‘children of mystery’ and / or those working through level two, following one month of observations of the larger group of potential candidates


· By November, classroom visits changed to a two or three day visit in each school, resulting in rotations every two weeks.


· In May, the cycle shifted to weekly visits


· The number of teachers at each school determined the time spent in each class. (e.g., if there were two host teachers at one school, then half a day was spent in each class. If there were 3 teachers, the day was divided amongst them)


· Typically, on every fourth SWST visit, opportunities for release time (6 meeting days in total) to collaborate (co-learn, co-reflect, co-plan, co-inquire) were afforded to all host teachers throughout the school year


· Meeting #1 - focused on building research relationships and understanding with the SWST and host teachers and between schools who were geographically close to one another


· Meeting #2 and #3 - combined host teachers from the same grades with another cohort of same grade host teachers from one of my SWST colleagues focusing on analyzing videos and student work samples to better understand the learning experiences of those students. We determined student strengths, determined where students were at in their learning, looked at biases, analyzed the cognitive demand of tasks, next learning steps and appropriate interventions and documentation methods


· Meeting #4 – met as a school team to revisit the previous meetings’ next steps, discussed emerging patterns and trends, learning strengths, and analyzing the vast amount of documentation and formulate an inquiry question / theme


· Meeting #5 – met as a school team to revisit our inquiry question on the re-designing the classroom environment and addressed next steps and challenges. A portion of the day was dedicated for ‘teachers as researchers’ as they participated in gathering empirical research related to the theme and to build a collective understanding


· Meeting # 6 – to consolidate our learning about the theme and to reflect on their experiences this past year. Host teachers also co-contributed to the conclusion section of this monograph by discussing plausibility, constraints, next steps and any further questions and considerations


Some host teachers also shared their learning during staff meetings


Documentation Methods

Due to the nature of this inquiry, ‘soft’ data has been collected and is based on a variety of methods to gather, analyze and use evidence as we studied the student experience. The following is a description of the documentation methods used throughout this inquiry to provide evidence of movement in student learning.


· Journaling – field notes were documented in a field journal to record student observations of student behaviour, my conversations with the students, inferences as to what these observations and conversations mean, notes to determine if and why they were important, linked to external research, coded for themes


· Videos – to capture in ‘real-time’ observations, conversations and interviews with students; transcribed for further analysis and interpretation


· Photos – to capture images of students engaged in their work and to document samples of student work


· Collection of student work samples – gather evidence of student strengths, next steps in learning and movement in student learning


· Surveys – used to collect student data by gaining further insight about student thinking; coded for common themes


· Interviews – initially conducted to understand student thinking about learning and to determine student learning styles; then conducted to gather formative evidence of student thinking; analyzed and coded for patterns and trends


Reflections – to gain deeper insight into student and teacher perceptions and incorporated into the monograph as representation of student and teacher ‘voice’; coded for common patterns and trends


Role of SWST

My role as a SWST in the study was primarily a co-learner with host teachers, and student observations, conversations and work samples, were the means through which this co-learning relationship was developed. As our relationships evolved, I felt welcomed and respected as a co-teacher within their learning space. This year, having the opportunity to document student learning by video, appeared to be a natural segway for inviting open discussion and inspiring motivation with host teachers. My participation in the classroom shifted from cycles of passive observer, so as to fully “soak in” the SWSI experience of what I was seeing and hearing, to participant observer, whereby I considered myself fully ‘immersed’ in the students’ natural setting, experiencing learning through work, play, talk and interactions. Naturally, this enabled me to interact and converse with study and non-study students to maintain the integrity of the study, for I was truly ‘in situ,’ and also because I valued building a relationship with the entire classroom community. Although my interactions with SWSI study students varied from classroom to classroom, my commitment to fully understand learning from the students’ perspective remained constant. Sometimes my conversations with SWSI study students would take place at the students’ desk, other times, in a small area of the classroom where I reinforced inclusivity amongst all students during partner or group work. I made every effort to maintain a neutral stance towards SWSI study students to divert suggestions that I was there to offer additional ‘help’ or support and to avoid preconceived notions of ‘favouring’ students. The classroom structures that enabled the following learning supposition to occur involved both SWSI study and non-study students.


Interactions with Host Teachers

My interactions with host teachers began by building relational trust, with an initial SWSI teacher meeting sharing foundational beliefs about teaching and learning. When trusting relationships were established, there was comfort in sharing wonderings amongst one another. Interactions with the host teachers were continuous throughout the year, with SWSI teacher meetings usually integrated into every fourth SWST visit. Administrators were always invited to participate in our meetings, although not always present. Field journals, video footage and photos were shared at these meetings to help make meaning of the data collected. Occasionally, my SWST colleague and I combined our host teachers within the same grade or division but from different schools within our board, to facilitate cross-pollination of ideas and to extend deep collaboration. Our intent was to provide a broader range of perspectives with which to analyze the data and facilitate the possibility of establishing professional contacts between host teachers. Co-planning next steps for student learning and instruction were developed and then revisited in follow-up teacher meetings. There was authenticity in sharing the learning at these meetings, because there was potential to extend what we learned about our SWSI study students to all students. As one primary teacher reflected, “It doesn’t just benefit them [the SWSI study students], this benefits the whole class.” The learning supposition described, reflects SWSI-teacher relationships built on rigor and curiosity, where collective wonderings were authentic in nature. Where possible, I have incorporated teacher ‘voice’ into this monograph, because they personally ‘lived’ this inquiry.


In building trusting relationships with the host teachers, I believe this has had a significant impact on our inquiry, specifically in making transformational changes to the physical classroom environment.

“I no longer have reservations or fears of having the perfect cookie-cut classroom where students are always sitting at their desks and are quiet, because I feel that restricts their learning. I am constantly listening to what students say about the classroom and find ways to improve it. For this reason, I have opened myself up to changes, whether big or small.” (SWSI Host Teacher)

The host teachers were fundamental in creating the conditions necessary for this collaborative inquiry.


We truly believed designing a classroom to develop autonomous, self-regulated learners began with thoughtful and intentional consideration of the learning space both physical and social and would ultimately have an impact on teaching and learning. We reflected on the following questions based on The Third Teacher (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2012) as a basis for consideration:


· Did our classroom layout include a gathering space large for small-group and whole group discussion? (It is interesting to note that prior to creating a responsive design host teachers recognized the importance of having a gathering space, yet many classrooms, especially in the junior grades, did not have a large enough space to accommodate all students comfortably)


· Was our space flexible and reconfigurable to allow for different types of groupings (e.g., independent, pairs, small groups)?


· Was our furniture configured to facilitate discussion and encourage eye contact?


· How could we improve traffic flow and create workspace that accommodated students’ need to “spread out” their work?


· How could we organize our instructional materials to improve students’ accessibility? Would this improve students’ ability to self-organize and begin tasks more efficiently?


The transformational process that occurred in re-designing the physical classroom environment was a collaborative effort affecting change on student learning skills and work habits:


· decrease / eliminate the number of desks in the classroom


· incorporate additional workspace (e.g., tables)


· increase a variety of seating choices (e.g., pilates balls, bean bag chairs, large pillows, stools)


· identify / define ‘learning zone’ for whole group experiences


· co-create the design process with students though feedback, surveys, whole-class discussions


· reconfigure classroom layout to include space for independent, paired, group work (introvert/extrovert areas)


· provide students with strategies to self-regulate - choice of workspace, seating and partners


· de-personalize student desks and chairs


· communal storage for easy student access to classroom materials and manipulatives

personal bins for student materials


Design is a process, not a product” (Oblinger, 2006).