Mary Ewart's bPortfolio

EDU 6990 – Teacher Leadership Capstone – Metareflection

Standard 8: Teacher leaders present professional practice for the review of colleagues.

 

“When teachers build networks to support their need for professional learning, their effectiveness can grow over a career.” (Fisher & Frey, 2016, p. 85)

When I started this program, in all honesty, my intention was to complete a Masters degree. I began with no intention of leaving the classroom in the foreseeable future, and rather, was hoping the program would provide me with some new tools and information that would better my practice as a secondary math teacher. Being in the classroom and working with students, seeing them reach understanding on a difficult concept, watching them engage in academic discourse about mathematics; all of those things make my job very fulfilling, and when I started this program I couldn’t imagine leaving the classroom and walking away from the students. I have spent 12 years working in public education, as a teacher, and have never doubted that I belong here, with students.

Throughout the first year of the program, I really focused on learning what I could to better my craft in the classroom. The work in our human development class was something I could apply instantly to my classroom to work with students and try to meet them the way they learn. During the Spring quarter, we took an administration class, Engaging Communities. This was the first time when I considered what my career might look like if I wasn’t in a classroom until I retire. Being in administration was not something I had spent any time considering prior to this course, but it really opened my eyes to the power that leaders have in education – whether they are teacher leaders, administrators, or leaders at a more central level.

Moving into the second year of the program, I spent the summer working on curriculum and assessment work, as well as considering how morals impact education – especially in a public school. This was an interesting quarter for me, as I truly felt my view shift from looking for immediate tools to apply in my classroom to looking at the information and considering how I could share it at the largest level to have the greatest impact for all students in my building rather than just my own. Although I still wasn’t sure that I was done in the classroom for any time in the near future, I was definitely shifting to thinking about how I could expand the impact of my learning. As the new math department chair in my building, that was an obvious way, and I began to create informative blurbs that I could send out, linked to research, that would provide members of my department with key learning from my courses that could be digested in quick and easy ways.

The last three quarters have really seen my thinking shift in even larger ways. Another administration course, Leadership in Education, continued to challenge my thinking with the idea of being able to impact more students than just those in my classroom. Then the Applying Action Research class really showed me how much my understanding of data and statistics that comes from being a math teacher can benefit others in the profession by simply being able to evaluate research to determine whether or not that data makes sense. Lastly, as I explored career options in the Capstone course, I was truly challenged to consider whether I will, in fact, remain in the classroom for the next 20+ years.

Now, as I am finished with my coursework, I have come to a crossroads, of sorts, in my career. My belief that being a public school teacher was my calling for my entire career has been confronted, and I have a lot of excitement and anticipation about where I should go next. Although the administration classes have been some of my favorites, I also think that is because those were the classes where I had the smallest set of prior knowledge, so I was able to learn the most in those classes about topics that were entirely new to me. Prior to this experience I would have never considered administration as a choice for me, but now, I am considering administration as a potential future branch in my career, although I am not ready to move into that yet. Where I have become more and more convicted about is to be able to share my knowledge with current and future teachers. Ideally, this would be in a position where I could stay in the classroom part-time, and coach/mentor teachers in-building part-time. Unfortunately, that is not a position that exists in my current district. Teaching is something that is important to me, but what if I could make a greater impact by teaching future or current teachers? This is a question that has been going through my head frequently the last 6 months or so. Based on that, I am hoping I will be able to take my experience in the classroom, and new learning from this program, and find a position with a university as an adjunct professor in a school of education. I would love to be able to teach about the best methods for instruction, how to evaluate research and curriculum, and how our students truly think and learn. I would also love to be able to teach about teaching math specifically, as I truly believe the ability to tell the story of mathematics is key in successful mathematics instruction, and that is not something everyone who wants to be a teacher understands. I also am considering looking into positions within my district that would allow me to work with other teachers, and considering looking at ways to make a larger impact on education as a whole. I love to learn about current trends in education and analyzing data on the true impact of those trends. With so many universities around the area, I might be able to find a position like this as well. Do I still feel passionately about serving students? Absolutely. My professional greatest joy over the last 12 years has come from student interaction. I am sure I will miss that if I move into a new career path. However, the main thing this program has taught me is how much of an impact leaders can make in education, not just for a class of students each year, but for classes of students each year in the future.

 

Source:

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2016) Getting Better Every Year. Educational Leadership, 73(8), 85-86.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

EDU 6980 – Applying Research in School Settings – Meta Reflection – Standard 3

EDU 6980 Applying Action Research in School Settings – Meta Reflection – Standard 3

 

Standard 3 – Teacher leaders improve teaching and learning through the use of education research at the classroom and school levels.

“Teacher-led professional learning is critical for supporting teachers to innovate, own, share and spread their professional knowledge and practices” (Campbell, 2015, p. 58)

            This class was one that I was very much looking forward to taking from the moment that I learned I was going to need a book about statistics in education! As a math teacher, the idea of thinking about the role that statistics could play in an educational setting was very intriguing, and I must admit, something that I had not fully considered until now. Thinking about my learning and understanding at the beginning of the course, I realize that I understood the importance of using research, both action research at a local level, as well as published professional research, when making decisions for my classroom, department, and school, but I had never thought or been taught about how to make critical decisions about the research and or whether a secondary source article used primary research appropriately.

At the beginning of the course, we worked to create a basic understanding of statistics, how different statistical measures are found, and how to use them appropriately. For me, this was a review of mathematical understand I already had, but it was interesting to put it into application when considering it as it related to educational research. We also chose a secondary source article that we would be critiquing by the end of the course. Although it probably should not have been, even considering the difference between a primary and secondary source article was something new to me. Prior to the start of this course, research had always been something I searched for, found the articles that were on the topic I was researching, and then used as needed. I had never put much thought into whether an article was primary or secondary, or how a secondary source article used the primary source research.

Then we moved on to the beginning critique of a primary source article. Reading a researcher article critically, with a focus on the actual data and how it was used was one of the most interesting pieces of learning throughout this program to me. I really appreciated the idea of working through an article considering each step along the way. This also helped me consider what I would do if I ever attempt to write or publish a formal article. We also interviewed an administrator to determine how they used research in their professional responsibilities.

After we began our critique of a primary source article, we spent time analyzing provided data and considering the implications of the data. That was done in my data analysis paper. This assignment opened my eyes to what type of data is useful in an educational study, and how it can be best used.

Then we put together all the pieces and completed my critique of the original primary source article we started with as a whole class. The process of reading the article, considering the critique questions, working with our cohort to answer the questions, fine-tuning our understanding, and then putting the whole thing into writing was a process that left me with a much greater understanding of what appropriate data and research is, as well as how I can use that understanding to promote learning in my classroom, as well as my department and building.

Lastly, we returned to the secondary source article that we picked at the beginning of the course. My article was How Mathematics Counts by Lynn Arthur Steen and published in Educational Leadership. Originally, the article was interesting, and seemed to have a lot of appropriate sources to back up the claims made by the author. For the final paper, I was asked to read the article, identify a primary source article used by the author of the secondary source article, and then critique the primary source article and how the secondary source author used it. Imagine my surprise when I found that the article I originally chose and felt so positively about, did not even have a true primary source article behind it! My critique of the one primary source research article and the way it was used can be found here.

Reflecting on my learning this quarter has caused me to consider many aspects I did not originally expect. With a math background, the actual statistics was not as much of a stretch for me as it was for others of my colleagues, however, the real learning for me came from realizing just exactly how much published research is actually lacking many important requirements to be making the connections that authors make. As I move forward in my role as a teacher leader, I will be working to do two things: make sure any research I present is appropriate, that the data provided is used correctly and that the researchers made appropriate determinations from the data, and I will be working to make sure my colleagues understand the concerns that are associated with research. Learning how to be critical readers of educational research and data will allow myself and my colleagues to use research in the most appropriate way to make the best educational decisions for students. Making the best educational decisions for my own students, and helping my colleagues do the same for their students is a primary goal that I have developed for myself as a teacher leader as I have worked through this program.

 

References:

Bok, D. (2005). Our underachieving colleges. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Campbell, C. (2015). Teachers as leaders of professional learning. Education Canada, 55(1), 54-59.

Lutsky, N. (2006). Quirks of rhetoric: A quantitative analysis of quantitative reasoning in student

writing. Proceedings of the section on statistical education, American Statistical Association, 2319-2322. Retrieved from http://statlit.org/pdf/2006LutskyASA.pdf

Mergendoller, J. R., Maxwell, N. L, & Bellisimo, Y. (2006). The Effectiveness of Problem-Based

Instruction: A Comparative Study of Instructional Methods And Student Characteristics. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based  Learning, 1(2).

Ravid, R. (2011). Practical Statistics for Educators (4th Edition). Landham, MD:

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc

Steen, L.A. (2007). How mathematics counts. Educational Leadership, 65(3). Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.spu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=f3a15feb3591-4b26-93a6-9028482c366c%40sessionmgr4005&vid=24&hid=4106

Stigler, S. M. (1999). Statistics on the table. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

EDAD 6580 Leadership in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 7

EDAD 6580 Leadership in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 7

 

Standard 7: Teacher leaders utilize instructional frames to improve teaching.

 

“Enlightened leadership is not an end in itself. It is a means – a means of bringing more wisdom to the world and of shaping a better future for our organizations and the children we serve” (Houston, Blankstein, & Cole, 2008, p. 34)

 

Leadership is always something that has come naturally to me, without even really trying. The process of considering what it means to be a leader, what qualities make a leader enlightened, and how to use leadership principles in an educational setting is very interesting to me. That being said, as I started this course, I knew very little about what it meant to really be a leader, in the sense of an administrator, and what kind of thought process goes into each and every decision that an administrator has to make. Although I do not have any desire to move into school administration, I do feel that as a teacher leader it is important to understand what it takes to be a good administrator, as being a teacher leader requires many of the same requirements. At the beginning of the course, I had really only considered what it takes to engage a community in a school setting, because of the previous coursework I completed as part of this program.

This course followed two pathways that continued to weave in and out of each other. One thing that we did every week was focus on one of the eight principles of leadership that are covered in Spirituality in Educational Leadership: intention, attention, unique gifts and talents, gratitude, unique life lessons, holistic perspective, openness and trust (Houston, Blankstein, & Cole, 2008). By focusing on a topic each week, and considering how that impacts us as teacher leaders now, and potentially future administrators, we were able to have both virtual and in-person discussions about how these principles will impact us all as leaders. Although I feel that trust is, perhaps, the most important principle, I loved discussing gratitude. Being grateful and expressing gratitude can go so far when it comes to developing trust and respect between people and leaders.

The second pathway that the course followed was working through Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School Reform by Owens, R., & Valesky, T. and considering the more nuts and bolts of leadership in education. Through this text and several supplemental resources, we considered the development of organizational behavior in education, how and why it has changed, what different types of management styles there are, and how that impacts both leaders and people who are working for the leaders. We also took the Jung Personality Test to determine our personalities, and then had a large discussion as how that personality will effect us as leaders, as well as how different personality types might be best suited for different roles. I am personally an ISFJ, which is a change from when I was in high school and was an ISTJ. ISFJ is Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. This means that I am a person who gains my energy from quiet, alone time that is organized and loves lists, and bases decisions on things I can sense, as well as how it will make others feel. Although the SFJ portion of my personality was shared by many, there was only one person in the cohort who was also introverted and shared the other three aspects. As a leader this means that I will have to do my best to make sure I get the time alone that I need to think and reflect throughout my days in order to do the best job I can do.

 

Another part of this pathway was a project where I picked an area of education that can be controversial, and engaged in a literature critique (Ewart Research Critique)and presentation (Research Presentation). I chose to research co-teaching as an intervention and inclusion strategy because I currently work in two co-teaching classrooms that we use as an intervention strategy. Although I have seen a great deal of success with this, it is not without its challenges, and can be very controversial for administrators to implement because it is costly and causes major master schedule challenges. Other topics covered by class members are technology, school uniforms, year-round school, inclusion, restraint, and universal preschool. It was very interesting to see how many of us ended up changing our opinion on our chosen topic based on the critique of the literature.

 

An underlying theme we discussed for most of the first portion of the class is the importance of a leader creating a shared mission and vision for all stakeholders in their school building. We learned about why this was necessary and how to use it to best achieve a functioning school with student success for all students. Then we used this learning on mission, vision, and leadership dispositions, and completed a Visionary Leadership Analysis (VLA Ewart) of a school of our choice. I considered the community and data surrounding past performance, and used that to analyze the work the school is doing. Then I compared what is currently happening in the school to what I would be doing as a future leader. Considering the work a school building is doing as a reflection of the school’s mission and vision is a perspective I had not previously considered, but one that impacted my thinking a great deal.

 

As a teacher leader, I need to consider how my personal mission and vision for what I want to achieve will impact those that I am leading. It is important for me to keep that mission at the heart of my work, to be a leader who is open, intentional, and grateful. Making sure that I trust and am trustworthy, and am aware of my personality strengths and management styles are also necessary as I form relationships as a leader.

 

References:

Cook, L., & Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practices. Focus

on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 1-16.

Dieker, L. A., & Murawski, W. W. (2003). Co-teaching at the secondary level: Unique issues,

current trends, and suggestions for success. High School Journal, 86(4), 1-13.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Public Law No. 105-17. (1997). 20 U.S. Code

Section 1400 et. Seq.

Houston, P., Blankstein, A., & Cole, R. (2008). Spirituality in Educational Leadership.

Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Jung, B. (1998(. Mainstreaming and fixing things: secondary teachers and inclusion. The

            Educational Forum, 62(2), 131-138.

Keefe, E. B., & Moore, V. (2004). The challenge of co-teaching in inclusive classrooms at the

high school level: What the teachers told us. American Secondary Education, 32(3), 77-88.

Nierengarten, G. (2013). Supporting co-teaching teams in high schools: Twenty research-based

Practices. American Secondary Education, 42(1), 73-83.

Owens, R., & Valesky, T. (2015). Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School

            Reform (Eleventh ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Ploessi, D., Rock, M., Schoenfeld, N., & Blanks, B. (2010). On the same page: Practical

techniques to enhance co-teaching interactions. Intervention in school and clinic, 45(3),

158-168.

Shaffer, L., & Thomas-Brown, K. (2015) Enhancing teacher competency through co-teaching

and embedded professional development. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3(3), 117-123.

Weiss, M. P., & Lloyd, J. (2003). Conditions for co-teaching: Lessons from a case study. Teaher

            Education and Special Education, 26(1), 27-41.

Zigmond, N. & Magiera, K. (2001) A focus on co-teaching. Current Practice Alerts, 6, 1-4.

 

 

Leave a comment »

EDU 6528 Accomplished Teaching– Meta Reflection – Standard 4

EDU 6528 Accomplished Teaching– Meta Reflection – Standard 4

 

Standard 4: Teacher leaders engage in analysis of teaching and collaborative practice.

 

“Although much of educational practice occurs in the fast lane, educators must locate a rest area to reflect on past practice and to determine adjustments for future practice” (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, & Montie, 2006, p. 3)

 

I have always felt that reflection is a key process to continual improvement in my teaching, but as the above quote describes, teaching has always felt like the “fast lane”, or maybe, the game Frogger, where the frog is desperately trying to cross the river that is full of obstacles. It seems rare that there is time to complete that critical component of accomplished teaching: reflection. Extending that reflection to include reflecting with others seemed like something that would be impossible to do.

As we began this course, we started by considering something that we wanted to change or focus on in our classroom as well as the framework by which we would be evaluating the teaching change. The Lake Washington School District uses the Danielson Framework for assessing instruction, so that is the framework that I will be referencing through the work in this course. At the beginning of this course, I decided that, based on reflection on my classroom in previous years, and area of growth I wanted to explore was introducing more student-choice assignments. This is something that I have observed being done really well in others’ classrooms, although none of them math, and I wanted to see if I could find ways to introduce it in mine as well.

After I prepared a focus and considered how I would be evaluating the instruction, the class started working on appropriate ways to collaborate and reflect upon teaching. The text, Reflective Practice to Improve Schools, started by focusing on individual collaboration, and then moved into strategies and justification for partner and group reflection. This was to prepare us for our major assignment of this course, a videotaped lesson and then partner/group reflection on the lesson using the framework that is used in our district. Based on the timing of this activity, I was unable to work a student-choice assignment into my Formal Lesson Plan, but originally planned on working with my partner to determine what I could change in order to add something that was a student-choice activity. We met as partners to discuss the lesson plans that we created, and then prepared to teach the lesson. Our partners were intentionally chosen to be teacher who were not in the same age level/content area to encourage the type of collaboration and reflection that was discussed in our course text. It is a very challenging and rewarding activity to collaborate with teachers who are in different grades and content areas; the focus of those discussions truly becomes about the framework and instructional strategies rather than things a teacher may have tried to use during the same lesson.

After I taught and video-taped the chosen lesson, I met again with my partner to use the framework and evaluate the lesson. Although my original focus was student-choice, I determined after reviewing the lesson that I needed to change my focus for my Safety Net Algebra 1 classes. Rather than focusing on student-choice opportunities, I decided I needed to brainstorm some ways to get my students focused and engaged in deeper thinking, class and small-group discussions. As a result of this reflection, I focused my efforts in my Elements of Accomplished Teaching Paper to finding current research and practice on questioning to inspire discussion, and deeper thinking.

As a result of this class, my view on Accomplished Teaching has deepened and matured. Teaching is a skill that is able to be continually improved upon. Being an accomplished teacher is more than effective lesson planning, aligning standards, and using instructional strategies. Accomplished teaching is also about formative assessments, responding to the needs of your students, and reflecting at multiple points along the way. Reflection is something that can be done independently, with a partner, or group, and can be done both synchronously or asynchronously. When you make the time, as a teacher, to collaborate with others at multiple stages of the lesson plan, and then meet together to reflect upon your successes and areas of growth, you – as the teacher – grows as well.

As I move forward as a teacher leader, I will work hard to make time in my day to collaborate throughout all processes of the lesson planning and teaching process. This is an element that I feel is best taught to others by example. By starting with my Algebra 1 content team, I will be able to work with three other teachers on the processes we practiced in this course. From there, after those three teachers have experienced the benefits of this practice, they can bring them to their other content teams (Algebra 2H, Algebra 3 with Trig, and 9th grade Physical Science). From there, it can only continue to spread. Additionally, I will continue to lead the efforts to collaborate between the English and Math departments to focus on consistent writing instruction in math classrooms as well. The collaborative and reflective process that we followed during this course will be beneficial to the working inter-departmental relationships as well.

 

References:

Billings, L. & Roberts, T. (2014). From mindless to meaningful. Educational Leadership, 72(3),

60-65.

Clark, K. (2015) The Effects of the Flipped Model of Instruction on Student Engagement and

Performance in the Secondary Mathematics Classroom

Journal of Educators Online, 12(1), 91-115

Downs, D. (2015). Using open questions to engage pupils in mathematics. Mathematics

Teaching, 247, 41-42.

The Danielson Group (2013). The Framework. Retrieved from

http://www.danielsongroup.org/framework/

Goodwin, B. (2014). Get all students to speak up. Educational Leadership, 72(3), 82-83.

Tovani, C. (2015). Let’s switch questioning around. Educational Leadership, 73(1), 30-35.

Pratt, N. (2002). Mathematics as thinking. Mathematics Teaching, 181, ­34-37.

York-Barr, J., Sommers, W., Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective practice to improve

schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

 

 

Leave a comment »

Initial Reflection for EDU6528 – Accomplished Teaching

Reflecting upon my teaching was not something that was stressed when I went through my teacher certification program and, to be completely honest, was not something that I really put much intentional time into as I started teaching. I did consider what went well, and what needed to change during and after each period I taught a lesson, and often changed things during the day that did not go well the first time I did them, but I never sat down and intentionally and purposefully reflected on my practice. As I have matured in my teaching, and especially as I have moved to the high school level and worked under a principal who really believes in the power of reflection, I have started to spend a great deal more time intentionally reflecting on both my teaching practice, and collaborating with my content teams on our practice as a group. This has become an incredibly important piece in my planning component of teaching as well. This does not mean that I do this perfectly, and it is certainly an area where easy to “put off” because it is not critical to the day-to-day requirements of making a classroom run.

As I consider my strengths in teaching, the area I am most proud of is my ability to create a classroom environment where everyone feels safe, respected, challenged and able to take risks. This is an area that I feel is even more important because at least half of my day is spent teaching math to students who have been chronically unsuccessful in math. Many of those students haven’t been successful in math since some time during elementary school, if ever, and I see them starting in 9th grade. Another of my strengths is developing coherent, organized, well-structured lessons that use effective questioning and levels of understanding to bring all students to a defined minimum level of understanding. I have had students and administrators note for years that my lessons are organized in a way that benefits students, and many previous students have come back to me to tell me that using their notes and the note-taking skills they learned from my class has helped them in future math classes – all the way up to and including college.

There are two areas of teaching that I have identified as challenge areas I need to focus on to continue to grow as a professional. One is providing authentic feedback to students in a timely manner. Verbal feedback is easy for me to provide, and I do that on a regular basis, but providing written feedback on assignments/assessments becomes very daunting when I grade a minimum of 40 of each assignment at a time, and grading often takes me 3-5 minutes per assignment before written feedback. This year, I am trying a standards-based rubric with specific levels of success criteria for each problem in my Algebra 1 classes. My hope is this will provide students with more feedback on their assessment performance, and allow them to learn the steps necessary for additional success, but I am still looking for more ways to do this on assignments more regularly. The second area I am focusing on is extending my classroom from a teacher-directed classroom to a more student-directed classroom. Along this line, I am specifically focusing on incorporating more student-choice assignments and assessment opportunities. It is hard for me to come up with these types of activities, partly because I have never seen this modeled in a math classroom. I have, and have in the past, used these types of assignments in science classrooms, and have seen examples in most other subject areas, but math is an area where this seems to be something that is often not done. I will be actively researching and looking for ways to incorporate this into my instruction as I move on in my teaching career.

Considering the Danielson Model for evaluating teacher performance, I see many strengths and weaknesses. The strengths as I see them, are as follows:

It becomes very difficult to evaluate anything without a set of defined success criteria before starting the evaluation. Danielson provides a very comprehensive set of success criteria, with very clearly defined standards to achieve each level of proficiency. Having worked for multiple administrators, and with teachers who have worked for multiple administrators, I can say that having a consistent set of criteria is just as valuable when assessing teachers as it is when assessing student work. The criteria Danielson provides is expertly and thoughtfully woven together, and structured in a way that clearly identifies how to move from one level to another. Creating a common language to use amongst administrators and teachers is also a strength of the Danielson model. This allows both the evaluator and the teacher to speak with an understood set of terms.

The weaknesses also exist, and primarily, in my opinion, center on the assumption that good teaching is something that can be quantified and leveled on a rubric and pre-defined set of criteria. Any observation is going to be simply one snapshot into a teacher’s classroom. There are so many things that can go wrong on any given day that have nothing to do with the teacher’s effectiveness on a broad scale. There is an element of teaching that, in my opinion, is not teachable or quantifiable, it is an art form in its truest sense. You can learn the elements of it, and you can implement the techniques you’re given, but there is a part that is as beautiful as a piece of music or oil painting. In this way, any model of effective teaching is going to fall short, as you can’t truly standardize excellence.

Leave a comment »