Meta-reflection for Standard 2: Learning Environment

The artifact below focuses on my understanding of how people learn, what the best environmental contexts for learning are, what motivates learners, what my role as a professional educator is and how these all combine into my personal pedagogy. This artifact satisfies standard 2: Learning environment: Creates and maintains school-wide and classroom environments that are safe, stable, and empowering.

Human Development and Principles of Learning

Another artifact that satisfies standard 2: Learning environment, is also from EDU 6655. This artifact discusses how to maximize motivation in order to maximize learning. Motivation is the key to effectively educating children. There are three main aspects to maximizing a child’s motivation to read: choice, collaboration, and competence (Gaskins, 1998).

Maximizing Motivation

Below is a direct link to all artifacts that I feel have implications regarding learning environment.

Meta-reflection for Standard 1: Instructional Planning

I created this document, Launching Reading Workshop: The First Twenty Days of School, with my  first grade team. This document demonstrates my instructional planning competency by aligning specific objectives with Washington State Standards in reading and communication as well as providing lists of suggested read alouds and shared reading materials. We also placed each lesson into separate strands where each lesson would best be taught during a ‘balanced literacy’ program (i.e. Reading Workshop). Once our data was compiled I created the final product template. This artifact directly impacts student learning as it ensures that Washington State Standards are being addressed and has focused objectives and literature to support deep understandings of those particular standards and objectives. My school is transforming our literacy program from Success For All (SFA) to a Balanced Literacy approach. Creating this document aided our first grade team in better understanding the Balanced Literacy approach and ensuring that we have the tools necessary to teach our students effectively in the fall. This artifact demonstrates competency regarding standard 1: Instructional Planning: Designs and monitors long and short-term plans for students’ academic success.

Below is a direct link to all artifacts that I feel have implications regarding instructional planning.

Getting What You Paid For: The Debate Over Equity in Public School Expenditures

The following data was compiled as a response to concerns regarding equity in public school spending. Data was collected from all 50 states from the Digest of Education Statistics, an annual publication of the U.S. Department of Education. The data compiled in this report is analyzing the frequency distributions of the average verbal SAT scores, the average math SAT scores, the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and the percentage of persons with disabilities nationally.

To read more follow the link below.

Interpreting and Applying Educational Research II

Response Summary Survey, Needs Assessment and Action Plan

To assess the beliefs of ———- Elementary staff we created and administered a survey regarding the Nine Characteristics of High Performing Schools prepared by G. Sue Shannon, senior researcher for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Twenty-two staff members, out of a possible 36 people (61%), completed the online survey that was comprised of 22 questions. The questions were on a nominal scale of never, sometimes, often and always. After analyzing the compiled data we found three areas that displayed need. The first area of need was under the characteristic of effective school leadership specifically the question I believe leadership is shared between administration and staff. 59.1% of the participants answered sometimes. The second area of concern was under the characteristic of high levels of collaboration and communication. The question was I believe there is clear communication between administration and staff; 50% answered sometimes. The third area of need also falls under the characteristic of high levels of collaboration and communication. The question was I believe parents and community members are involved in identifying problems and working toward solutions with the school. 81% of the staff that took the survey answered sometimes.

Below are links to the Response Summary Survey that the staff completed, the needs assessment created based on the survey results, and the action plan focused on the top two areas of need identified in the needs assessment. (All  school, district, city and tribe names were omitted for privacy).

Response Summary Survey

Needs Assessment

Action Plan

Action Plan Reflection

The process of completing a needs assessment was extremely informative! I loved creating, administering, and analyzing my own (with my partner) survey and hearing confidential (so, more truthful) answers to tough questions. We created the survey in the end of January because we wanted to get started right away. We asked the staff to get back to us within a week and a half. We got most of the staff’s results and began our analysis of the data and completing our needs assessment. After our face-to-face meeting, Star and I received feedback and then began our Action Plan. Star and I did 100% of the project together; we completed nothing without the presence of the other. We found the data analysis not only surprising at times but also reassuring that we weren’t the only ones feeling that one particular aspect was lacking or another was already robust. This is in regards to the Nine Characteristics of High Performing Schools (which was the bases of all our questions we created for the survey). I found that completing the Action Plan was more difficult than I had thought it would be at first. It was challenging to create a SMART goal and make sure that all the steps that needed to be accomplished in order to accomplish the SMART goal were addressed.  Star and I, as indicated in the action plan, intend on bringing this product to our Building Learning Team (BLT) to see if the implementation of CFGs and more effort toward increasing family involvement (specifically in conferences) could be pushed forward!

A Call to Action!

“If we could present an absolutely irrefutable case that the successful implementation of professional learning community concepts in your school will result in higher levels of student achievement and greater professional satisfaction for your educators, would you be willing to make substantive changes in your traditional practices to effect that successful implementation?”

-Richard DuFour, Robert Eaker, Rebecca DuFour

On Common Ground

In DuFour et al.’s book On Common Ground, in the chapter titled, Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap, the authors focus on what barriers schools come across and give suggestions on how to overcome those barriers. Reading this chapter through an educator’s lens, examining my practice, my school’s practices and the district that I teach in was at first scary, then enlightening, and finally, after days of thought, I was left with a feeling of hope–the thought that I have the power to help turn the tides. This, according to DuFour, is the first step to creating a more effective school; if schools are to change, people need to be willing to change their practice. Not only do the people need to change but each cell of the organization needs to shift with an organized and intentional plan to create the system change, (DuFour, 180-181).

I found that each barrier addressed in On Common Ground, is not necessarily a barrier that can be overcome completely as there is always room for the improvement of all practice. One barrier that I find most common and most human is the barrier #5: Mindless precedent. People are quite reluctant to change and that could possibly be more so in education as we educators feel personally attached to our practice in an intense way. We have to learn that teaching to the status quo or believing that the way we do things in our classroom is the best way–the only way is not progressive thinking. We need to analyze our practice and the practice of others with the students’ best interests in mind. After all, isn’t that why we do this? As written on page 235, in On Common Ground, “The single best strategy for addressing this barrier to action is to bring the unstated assumptions that created the precedent to the surface–to challenge people to think carefully about the assumptions underlying their practice” (DuFour). Furthermore, the only way these assumptions can be presented nakedly to the staff is if shared leadership is practiced and trust is present amongst all staff. Leaders should hash out new practices with the staff in so doing creating a shared knowledge base and discuss the assumptions that brought the idea of change to the table. Allow everyone opportunities to say their peace–conducting “honest dialogue about the similarities and differences” (DuFour) between the ‘old way’ and the ‘new way’. These barriers addressed by DuFour, et. al., are not a means to an end but rather a means to continuous evaluation and evolution; with this in mind I feel that we are more willing and able to take action.

(title: A Call to Action is the title for section 5 of DuFour et. al.’s book On Common Ground)