Friday Focus

February 12, 2016

What I'm Wondering after 200 Instructional Walks

My professional practice goal (PPG) for the school year has been to use more formative assessment and less summative evaluations (i.e. formal observations) as a supervisor of instructional staff this year. The purpose is to increase my visibility in the school, provide more feedback and recognition for teachers, and better understand the instructional pulse of the building. This is directly related to our School Learning Objective (SLO) of increasing engagement. We collectively developed the tenets of literacy engagement in September.


In my initial forays into instructional walks, I was able to glean some introductory data. This information served almost as a pre-assessment, to gauge our current reality.


So what do I know now? That I have more questions than answers! I think this is a good thing. With more information, I am able to see more perspectives about what literacy engagement might look like in different contexts. Here are a few questions I have right now.


1. Why has group discussion increased from Quarter 1 (Q1) to Quarter 2 (Q2)?


Below are the graphs of the frequency of each tenet of engagement observed during my instructional walks from the last two quarters:

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As you can see when you compare the two graphs, group discussion is happening more frequently in classrooms, from four walks in Quarter 1 to twelve walks in Quarter 2.
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There are a few possible reasons as to why. First, we identified group discussion, such as peer conversations and authentic whole group discussions, as something that was lacking in our instruction generally. Making it a priority could have put it on people's minds.


Another reason might be the intentional effort of modeling group discussion within our own professional development this school year. For example, we used discussion protocols during our January 22 professional development day. One additional reason might be that I am more aware of group discussion as an important tenet of student engagement, so therefore I might be noticing it more without being aware of it (until now).


2. Why have feedback and choice been observed less frequently?


I'm not sure if feedback and student choice have necessarily decreased in frequency. It could simply be that the classrooms and the times I visited did not display these tenets as much as another. One quarter of instructional walks, around 100, is not a large sample size. Below is a graph that combines both quarters.

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As you can see, feedback, choice, and group discussion are right in the middle.


Is it also possible that, because students are having more time for group discussion, feedback and choice are embedded within these important conversations about learning? (and do you see what I mean about having more questions than answers?? :-)


3. Scaffolding and motivation are frequently observed...that's a good thing, right?


Definitely. Scaffolding, as you can read from our whole group debriefing via Padlet below, is the act of supporting different levels of abilities and making the content attainable. This is where the "We do it" of the Optimal Learning Model comes into play. Motivation was added after our discussion. This is essentially tapping into students' interests within instruction.

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On the flip side, can we provide too much scaffolding? That is possible. It's a balance between supporting our students with differentiation, and allowing them to try things independently when we feel they might be ready. It's about finding that zone of proximal development, where learners have the right amount of challenge. No easy task.


Along the same lines, I am finding myself labeling an instructional walk with "Motivation" when I'm not sure how to categorize it within the concept of engagement. Maybe this is because kids are often motivated by an activity. But is this activity making a real impact on learning and moving them toward the essential targets and objectives? I'm not thinking about any one instance. More so, I am wondering if motivation is a necessary tenet for our work. If not, is there any other attribute of engagement that would be better to focus on in the future?


4. What are our next steps?


First of all - celebrate! I have observed so many quality examples of engaging instruction. You know this through the feedback I have provided for you, both in writing and in our follow up conversations. I recently heard a parent describe our school as "a gem".


Second, I appreciate your open minds when I do point out possibilities for how a part of instruction might be approached in a different manner that may increase the learning opportunities for all. I'm always interested in feedback as well, as this new process for professional supervision and coaching is a work in progress for me.


Finally, I would encourage you to reflect on your professional journey so far this year. Your current student assessment results, such as benchmark books and writing portfolios, should be helpful. Also, I will be sending you a link of your saved instructional walks via Evernote/email. A suggested activity, either on your own or next week during our mid-year reviews, is to read through what I observed, noted, and wondered about.


This leads into some questions you might want to use to guide your reflection:



  • Is this feedback helping me move forward as a professional and lifelong learner?
  • Do these instructional walks clearly describe what is happening in my classroom this year?
  • If yes, which components of the Danielson Framework for Teaching, Domains 2 and 3 do these observational notes align with?
  • If not, what changes could occur to better observe the instruction in my classroom? For example, could Matt come at a different time, focus on a different aspect of the learning experience, and/or celebrate a part of my instruction previously missed?
  • What one area would I want to focus on for the rest of this school year, an area that is aligned with my goals as well as with a tenet of engagement (School Learning Objective)?


Remember that we are focusing on the process more than product. If you have suggestions for improvement with our school focus and how we measure growth and success, I would welcome your feedback.


Best,

Matt

#quotable

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All Faculty Meeting

Friday, Feb. 19th, 8am

221 8th Street North

Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Purpose: To start preparing for our peer coaching professional learning activity in March.