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REVIEW: An Excellent Guide When You're Ready to Address Problems of Instructional Practice
June 30, 2015 | Comments
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by Cathy Gassenheimer
 
If you or your school has embraced Instructional Rounds, here’s a book for you. Titled Opening Doors to Equity: A Practical Guide to Observation-Based Professional Learning, this book provides a format for schools to adapt Instructional Rounds for a grade-level, subject area, or even for inter-school collaboration.
 
As Lois Brown Easton suggests in the foreword, this book is “oriented toward implementation.”
 
The author, Tonya Ward Singer, is a professional learning expert with experience as a classroom teacher, reading teacher and ELL specialist. Her passion for ensuring that all students receive a top-notch education led her to write this book:
 
“What drives me is the belief that every child, regardless of family income, ethnicity, or home language, deserves to graduate from high school with choices and opportunity. This vision has led me to ask tough questions and continuously evolve based on the answers I find.” (p. 2)
 
And, Singer’s answers constitute the content of this very resource-laden and useful book!
 
Shared professional learning goals
 
Singer proposes five shared professional learning goals that help schools effectively serve all their students (p. 14):
 
1. Raise expectations for achievement of all students;
 
2. Elevate students’ active engagement across all lessons;
 
3. Teach language in tandem with content and critical thinking
 
4. Elevate students’ oral language use and collaboration conversation skills; and
 
5. Deepen expertise in using formative data to refine instruction to meet the needs of all learners.
 
To attain those important goals, Singer details a process she calls Observation Inquiry, or OI for short. A hybrid that utilizes many of the key aspects from Instructional Rounds and Lesson Study, OI involves a team of teachers who agree to work together for a year on an identified problem of practice (POP).
 
The POP is a “high priority” issue where the solution process can elevate student learning while at the same time deepening teacher expertise (p. 23)
 
How Observation Inquiry works
 
Relying on data and inquiry, the OI process invites teachers to first develop and then work on the identified POP by developing, teaching, and analyzing a series of lessons across the year. This six-step process involves:
  1. Defining a problem to solve and asking questions to drive inquiry.
  2. Researching to plan a theory of action.
  3. Planning a lesson to test an approach.
  4. Teaching and observing
  5. Analyzing and interpreting observation data.
  6. Analyzing impact to reflect on and refine. (p. 25)
Throughout the year, this cycle is repeated so that all participants both teach a lesson and observe and analyze their colleagues teach a lesson. The graphic below illustrates the OI process.
 

 
The beauty of the OI process is that it results in improving both teaching and learning. The challenge, Singer says, is that it oftentimes initially moves many teachers out of their comfort zone:
 
“In collaborative inquiry, our goal is to push beyond what we are sure will work by asking questions to which we don’t know the answer, questions that catapult us into that tenuous space of risking failure and discovering data that challenges us to think and act in new ways… Following steps of an inquiry model without being at this edge, won’t lead to learning or innovation.” (p. 25, emphasis added)
 
Getting comfortable with the shift
 
To help participants be comfortable with this big shift in thinking, OI employs protocols that structure the dialogue and learning in productive ways. Throughout the book, Singer delineates these protocols. Copies are also available either in the book’s appendix or accessing a URL code. (The book is also supported by a companion website.  Read samples from the book here.)
 
Each chapter highlights the necessary planning and steps involved in Observation Inquiry, beginning with “Opening Doors: Build Buy-In and Trust” to the last chapter, “Evaluating and Expanding Our Impact.” The full table of contents is here.
 
If you are a school committed to data-driven continuous improvement, Tonya Ward Singer's book is for you. And it provides the next steps for schools committed to the Instructional Rounds process, but want more specific ideas about how to move forward. Most importantly, it can help ensure that all of your students succeed and thrive.
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WATWOOD ELEMENTARY: Targeting Learning, One to One!
June 26, 2015 | Comments
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by Susan Ogle Instructional Partner A.H. Watwood Elementary Talladega County Schools   We have so much to be proud of at A. H. Watwood Elementary this school year!! We went 1:1 with iPads, started AMSTI math in all grade levels, had Project Based Learning in all grade levels, and became a TLIM Lighthouse School! (Here's our Facebook post.)   On top of that, we really focused on aligning our goals from the school level all the way down to the student level. We tracked school, grade level, classro... [continue reading]
 
 
Demographic Trends Will Have A Very Powerful Impact on Alabama
June 23, 2015 | Comments
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By Cathy Gassenheimer   Data doesnt lie, even though sometimes we try to ignore or put a different spin on it. But if we dont pay attention to facts and trends, we do so at our own peril. This is a key message from James H. Johnson, Jr., the Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center and a professor at the University of North Carolina.  Dr. Johnson was in Alabama recently to speak at the 25th Anniversary of Leadership Alabama. His presentation was compelling and, in some ways quite alarm... [continue reading]
 
 
3 Little Pigs: Learning Targets in a 2nd Grade Classroom
June 16, 2015 | Categories: Welcome Slideshow | Comments
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by Jamie Roby   For the majority of the school year at Tarrant Elementary we have been discussing learning targets and more specifically how to use them in the classroom to empower our students to own their own learning.    We have had professional development on how to write appropriate learning targets, making sure they are in student friendly language and owned by the students and not just the teachers. Having the students own the targets is a work in progress. Here are some ways we do this:... [continue reading]
 
 
3 Little Pigs: Learning Targets in a 2nd Grade Classroom
June 16, 2015 | Comments
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by Jamie Roby   For the majority of the school year at Tarrant Elementary we have been discussing learning targets and more specifically how to use them in the classroom to empower our students to own their own learning.    We have had professional development on how to write appropriate learning targets, making sure they are in student friendly language and owned by the students and not just the teachers. Having the students own the targets is a work in progress. Here are some ways we do this:... [continue reading]
 
 
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