Archive for the ‘(07) Collaboration:’ Category

ISTE NETS for Teachers – Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership—Goalview IEP System–Training to Become a Trainer

EDTC 6433: ISTE Standard 5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership—Goalview IEP System–Training to Become a Trainer

Goalview screenshot

Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

  1. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.
  2. Exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.
  3. Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning.
  4. Contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching.

Within the first couple of weeks of this course, EDTC 6433, I noted that our district was in the midst of selecting software for creating and managing online IEPs . I also shared a screen shot of one of the options, Goalview. As of today, I am now in the midst of training to become a trainer for other teachers within our district on how to implement Goalview. Having served on the software adoption committee 15 years ago and teaching others to use the software from then to the present,  I am delighted to have once again been selected to represent the high school team of special education teachers. I am eager to move beyond the “test site” we experienced today. Due in part to what I have learned within this course, today I was able to ask insightful questions during the training, move ahead to see a sneak preview of the benefits of this program, and envision ways that I will provide support to my colleagues as we go “live” within the next month. I definitely see myself actively engaging in part b. of ISTE Standard 5.

In the article, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology1, authors Collins &Halverson (2009), state:  “The revolution that is occurring in education will alter not just the lives of students, but the entire society”. I am continuing to realize that as a public school educator who has served for over three decades, the changes I have already witnessed may be just the beginning. Thankfully, I am not dismayed by this fact, but rather, encouraged.

Recently a colleague complimented me for being recognized and validated as evidenced by my district selecting me to be trained to become a trainer for the new IEP software being used nationwide. Today, during our second day of training, it was easy to see huge advantages to the new features we discussed. A couple of us laughed as we recalled the “IEP system” we used at the beginning of our teaching careers—5-part NCR forms which I later experimented with feeding into the “cutting edge at-the-time dot matrix printers”! Ironically, I need to remind myself to be patient as we make the transition to the new system and agree with my colleague,  David Spencer, that “It is amazing what we can do and learn from each other as educators when we are given/take the time to discuss topics”.

1  Excerpted from our book Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The

Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009.

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EDCT 6433: Participation in an Online Educational Community –Blog

Participation in an Online Educational Community –Blog

During this EDTC 6433 Teaching with Technology course, taught by Professor David Wicks, the new experience of using Google+ as a regular means of participating in an online community of educators has opened my eyes to seeing new opportunities for personal and professional growth. As much as I hate to admit to this, I am a person who is rarely even on a social networking site such as Facebook (perhaps twice a year) the extent of my participation in an online educational community has been limited to interacting within the Blackboard setting for classes for my master’s in C&I program. Honestly, I rarely even text. Now, it is like I have been introduced to traveling on the “freeway” as opposed to taking the “beaten path of the backroads”. Although I  must say I have felt a significant degree of stress in the process of adjusting to the high speed and seemingly endless options of on-ramps and off-ramps, I have begun to feel more comfortable with navigating my way forward.

One of the greatest benefits of this online community interaction has been to engage in the weekly Google+ Hangouts” presented and/or facilitated by Professor Wicks. I fact, if I am not mistaken, I took part in each and every hangout. The two-way interaction with other classmates and our professor and the advantage of seeing the “live screen traversing” has been invaluable to me. I anticipate that in my final capstone class next quarter as I finish up my degree, I may use the connections established with others in this community as well as others such as Schoology (an online educational community joined recently along with a few other teachers in school) to assist me in the preparation of  my SPU C & I Portfolio, my current participation  in my school’s pilot group for the new teacher’s evaluation  process, and most of all–my teaching.

On a slightly different note, but related to engaging with educators around technology, I have recently been selected to become of trainer in my district on the new IEP software, Goalview. This is a web-based management tool to create IEP and track student progress and is currently in use nationwide. Our first “training of trainers” was today and I am enjoying the opportunity to be among the first to learn to use this new tool.

Here is a clip (below) noting one instance of my participation in Google+ Hangouts within EDTC 6433:

 Laurie James

Feb 21, 2013 (edited)  –

Hangout

–  Limited (locked)

EDTC 6433 Week 8 Thursday Night Live Hangout

3 people hung out with you

Only you can see this post


Thanks +Laurie James for participating in today’s session. If you enjoy seeing technology teachers struggle with technology then you should watch today’s session. 🙂  Digital Storytelling Workshop Part 3 of 4.

EDTC 6433: Digital Storytelling Project—The House at Windmill Loop: A Story for My Grandchildren

EDTC 6433: Digital Storytelling Project—The House at Windmill Loop: A Story for My Grandchildren

by Laurie James

I made the decision to create a story for my grandchildren to document a very exciting event in our family. In the spring of 2012, my husband, Gary James, and I made the decision to sell our family home after 28 years and through joint ownership with our oldest daughter and her husband, build a new house that would be large enough to accommodate the collective nine members of our combined families.

On January 4, 2013–The same day as the beginning of this class, EDTC 6433, we moved in to our new house at Windmill Loop. I was delighted to learn that for this digital storytelling project, we could select a personal topic, because this opportunity to blend together the tools I am learning to use this course along with the events in my family has proved to be very motivating and timely in helping me to document a major event. My grandchildren, Gabriel, Haylie, and Makenzie, have been very intrigued and involved in the process along the way as I have been preparing this story over the past several weeks.

Music: My entire family has enjoyed listening to my musical selections which I found in the Sound Cloud portion of the Creative Commons site. Due to our “Celtic” roots, I looked for Celtic music and came across two songs performed by an artist named, James Calmus. The first song is used as the background for the series of photos showing the building of the house and is entitled, A touch of epic: https://soundcloud.com/james-calmus. The second section of the video displays photos and a couple of brief video clips taken after we moved in and is set the song entitled: Celtic https://soundcloud.com/james-calmus

Photography: As our house was being built, many photos were taken by, Packy Rieder, the chief sales person in our new Quadrant Homes neighborhood. He regularly posted these encouraging images on Facebook for our family and friends. My digital storytelling project includes Packy Rieder’s photos as well as additional photos taken by both of my daughters, Melissa Butler and Britannia James, and my son-in-law, Michael Butler.

Script: Although I originally planned to narrate throughout the video, selecting my grandchildren as my audience, I made the decision to record a voice-over script at the beginning only. My reasoning was that I did not want to detract from the natural “storyline” provided through the sequence of pictures I selected. I found that as I was in the midst of drafting my project and my grandchildren would watch it with me, they were quick to provide their own narration such as: “There’s a picture of the loft! There’s the kitchen before the refrigerator! Look at the fireplace!” Each time they would hear the music playing, they would run over to me to see what new picture I had added to the project. As they get older, they will develop a better understanding of the building process and be able to reflect on the photos—picking out many more details than what I could have begun to note in a script. I believe that additional narration would actually limit their ability to focus on what will become important to each of them over time.

Ditigal Storytelling tool: At first I was intending to use Movie Maker, because I like the built-in transition features, however, decided instead use WeVideo, due to the multiple tracks feature. I chose the “Classic” background and elected not to play with the additional aspects of transitions, fading, etc. in light of the time it took to upload, sequence, and place nearly 60 photos in the timeline. (Don’t worry, my video is just a bit over 5 minutes long!) My son, Alex James, and son-in-law, Mike, helped me through a couple of technical issues which I subsequently learned may stem from the fact that the WeVideo program is “cloud-based”—creating a bit of the delay factor when dragging and placing images in the timeline. The perfectionistic part of my could have spent even more time than the significant number of hours and days this project took—to refine, edit, and elaborate, however, I will officially declare it “done”, and consider this to be a very positive beginning to what I hope will be many digital stories to come. I must say I am so thankful for what I have learned throughout this digital storytelling project—not only for its application to my work in school with my students, but perhaps even more importantly—for documenting events in the lives of my family members.

As I reflect on ISTE Standard 1   Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity, I believe that this project will indeed continue to impact the individuals who are currently the most important students in my life—my grandchildren. It is certain that as they grow older and enter into formal classrooms, the technologies available to them will be far different than those I have used in this project, however, I believe they will reflect on the process they participated in with me regarding a pivotal time in our lives. With regard to my students in my classroom “away from home”, I will be more ready and able to teach processes, support creative endeavors, and understand their needs as learners.

My link to my digital story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g7PtqRPZjY

Our new home: The James and Butler Families--January 2013

Our new home: The James and Butler Families–January 2013

References:

https://soundcloud.com/james-calmus

https://soundcloud.com/james-calmus

EDTC 6433: ISTE 3 Module 3 Communicating Effectively with Confidentiality to meet Individual Needs

EDTC 6433: ISTE 3 Module 3 Communicating Effectively with Confidentiality to meet Individual Needs

#ISTE3    #communication   #individual education plans (IEPs)   #confidentiality

Within Module 3, our challenge has been to address ways in which we as educators can model the effective use of technology in the midst of our work and learning. My initial question posted for this module focused on how can I as a special education teacher, use technology to assist me in effectively and efficiently writing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that are compliant with state requirements, streamlined for gathering staff input, and presented in a “user-friendly” format for students and parents? The specific aspect of ISTE 3 that is especially high on my priority list is: c.Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital-age media and formats. Both prior to and during IEP meetings, my desire is to focus more time and energy on my students and their specific strengths and needs rather than “fussing” with processes and documents that are confusing and distracting. One of the software programs our district is considering purchasing is Goalview. Here is the link: http://www.psesd.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=718&Itemid=736

In response to my posted resource, Professor David Wicks, asked if I was familiar with another online IEP system entitled, Goalbook. Following the link he provided, https://goalbookapp.com/goals/goals, I watched a sample video of the program in action and was impressed with what I saw. Just this week, however, the decision in my district was finalized and Goalview has been selected. As I have begun to investigate the Goalview software, I have learned that some of the positive aspects include autotext and drop-down menus throughout the program, multiple goal bank options, and a variety of use-friendly printing features. I am encouraged by a remark from one of my friends who served on the selection committee that she does not think that the learning curve will be too steep. Additionally, our new assistant principal used Goalview in her previous district and has very favorable comments about its use and functionality.

Throughout Module 3, I found myself drawn to posts referencing organizational tools for teachers, however, I noted that again this week I was becoming overwhelmed by the volume of available resources. I would click on a site, and sometimes sign up for free access, then after spending a considerable amount of time experimenting with the digital tool, I would find that some feature was not as user-friendly as I had hoped. In one of our readings, the need to be discerning was especially noted by author, Louise Starkey. In her article, Evaluating learning in the 21st century: a digital age, Starkey shares, “Relatively quick access to a wide range of information means that the user needs the ability to critically evaluate the validity and relative value of information accessed (2011, p. 6).

Also, I must share that when considering signing up students for using online tools I have reservations regarding confidentiality. My concern is that every one of my students has an IEP, so just the mere process of having their name being added to a class list of mine—makes it a known fact that they have a disability. The issue of confidentiality reminds me of a time when our current IEP system was brand new and in the process of the training we discovered that we could create a PDF of each page of the IEP. I was excited to try this feature and with parent permission, sent a draft of an upcoming IEP to a parent via email. In discussing this action later with my special education director (at my initiative) I was asked to not continue this practice.

Unfortunately, what was possible in a technical sense, was considered unwise for the situation, and while I clearly understand the reasoning behind the directive to not email the contents of a student’s IEP, it seemed ironic that the use of such a time-saving tool was prohibited. This illustration is also ironic to me, as I consider the results of a study by Jia Rong Wen and Wen Ling Shih: Exploring the information literacy competence standards for elementary and high school teachers, which found the dimension ‘‘attitude’’ (to be) the most powerful force for promoting teachers’ information literacy competence and their willingness to apply information technology in teaching”. I believe my attitude is one of openness and willingness to embrace technology—especially if it can streamline communication between all parties of an IEP team, however, I must be thoughtful and discerning in the decisions I make—ensuring that the individual needs of my students always trump other factors of consideration. I wonder if confidentiality is one of those issues around which practices must be altered to keep up with the ever-changing needs of society? After all, consider online healthcare and financial records.

Resources:

Starkey, L (2011) Evaluating learning in the 21st century: a digital age learning matrix Retrieved from: https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-828829-dt-content-rid-1286046_1/courses/EDTC6433_27233201232/evaluating%20learning%20in%20the%2021st%20century%282%29.pdf

Wen, J. & Wen. (2008): Exploring the information literacy competence standards for elementary and high school teachers. Retrieved from https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-828836-dt-content-rid-1286048_1/courses/EDTC6433_27233201232/Exploring%20info%20literacy%20competence%20standards%20for%20elementary%20and%20high%20school%20teachers%282%29.pdf

Capstone–Standards 06 & 07 Meta-Reflection: Communication and Collaboration

Standards 06 & 07 Meta-Reflection: Communication and Collaboration

Standard 06 Communication: Communicates regularly and effectively with colleagues, parents, and students through a variety of mediums.

Standard 07 Collaboration: Cooperates with other professionals to bridge gaps between schools and community and between departments/disciplines within schools.

Initial reflection during C & I Orientation:

In my role as a special education teacher “Communication” (with a capital C) is as necessary as breathing. In my nearly thirty years of teaching, I would have to say that communication continues to be the number one requirement for my job—and I always strive to keep it my priority. I find that most often, extra attention devoted to maintaining regular and effective communication with students, parents and colleagues—whether in person, by phone, via email, US mail, etc.—is well worth the time and energy.

Every IEP meeting is an example of the collaborative process at work. This process in designed to bring together the perspectives of the student, family, special educator, general educator(s) and the district–as well as any necessary outside agencies. In addition to the required annual IEP and triennial evaluation, I must facilitate any coordination and collaboration between any and all of the above noted members of the IEP Team—as needed. Beyond the specific realm of the IEP process, I am required to be an active participant of my special education team, professional learning community, POD team, and leadership team.

Reflection following EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration:  Parents, Colleagues, and Community

Teacher Leadership—Past, Present, and Future~       Laurie James’  MetaReflection 12/8/11

As I reflect on the challenging endeavors I have engaged in throughout the Collaboration and Communication course during Autumn Quarter 2011, at Seattle Pacific University–words that come to mind are “victorious, energized, and committed.”  The victory had been personal, the energy–contagious, and the commitment is to those about me.

Near the beginning of the term when asked to respond to the following question: What are my strengths in terms of leading from my classroom and in my school? My initial response was, “I believe that among my greatest strengths as a leader in both my classroom and my school are; my dedication and strong personal commitment to students and education, my organizational skills, and my natural ability to work successfully with a wide range of people.”

At the end of the quarter, as I reflected, I still saw my strengths as noted above, however, noticed throughout the course, that a definite strength of mine is striving to bring a sense of integration from the “compartments” of my life. This is a relatively new strength that has emerged, I believe, as a survival skill in response to the ongoing demands of a busy schedule, as well as a response to grief and loss issues related to the deaths of various family members in the last few years. In this realm, I am victorious. Charlotte Danielson, in her article entitled, The Many Faces of Leadership, writes: “Effective teacher leaders are open-minded and respectful of others’ views. They display optimism and enthusiasm, confidence and decisiveness. They persevere and do not permit setbacks to derail an important initiative they are pursuing” (2011, p. 16).

My current endeavors in graduate school blend nicely with our district’s emphasis on supporting each teacher and school to actively participate in Professional Learning Communities. I am encouraged to realize that the dove-tailing of similar projects are supported by the research and readings in this particular course and are noted as “job-embedded” projects. In a wonderful way, this allows me to view myself and my profession in a truly more “integrated” fashion and deepens my appreciation for the rich benefits of both facets of my life.

Danielson cites Michael Fullan as saying, “The litmus test of all leadership is whether it mobilizes people’s commitment to putting their energy into actions designed to improve things. It is individual commitment, but above all it is collective mobilization” (2007, p. 16).

Although in times past, I strongly considered pursuing administrator’s credentials (and was often encouraged to do so), I am more comfortable and have a sense of peace with continuing my involvement as a member of my school’s leadership team and curriculum leader’s team—based on my role as curriculum leader for the special education department. Both positions allow me to provide direct input into discussions and the development of our school’s improvement plan. In past years special education in our district has traveled on sort of parallel but separate tracks with regard to school improvement. My goal has been to bring these two worlds together so that we can speak the same terminology and validate and incorporate the best of both perspectives into a stronger and more focused stated purpose for the future.

As written in An Introduction to Teacher Leadership, also by Danielson: “Teacher leaders see themselves, first as teachers; while they are not interested in becoming administrators, they are looking to extend their influence….Teacher leaders are “more” than teachers, yet different from administrators” (2007, p.1).

As cited within Angelle & DeHart’s article entitled, Teacher Perceptions of Teacher Leadership: Examining Differences by Experience, Degree, and Position:

Empowering teachers to share in school-wide decision making enhances teacher leadership throughout the school. The more teachers who are part of decision making, the greater the participation and commitment to carry out the goals of the organization (Barth, 2001).

My role as a special education teacher has always involved interacting with general education teachers and I have designed a number of systems over the years and have adapted these to incorporate new technologies as they have become available. In this course, the development of one of my required exhibits has prompted me to create a new system for tracking student progress and expand it to track teacher collaboration. My experience is similar to what authors Herzog and Abernathy refer to in their article entitled, Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Growing Capacity for Teacher Leadership (as cited by Hilty):

Both formal and informal leaders have often risen to their positions without any training in leadership skills. They learned on the job, through trial and error. Intuitive leaders can be effective, but they could be more successful with leadership training in facilitating group problem solving, team building, effecting school change, and curriculum development (p. 190).

Now that I have nearly completed my third quarter of my graduate work, and at times feel a little weary—my colleagues, who are now well acquainted with the “new and improved” alterations to our PLC work (based on my input from graduate courses!) are now–more than ever–“cheering me on”. More important, I believe that together, we have discovered the truth of what Zepeda states: “…relationships with others, builds cohesion and this ‘connective leadership’ is what will help to bind people and their values to the work they do in the process of working with one another” (p.23).

I believe that teacher leadership involves having us as individual teachers putting our lives into action—being living examples of modeling “best practices” as we interact with students, colleagues and community members.

Resources

Angelle, P., & DeHart, C.. (2011, June). Teacher Perceptions of Teacher Leadership: Examining Differences by Experience, Degree, and Position. National Association of Secondary School Principals. NASSP Bulletin, 95(2), 141-160.  Retrieved December 8, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 2461069711).

Danielson, C. (2007). The Many Faces of Leadership. Educational Leadership, 65(1), 14-19.

Danielson, C. (2010). Evaluations That Help Teachers Learn. Educational Leadership, 68(4), 35-39.

Hilty, E. (2011) Teacher Leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education. New York: Peter Lang.

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

Artifacts for Standards 6 and 7 are listed below and the background for their selection is explained within the following blogs, written and posted throughout this course, Autumn Quarter, 2011:

Exhibit 1: Educator Learning: Tracking Student Progress

Exhibit 1, Artifact 3–email to KHS faculty

Exhibit1, Artifact 2– COLLABORATION SHEET-1

Exhibit 1, Artifact 1–SMART Goals 2011-12

Exhibit 2: Educator Learning: Power Standards/Common Formative Assessments

Exhibit 2, Artifact 1 — KHS SE 11-12 Self eval

Exhibit 2, Artifact 2 — KHS Secondary Progress Report

Exhibit 3: Community Involvement: Parent Communication

Exhibit 4: Community Involvement: Self Advocacy and Post-School Outcome

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 1 Reflection: Introduction and Self-Assessment. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/edu-6600-communication-and-collaboration-introduction-and-self-assessment/

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 2 Reflection: Communication and Collaboration. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/edu-6600-communication-and-collaboration/

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 3 Reflection: Reflections on the Richness of Teamwork. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/edu-6600-communication-and-collaboration-week-3/

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 4 Reflection: True Collaboration in Action—“Shoulder to Shoulder”. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/true-collaboration-in-action%E2%80%94%E2%80%9Cshoulder-to-shoulder%E2%80%9D/

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 5 Reflection: Endeavoring to Strive for Excellence—With Critical Support. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/endeavoring-to-strive-for-excellence-with-critical-support/

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 6 Reflection: Reflections on Collaboration and Peer Review. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/reflections-on-collaboration-and-peer-review/

James, L.G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 7 Reflection: Systems Thinking and Praying for Wisdom. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/systems-thinking-and-praying-for-wisdom/

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 8 Reflection: Action Research, Right Before My Very Eyes. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/action-research-right-before-my-very-eyes/

James, L. G. (2011). EDU 6600 Communication and Collaboration, Seattle Pacific University. Module 9 Reflection: Growing into Leadership as a Teacher. Retrieved from https://lpettengilljames.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/growing-into-leadership-as-a-teacher/

Growing into Leadership as a Teacher~

This week, I have engaged not only in reflecting on the assigned readings, but also much reflection about teacher leadership examples I continue to observe in those about me, as well as within myself.  As offered within Teacher Leadership, by Hilty, authors , Smylie, Conley and Marks, provided highlights of changes in education throughout the past twenty years—two  of the three decades that I have been teaching in the public school setting. I found the reading of this article to create a bit of a trip down memory lane. My personal entry to the system of education occurred during a time when the emphasis of school improvement was focused on the strength of principals and superintendents. I was comfortable with this system because it represented what I had literally “grown up” with—coming from a family with a long history in education including teachers, principals, superintendents, and even college presidents (plural).

Throughout the article, I thought about my personal experiences that accompanied the descriptions of changes taking place, such as “By the late 1980’s….District-level initiatives abounded. Opportunities for teacher leadership came in the form of career ladder and mentor teacher programs, the appointment of master and lead teachers, and policies to decentralize and involve teachers in school- and district-level decision making” (Hilty, p. 266). During this time, I was invited for the first time to become department chair for special education in my high school. Additionally, I became involved on various committees and developed faculty presentations. On two separate occasions—I gave presentations to the staff, two days before giving birth! (My first two children were born in February—six years apart—and February just happened to be the scheduled time for these in-service days!)

Hitly goes on to note additional changes that evolved over time: “Since the mid-1995s there has been a shift away from individual empowerment and role-based initiatives toward a more collective, task-oriented, and organizational approaches to teacher leadership” (p. 267). A number of people during these years strongly encouraged me to consider pursuing an administrative degree which might enable me to take on an eventual administrative position to support special education district-wide.  One consultant working with our district said, “Laurie, you are already performing the role of a quasi-administrator—you should get the degree to make it official…”. Although I continued to teach full-time and serve on various committees, by this time, the birth of our third child and the need for personal balance, led me to make the decision to postpone any further education.  In spite of my efforts to pursue “balance” in the midst of a busy life, I did experience what the research showed and what Hilty refers to as, “…work overload, stress, role ambiguity, and role conflict for teacher leaders as they tried to balance their new school level responsibilities with their classroom responsibilities” (p 268).

In retrospect, my experience is similar to what authors Herzog and Abernathy refer to in their article entitled, Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Growing Capacity for Teacher Leadership:

Both formal and informal leaders have often risen to their positions without any training in leadership skills. They learned on the job, through trial and error. Intuitive leaders can be effective, but they could be more successful with leadership training in facilitating group problem solving, team building, effecting school change, and curriculum development (p. 190).

I am thankful, to at last be involved in a master’s degree program which will allow me to increase and refine natural abilities while I continue to gain new perspectives and learn from those about me. I am truly encouraged by the Professional Learning Community approach embraced by my district and to see that it dove-tails beautifully with both the themes as well as the job-embedded projects required for this course.

Hilty, E. (2011) Teacher Leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education. New York: Peter Lang.

Action Research–Right before my very eyes~

How has collaborative action research been a part of your professional experience?  What can you do to make this convergence between research and practice a regular part of your approach to improving student learning?  What might bridge this practice to other members of the school community?

This week, I was truly inspired as I listened to the screencast and read the chapter on action research—primarily because both validate practices that feel very strongly about and spend a great deal of time and energy focusing on in my school setting. I found it especially interesting to read the other posts this week to see what types of action research teachers are conducting in other settings.

Initially, when my high school opened its doors in 2007, the principal envisioned that we would be a full-inclusion school and that special education services would be provided in the context of co-teaching arrangements in the general education classroom setting. Though we as special education teachers were open to co-teaching models, we raised the concern that students needed to be provided services “in the least restrictive environment” and that it was imperative for us to offer “a continuum of services”.  In retrospect, I believe that as a team we launched an action research project centered on the question, “What is the LRE–for each IEP student”?  Zepeda, in Figure 12.3 Overall Steps to Action Research, addresses many of the questions that my colleagues and I began to ask ourselves.

“Defining the focus…What is (our) concern? What kind of evidence to (we) produce to show (our) concern? Collecting the data…What types of data should (we) collect to answer (our) question (regarding what is the best LRE for each student)? How will (we) ensure that (we) have multiple perspectives? Organizing and analyzing the data…What can (we) learn from the data? What patterns, insights, and new understandings can we find? What meaning do these patterns, insights, and new understandings have for your practice? for your students (pp. 268-269)?

Clearly, our team realized that waiting for final or even quarter grades for our students who were placed within inclusion classrooms, was not an option. Instead I began to systematically collect and record percentage grades from the Skyward grading system—each week, for each of the 75 IEP students, in each of their six classes. (Note: the parent access side of Skyward, while noting specific assignments and corresponding scores, only shows the overall letter grade for each class, whereas my teacher access allows me to view both the letter grade, as well as the current percentage in the “snapshot” view of each students’ grades.) In terms of data collection, this is an important distinction. While parents can only see an “F” grade in Skyward, I can see the value of that “F”—whether it is 3% or 58%. This specificity is important when working with students and measuring what is sometimes “incremental” progress. I charted this data, week after week, as our team reviewed, analyzed, and reflected on the patterns that emerged.

As our team continued to regularly look at the ongoing progress data, much to our surprise, we saw many students (who in previous years/schools would have been recommended for special education English classes) actually perform successfully in general education English classrooms—with accommodations and modifications as needed. Also, however, we noticed that patterns within the math courses that first year were not nearly as positive, and that quite a number of students were failing with very “low value” F grades. As we crosschecked this data with attendance and discipline records to rule out other factors contributing to the failures, we could see that a specific group of students clearly needed a more intensive form of support—more than what could be reasonably offered within an inclusion classroom.

Next then invited our team of administrators (who were aware of and supportive of, our data collection process) to our team meeting—and we shared the “good news/bad news” data. Together, we could objectively look at the patterns that were emerging and problem-solve in order to meet the needs of individual students. In this particular situation, administration requested that the counselors create a new class section of SE Math, allowing us to hand-pick students to enroll.

Though that first year was incredibly stressful for all involved, we have now established the need for “a continuum of services”. Additionally, we have created an effective method—through maintaining a systematic cycle of: data collection, analysis and interpretation of data, and taking appropriate action—for responding to the needs of individual students.

Within this week’s screencast, Dr. Williams stated that, “Action research is done by the folks who can take action. People who have some control…” (2011). I believe that indeed, our team engages in action research which leads to positive changes for our students. Although the action research which is most central to the needs of students within our department focuses on grades—it is not about grades in their most simplistic form. Grades as listed on transcripts, while important when working with students as we evaluate their progress toward graduation, are summative in nature—and are only part of the larger picture of progress toward success. Quarterly grades, viewed by some as summative, can provide general formative information—useful to both students and teachers for the remainder of the semester. More importantly, however, I believe that regular and reflective student feedback—daily, weekly, or bi-monthly– provides vital and specific information that can serve students and teachers in their quest to improve student learning.  In chapter 12, Zepeda states, “Action research engages teachers in their own intentional actions of collecting, analyzing, reflecting, and then modifying practice. Action research is about change (p. 264)”.

I believe that the Exhibits I am creating and posting within my bPortfolio will serve to create meaningful connections between the examples of action research as described above and other members of the school community, and I look forward to expanding processes in both breadth and depth.

One of my colleagues in this course, underscored important information on this topic: “To involve other members of the school community, we could follow some of Zepeda’s suggestions. On page 265, she offers things teachers as action researchers can do (2008):

1. “Discuss with colleagues relationships among theory, practice, and research.”

2. “Systematically collect data and research methodology with fellow teacher researchers.”

3. “Analyze and interpret their data and research methodology with the support of colleagues and fellow teacher researchers.”

4. “Share their findings with students, colleagues, and members of the educational community.”

 

Resources:

Williams, T. (2011) Screencast, Action Research, retrieved November 15, 2011from SPU Blackboard.

https://learn.spu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_60188_1%26url%3D

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