Teacher Leadership Standard 8: Present Professional Practice for the Review of Colleagues

“Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individually or collectively, influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement (York-Barr & Duke, 2004, p. 287).”

Prior to embarking on my Masters in Teacher Leadership journey with Seattle Pacific University, I spent time reflecting on what specific degree I wanted to pursue in education. I had mostly considered ones with a focus in a specific subject or content area. But, ultimately, I decided upon one that I knew would give me the knowledge, skills and tools to become a positive and influential leader within my classroom, school building and school district. But perhaps, more importantly, I chose this particular program because I knew it was going to push me outside my comfort zone, creating opportunities for me to further grow within my profession. Having a Masters degree in teacher leadership allows multiple avenues in education through which to pursue my many interests.

What I appreciated most about this program was that each class tackled an essential component of education. By the time I was finished, I was given a well-rounded and balanced education. Each class I took positively impacted me and gave me something I could take back to my classroom, to my teammates or to my school community. I discovered the characteristics of a strong teacher leader and how I can leverage those traits in ways that support the overall purpose and goal of education. Through my coursework, I developed strategies for engaging the whole child as well as working towards the development of an intrinsic motivation to learn by my students.

From my courses that addressed curriculum, instruction and assessment I learned how to design units and assessments using a backwards design approach that clearly align with the curriculum standards and learning targets needing to be addressed. I substantially increased my understanding of instructional practices that I could take back and apply in my classroom. I discovered ways to foster increased engagement and motivation in my students through instructional strategies such as cooperative learning and reciprocal teaching. Through these courses, I also learned how to better address the needs of the 21st century learners in my care by integrating technology in ways that meaningfully supports my students’ needs.

From my courses that addressed foundations and research in education, I learned about the concept of action research and how to conduct it in order to address a need or concern within my classroom or within my school. Through these classes, I also developed a greater understanding of what it means to become a skeptical consumer of information. Literature touting “the next big thing” in education is constantly inundating us, and I now feel better equipped to sift through all of the literature and research. I feel better able to determine what is and isn’t appropriate to consider in the context of our schools and within our classrooms. I learned that one size does not fit all, and we as educators must find ways to make sense of the research and literature that is out there so that we may maximize our students’ full potential.

From my courses that addressed teacher leadership, I learned how to become a better reflective practitioner. I grew in my ability to self-reflect as well as learned how to engage my colleagues in their own reflective practice for the purpose of supporting student achievement and success. I was given an eye-opening education on how to engage my school community and how to create a classroom that addresses the needs of the diverse learners in my care. I was given the opportunity to reflect on my leadership skills and how I can leverage my strengths and shore up any deficits for the purpose of supporting my students, colleagues and the larger school community.

As a result of my time participating in this program, I feel prepared to take on more teacher leadership roles within my building and within my school district. One of my hopes as I embarked on this journey, was to prepare myself to become a mentor teacher to student teachers preparing to enter the field of education. This fall, I will have that opportunity as I work with a young man finishing his certification program. Additionally, I have become very interested in becoming an instructional coach to new teachers in my school district. While I am content to stay in the classroom for now, I see myself possibly moving into such a role later in my career. Ultimately, though, I am excited for the opportunity to take what I have learned these past two years and use it in ways that will help grow the profession I love so much. I want to become someone in my building that people feel comfortable coming to for advice. I want to be seen as a source of knowledge and support for my students, colleagues and the larger school community.

Moving forward, I feel excited to continue to grow myself as an educator. This program has established a greater drive and motivation in me to continue my education and to strive for lifelong learning. As mentioned, taking part in this program pushed me outside my comfort zone and has prepared me to take on new teacher leadership roles within my building, accepting positions on district committees and continuing to learn through self-directed learning opportunities as well as by attending classes and seminars.

It seems near impossible to capture all of the learning I have gained during my time participating in the Masters in Teacher Leadership program in one reflection post. However, one thing I know for certain is that I am leaving this program a much more well-rounded individual and educator. Each course I took challenged me to think about my teaching practice in a different way. The courses I took also underscored the importance of creating ways to encourage high expectations, high engagement and instilling a sense of intrinsic motivation in my students. I have developed a greater appreciation and desire for continued learning and I am motivated to take the knowledge I have gained and impart that on others in my profession, finding ways to engage in meaningful conversations with my peers.

Teacher Leadership Standard 1: Model Moral and Ethical Behavior

During the course, Moral Issues in Education, I examined Teacher Leadership Standard 1: Model Moral and Ethical Behavior. This was a challenging course for me because in my role as a teacher, I tend to avoid conversations revolving around the topic of religion. It makes me uncomfortable and nervous, especially because I worry I may inadvertently say something wrong in front of my students. I worry that I may say something that would be seen as offensive or cross the line. In my experience, religion gets discussed primarily through a historical lens as my students and I explore US history and the role religion played in the shaping of our nation. But, it is never something we go into much depth about as we move on quickly to other topics.

While reading Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum, I was informed about the idea of neutrality. When hearing the word “neutrality”, I typically associate the term with not sharing my opinion. However, the authors provided me with a different way to think about the idea of neutrality. Neutrality is described as fairness. To be neutral is to be fair in acknowledging all religions, all sides of an issue. This quote in particular stuck with me, “…while neutrality requires fairness, fairness doesn’t require neutrality (Nord & Haynes, 44).”  Another key idea mentioned was that of covering the topic of religion. It is the job of teachers to teach about religion and not teach of religion. The authors made it clear that teaching about religion in public schools is absolutely necessary. Religion, in so many ways, has shaped much of our history and of our lives today. It can, therefore, not be overlooked as we study various subjects/disciplines in school.  Perhaps what struck me most while reading was the idea of the “conceptual net”. Every teacher wants to help develop their students into well-rounded individuals who are able to think critically about the world around them. In order to do this, we must provide our students with a variety of worldviews upon which to examine various topics in the classroom. In not doing so, we are limiting our students’ perspectives, which limits their ability to critically analyze the world around them.

Through course readings, discussions and three in-depth assignments, I was pushed outside my comfort zone to examine the role of religion in public schools (Religion and Public Education Paper), the role of character education in schools (Inquiry Moral Issue Paper) and to articulate my moral education framework. The following includes my thoughts on moral education, which was written at the conclusion of my Moral Issues in Education course.

Moral Education Framework

“Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action (454, Mary Baker Eddy).” Right motives are grounded by certain universal virtues. Self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work ethic, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, respect and faith – these are many of the virtues parents try to instill in their children. These are also the virtues every teacher hopes to inspire in their students. The role of an educator has been redefined in today’s 21st century. No longer is a teacher’s job simply to provide students with academic knowledge, expecting that they learn it and go forth into the world. Rather, it is to nurture the mind, body, and moral character of every child who steps through the schoolhouse doors. It is through focused and intentional efforts by parents and teachers to provide the structured framework for students to help them develop good habits necessary to succeed. Every day, we are faced with choices. We have to decide whether we will make decisions based on what it is we ought to do or what it is we want to do. Hopefully, these virtues will act as a moral compass for the decisions our children make when faced with choices.

One of my ultimate goals as an educator is to inspire in my students a sense of intrinsic motivation. I encourage my students to work hard, persevere, show compassion towards others and take responsibility for their learning, not only because there will be an extrinsic incentive waiting for them, but because it is the right thing to do. Developing this sense of rightness is what will lead them to a life full of joy, passion, and personal growth. I value deeply one’s ability to be motivated through intrinsic means, which is rooted in my belief of duty-based ethics and objective values. I strive to model these virtues for my students, and hope that they will learn to appreciate this type of motivation.

I share with my students and their families how much I value these virtues and helping students develop these virtues is of utmost importance. Knowledge is important, but our moral character, especially when faced with obstacles and challenging situations ultimately defines us. The importance of these traits can be traced back to biblical times in which followers of Jesus Christ strove to emulate his actions and good deeds so as to deepen their own relationship with God. In the book of Philippians, Paul wrote to the men and women of Philippi to live their own lives in the same way Jesus Christ did decades before. He encouraged them to act in ways that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable (Philippians 4:8-9). These same words can be said of what we, as educators, try to model and instill in our students.

Outside influences can easily affect the way we choose to conduct ourselves. Peer pressures are constantly testing the moral character of our students. If we want our students to demonstrate good moral character, then we must be models of such behavior. In All The King’s Men, the main character, Willie, was greatly influenced by the environment in which he spent his time as a politician. He seemed to abandon his core beliefs and ideals when he concluded that he could never achieve his goals as Governor unless he “played dirty”. Willie’s struggle with moral character illustrates how critical it is to impress upon our students the importance of sticking to our core values and good moral judgment. In life, the temptation to make choices based on what we want to do rather than what we “ought” to do will always be present. In order to help students understand the value in making the right choice, what we “ought” to do, we have to spend time helping students to see value in doing what is right regardless of who might be present. Again, we can do this through modeling the good choices and behaviors we expect from our students.

These virtues, which drive me in my role as an educator, are shaped by my personal upbringing. My parents and a few outstanding teachers from my formative school years are the ones who helped shape the person I am today. Certain teachers became role models to me and helped foster my love of learning. They were models of good moral character who worked hard, showed compassion and understanding, and held themselves to the same high standards they held their students. It is their modeling of good moral character that I try to bring with me into my own classroom. I thank my parents most of all for instilling in me a sense of what is right and to make decisions based on right motives, which they taught me will never steer me in the wrong direction. They taught me to value the same traits I strive to model and instill in my own students. I am grateful to my parents for modeling good decision-making based on right motives. As an educator, my hope is that my students’ look back in appreciation of that which I strove to inspire in them. To me, that would be the ultimate measure of success in my role as an educator.

I believe that the ideals for which I stand are universal, ones that all parents want for their children. I agree with C.S. Lewis’ doctrine of objective values, knowing that it is through these universal beliefs that I can make a difference in the lives of my students. When you consider the great civilizations and cultures of past and present, you find common characteristics between the moral values within each group’s society. For example, the Golden Rule, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew, 7:12).” Although stated differently, every culture has some form of the Golden Rule. Many of these cultures never interacted with each other, and yet, they all shared certain moral values. To me, this helps to support the idea that there are universal values that exist and human beings have a responsibility and duty to follow them. When I think about my students, I consider ways to inspire them to want to be self-motivated. One’s ability to be intrinsically motivated is dependent upon there being objective values. Motivating students to take ownership of their learning will ultimately provide them with self-fulfillment and hold them in good stead moving forward.

These principles, which I value deeply and which motivate me as an educator, fit seamlessly into the context of character education. This makes them translatable to a secular context. I have always been very transparent and clear with parents and students alike about the values I hold and wish to instill in my students such as right and wrong, the development of critical life skills and a sense of intrinsic motivation. It is through this transparency that parents and students more eagerly support the ways in which I choose to address these values. To start the school year, my students and I engage in several activities that provide us with the opportunity to discuss and lay the groundwork for having future conversations that might arise. One of the first things we do is establish our classroom norms. The reoccurring themes each year incorporate rules about honest, integrity, kindness, respect and hard work. These are the rules and guidelines that we agree to follow in order to ensure the safety, learning and well being of all present in the classroom and within the greater school community. The purpose of establishing classroom norms is similar to the purpose in the establishment of the Ten Commandments. They provide a moral framework for people to follow in their own lives, or in our case, in our classroom. What tends to come out of our classroom discussion on norms and behaviors also falls in line with the recommendations provided within the beginning chapters of Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum. In our conversations, we address rights, responsibility and respect (a right to express opinions and a responsibility to respect the opinions of others, regardless of how contrasting one’s views may be compared to another). By having these conversations in September, it helps set a tone for the entire school year and allows us the opportunity to have meaningful, insightful classroom discussions that address important, and sometimes challenging topics.

As stated, a huge part of my role as an educator is to help in the development of the whole child. Through the work that I do in my classroom, I try to provide my students with opportunities to learn the value of such character traits as work ethic, responsibility, perseverance, compassion, etc. One way character is addressed in my classroom is through the literature we read. I try to select texts that have strong character development so that we may be able to analyze the actions and motives of the characters and build in text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections. We have thoughtful conversations about being a good friend, being loving and supporting of others, following one’s conscience and doing what is right. Additionally, we spend time role-playing and acting out scenarios based on the character traits we are studying in our literature. But perhaps more importantly, the development of such traits is cultivated through the personal interactions we have with one another throughout the school day, whether in the classroom or on the playground. Often, I share with students my own personal experiences. Through the activities in which we engage, students are encouraged to step outside of their comfort zone so as to grow and develop a sense of who they are as individuals. Often these opportunities are presented during small group work time and when working on difficult instructional material that pushes students’ intellectual boundaries. Through classroom discussions and personal reflections, students are able to tackle complex issues and how they choose to handle them whether they are academic or personal. When going over assignments, whether a homework assignment, test, or project, we talk about the personal choices we make and how those directly relate to the quality of our work and understanding of the material presented.

The virtues that help to define the person I strive to be are also those that I hope to instill in my students. Children respect and take seriously those adults who hold themselves to same high moral standards they expect of their students. What is most important to me is that I help students recognize the values and potential rewards that can be derived from making sound moral decisions. One of my goals as an educator is to help my students’ recognize in themselves their own potential and self-worth. One of my responsibilities is to provide my students with the opportunities for them to explore further these virtues, which will ultimately help them to become responsible adults with a sound moral compass.

References:

Benninga, J., Berkowitz, M., Kuehn, P., & Smith, K. (2003). The Relationship Of Character Education Implementation and Academic Achievement In Elementary Schools. Journal of Research in Character Education, Vol. 1, Issue 1. 19-32. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from http://www.fresnostate.edu/kremen/bonnercenter/documents/Character_Education.pdf

Carr, D. (2012, June 8). Mozert v. Hawkins County Board of Education, 827 F. 2d 1058 (1987). Retrieved August 5, 2014, from http://uscivilliberties.org/cases/4173-mozert-v-hawkins-county-board-of-education-827-f-2d-1058-1987.html

Dovre, P. (Spring 2007). From Aristotle to Angelou: Best Practices in Character Education. Education Next, Vol. 7, Issue 2. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_20072_38.pdf

Eddy, Mary Baker. 2000. Science and Health with Key to the Scripture. Massachusetts: The First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Haynes, C., & Thomas, O. (2001). Character Education. Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools. Nashville, TN: Freedom Forum.

http://www.freedomforum.org/publications/first/findingcommonground/B13.CharacterEd.pdf

Lewis, C. S. 2001. The Abolition of Man. New York: HarperCollins.

Nord, W., & Haynes, C. (1998). Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum. Alexandria, Va. ASCD.

Sipos, R., Maupin, L., Stoodley, J., Schwartz, M., Luther, B., & Shreve, M. (2010). Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from http://www.character.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/ElevenPrinciples_new2010.pdf

Smith, F. (2006, April 3). How to Approach Moral Issues in the Classroom. Edutopia. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/how-approach-moral-issues-classroom

Social Studies Alive! America’s Past. (2010). Palo Alto, Calif. Teachers’ Curriculum Institute.

Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969). (2006). Retrieved August 5, 2014, from http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=404

Warren, Robert Penn. 2001. All the King’s Men. New York: Harcourt, Inc.

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). (2006). Retrieved August 5, 2014, from http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=442

Teacher Leadership Standard 6: Communicate and Collaborate with a Variety of Stakeholders

The course, EDAD 6589 Engaging Communities, was an extremely eye-opening and thought-provoking course that challenged my views on community engagement, particularly that of parental involvement. This was the first Teacher Leadership focused course I took that gave me an honest, realistic perspective at how complex and challenging a principal’s role is within the school setting. By the end of the course, my appreciation for everything that a principal does to engage a variety of stakeholders grew tremendously.

On our first day of class, my cohort and I were asked to brainstorm a list of all the stakeholders involved or impacted by a school community. There are, of course, the obvious stakeholders including students, teachers and parents. But then, you have to consider all of the surrounding community members, organizations and businesses that are in some way affected by what goes on in and around the school. By the time our brainstorm session was complete, we had developed a complex and lengthy list of stakeholders, including local businesses, churches, after-school day care providers, physicians, non-profit organizations and more. By the end of that first day, I came to realize my understanding of community engagement was limited as my lens primarily consisted of students, teachers and parents. I also realized this course was going broaden my understanding of what community engagement means and how teachers can take action to become more engaging within their school community.

Throughout this course, we were asked to analyze the topic of community engagement by reading a wide variety of case studies. Although not all of the readings necessarily applied to my particularly circumstance, it was easy to relate to elements of them all. Reoccurring themes surrounded cultural diversity and parental involvement and engagement.

One of many big take-aways I had included the differences between involvement and engagement. Involvement includes volunteering, helping with projects, supporting homework time, school improvement teams, one-way communication and participating in one-time events. Engagement involves building relationships by conducing home visits, listening, showing that you are welcoming, sharing the decision-making as well as partnering by being co-leaders, having two-way communication and remaining family centered (Epstein (1995), Ferlazzo (2011), Buquendano-Lopez et al. (2013)). In considering these differences, I determined that I am very good at encouraging parental involvement, but need to improve in the area of engagement. While I do have two-way communication with my families, and strive to be welcoming and listen, I don’t do enough to encourage and foster a strong sense of engagement consistently throughout the school year. This is an area I realized I need to take time to improve within my own classroom.

Not only did I learn how parental involvement can be different than parental engagement, but I also learned that parental involvement can take on many different forms. More importantly, that we need to break free of the traditional definitions of parental involvement in schools. “The traditional definition of parental involvement includes activities in the school and at home. Parental involvement can take many forms, such as volunteering at the school, communicating with teachers, assisting with homework, and attending school events such as performances or parent-teacher conferences (Bower & Griffin).” Furthermore, “Traditional definitions of parental involvement require investments of time and money from parents, and those who may not be able to provide these resources are deemed uninvolved (Bower & Griffin).” Under this definition of parental involvement, several groups of parents would be characterized as uninvolved and could be left feeling alienated from the school community. This definition does not consider the many perspective of what parental involvement means and can look like.

A huge shift in my own thinking was that just because parents don’t fit the traditional definition of parental involvement doesn’t mean they are uninvolved and more importantly, that they do not care about their children’s success in school. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the school to help find ways to engage parents, and in order to do so, school leaders must have a complete understanding of the cultural norms and perspectives of all stakeholders around engagement. Furthermore, it is a school’s responsibility to be clear and intentional about informing the community about the school’s philosophy and purpose of the structures, procedures and policies set in place.  In doing so, the school will likely find greater parental support and interest in helping to promote the school’s vision and mission.  This notion can and should be extended to what we (teachers) do within our classrooms.  It is vital for teachers to be clear and intentional when communicating to students and parents about what is being taught, how to best support student learning and why it is important.  When more aware of the goals of the teacher for his/her students and how to be effective in supporting student learning and growth, parents will be more likely to step in and get involved.

The idea of cultural differences was something that repeatedly surfaced in my reflection posts and in discussions with my cohort. It also struck a chord as the school in which I work, while not socioeconomically diverse, is very ethnically diverse with families from cultures around the world. When an educational leader considers ways to engage a variety of stakeholders, it is imperative that he or she consider the backgrounds and cultures of all stakeholders. As I learned, how families perceive the role of the school, the role of the student, the role of the teacher and the role of parents can vary greatly.

As I read the article, Can the Epstein Model of Parental Involvement Work in a High-Minority, High-Poverty Elementary School? A Case Study, I learned about Epstein model. The Epstein model was  completely unfamiliar to me. According to this model, parental involvement includes six types of family involvement behaviors: positive home conditions, communication, involvement at school, home learning activities, shared decision making within the school and community partnership (Bower & Griffin 78). Bower and Griffin state that, “Teachers and administrators should realize that cultural differences and practices, individual differences, and misunderstandings that can occur between teachers and parents and among parents themselves can impede parental involvement practices (Lopez & Stoelting, 2010) (Bower & Griffin 84).” I discovered that schools might find more parental involvement and less frustration on behalf of the teachers if the school developed opportunities for parents within the community to collaborate with one another (i.e. parent support groups, parent teams for school events, etc.).  What this could lead to are parents who are more empowered to not only work to support their own children, but work together to support the community as a whole. When diverse schools with generally low family involvement provide opportunities for parents within the community to act as an ambassador between the school and the community itself, the effect on parental involvement can be very great.

Another aspect of community engagement that I explored through the articles we read was ways to assess community engagement for the purpose of creating positive change. The article, Data Collection Instruments for Evaluating Family Involvement, was focused on providing multiple stakeholders with a list of resources to be used to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of family involvement in schools. “In order to assess family involvement interventions in a high-quality way, family involvement leaders, school administrators, policymakers, and researchers need information about and access to evaluation tools – particularly standardized instruments for collecting data on family involvement practices.” By taking time to collect data on family involvement, school communities can then take intentional steps towards improving and strengthening community engagement.

One of the assignments I completed for this course was a reflection based on an interview I conducted with a teacher from a school in the Highlands School District. The teacher worked in a school that had a very different background and demographic than mine. During my interview, I was able to learn how her principal and staff worked to engage the community in order to better serve their student population. My Engaging Communities Reflection describes what I learned from this assignment.

Another assignment I was asked to complete was a Community Involvement Plan. For this assignment, I looked more closely at how my principal and staff engage the community. I took time to interview my principal so that I could gather the most accurate information possible as well as be as thorough as possible. Through this assignment, I learned a great deal about how my principal engages my school’s community. I was also able to reflect on how I might go about addressing community involvement if I were the principal of the school.

Instead of thinking, “Why are some families so hard to reach?” educators need to be thinking, “What am I doing that makes my school or classroom hard to reach, and what changes do I need to make in order to be reachable?” EDAD 6589 Engaging Communities provided me the opportunity to broaden my perspective of what it means to engage and collaborate with a variety of stakeholders. Through the case studies I explored, the discussions I had with fellow educators and the assignments I completed, I learned that I need to broaden my lens as to the definition of parental involvement and engagement. I learned that parental involvement can take many forms and that it is the responsibility of school leaders to find ways to engage and foster a sense of community engagement within their school setting and population. Sometimes, this may mean breaking away from strategies, methods or processes that we are familiar and comfortable.  Moving forward, I hope to take what I learned during my time participating in this program and use it to better engage my school community through two-way communication, building relationships with families where we work together to proactively support our students.

References:

Agbo, S. (2007). Addressing School-Community Relations in a Cross-Cultural Context: A Collaborative Action to Bridge the Gap Between First Nations and the School. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 22(8), 1-14.

Bower, H., & Griffin, D. (2011). Can the Epstein Model of Parental Involvement Work in a High-Minority, High-Poverty Elementary School? A Case Study. Professional School Counseling, 15(2), 77-87.

Castagno, A. (2013). Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness. American Journal of Education, 120(1), 101-128.

Elias, M., & Buzelli, C. (2013). The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Policies and Practices That Favor Incarceration Over Education Do Us All a Grave Injustice. Teaching Tolerance, 39-43.

Madsen, J., & Mabokela, R. (2014). Leadership Challenges In Addressing Changing Demographics in Schools. NASSP Bulletin, 98(1), 75-96.

Robbins, C., & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams. School Community Journal, 23(2), 113-136.

Westmoreland, H., Bouffard, S., O’Carroll, K., & Rosenberg, H. (2009, May 1). Data Collection Instruments for Evaluating Family Involvement. Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/publications-resources/data-collection-instruments-for-evaluating-family-involvement

Teacher Leadership Standard 10: Understand Effective Use of Research Based Instructional Practices

Introduction

The course, EDU 6526 Survey of Instructional Strategies, provided me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of research-based instructional practices. To reflect on my prior knowledge and understanding of research-based instructional practices at the start of the course, I was asked to consider the influence of several common beliefs, strategies and instructional practices on student achievement. Some of those items included reciprocal teaching, class size, cooperative teaching, homework, and ability grouping. What I came to realize through completion of that initial activity was that I had a lot of growing to do in terms of understanding the effectiveness of researched-based instructional practices. I realized I had some misconceptions about effective instructional practices. Throughout the course, my cohort relied on two texts: Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie and Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement by Ceri Dean, Elizabeth Hubbell, Howard Pilter and Bj Stone. Additionally, we explored other resources to help build our understanding of a variety of instructional strategies and practices. Throughout the quarter, I was given exposure to and was able to implement in my own classroom several strategies including cooperative learning, reciprocal teaching, and the use of cues, questions and advance organizers to name a few.

Research-Based Instructional Practices

Cooperative Learning

One thing I learned during this course was that in the past, I wasn’t always using cooperative learning in the most effective manner. For example, I create jobs for each member of the group when doing activities involving cooperative learning, but I usually didn’t consider writing down the roles and providing students with a copy of their responsibility within the group. So, I decided that I would use this class as an opportunity to conduct an action research project using this strategy (see Collaborative Instructional Strategies Final Project).  I made a point to really follow the advice provided in Classroom Instruction that Works. There was a statement in the book that really stood out to me. “Positive interdependence and individual accountability means that everyone is responsible for his or her own learning and for contributing to the learning of all classmates (Dean et al., 2012).” Wow! I have never thought to explain the intention of cooperative learning to my students in this way. During my action research project, I designed several lessons using this instructional strategy (Lesson Plan & Cooperative Learning strategy).  I made sure the cooperative learning strategy was a focus of our introduction to the lesson. And, boy, did it have a profound impact on my students. I have never seen such highly engaged, focused, supportive groups all year! At the end of the lesson, I asked my students what they thought of using this model of learning. All of my students agreed that studying social studies in this way was not only fun, but that it kept them focused, engaged and accountable for their learning.

Advance Organizers

The concept of advance organizers are not new to me, but after reading more about them, I definitely had to reexamine how I used them in my classroom. I loved all of the suggestions for ways in which a teacher can use advance organizers in order to better engage his/her students. After learning more about anticipation guides, I was very anxious to try using this form of advance organizer with my students during a math lesson (Lesson Plans & Advance Organizer). I found the use of the anticipation guide to be very effective. The Anticipation Guide for Distances on a Coordinate Plane helped my students really focus in on the most important concepts from the day’s lesson. I also liked that it provided me with immediate feedback on whether or not my students understood the key ideas within the lesson. With just a quick scan over each student’s guide, I could easily identify which of my students “got it” and which did not. This helped me form my “next steps” in supporting all of my students as we moved forward the next day.

Questioning

“The most important task is for teachers to listen (Hattie, 81).” This is so important as I often feel there are times in which I do too much of the talking! This statement was a great reminder for me for when I am planning my lessons to consider how much of the lesson is set up to be student-centered versus teacher-centered. Questioning was an area I decided I wanted to explore further in order to create an environment where students were spending most of the time talking and I could then focus on listening.

I came across an article called, “Three Steps to Improving Teacher Questions.” This article suggested three actions teachers could take in order to improve their questioning. The first action is more of a shift in our thinking. In the article it states, “We have to stop thinking that when we get in front of students, we will be able to get into the groove of a “discussion” by simply asking a few poignant questions.” The author goes on to say that, “True discussion occurs where there is no “leader.” There is give-and-take from everyone that involves conjecture, deduction, argument, proofs, and logical conclusions.” Second, we need to prepare questions while planning the lesson. Usually, when questions are not prepared ahead of time, they often end up being knowledge and comprehension based questions that usually just lead to a “check for understanding.” Providing students with a list of thoughtful questions and then breaking them into groups for discussion will yield a better result. Third, we need to reflect on our questions prior to the lesson in order to ensure they scaffold cognitive difficulty from easy to hard. By taking these three actions, teachers will find an overall increase in student engagement.

After reading this article, I made sure to do just as the author suggested when preparing my lessons. For my cooperative learning lesson, I made sure to develop questions that were challenging and thoughtful so that my students had the opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion related to the learning they were doing in social studies (see student handout – King George III & His Colonies). One of the roles within each group was “questioner” where a student had to ask the questions on the paper, facilitating the group discussion and taking notes on what the group shared. This method worked out very well during my lesson!

Self-Reflection

“By knowing what we do not know, we can learn (Hattie, 2012).” This statement stood out to me for a couple of reasons. First, it made me think of the value and importance of reflection. As teachers, we need to build time into our day to reflect on our practice, lessons, etc. We need to think about what went well and what did not and how we can improve upon our practice. It is equally as important to provide daily reflection for our students. If we do not provide our students with this opportunity, then students cannot truly maximize their potential because they won’t necessarily know what they do and do not know, thus decreasing their ability to learn! Moving forward, as I prepare my lessons, I make sure that I provide the opportunity for reflection at the start and end of each lesson. For example, included on my anticipation guide for my math lesson was a space for students to reflect on their understanding of the math target and a space to create a personalize goal related to the target. At the end of the lesson, students’ reflected on their progress towards the goal by filling out the brief reflection.

Another message I really appreciated was about reflecting not only when we have failed, but also when we have succeeded! “With failure, we often ask ‘why?’; similarly, with success, we must ask ‘why’? (Hattie, 2012).” This is such a true statement and something I needed to be reminded of myself. I do try to get my students to be reflective both when they have failed, but also when they have succeeded so they know what they did to be successful. But, it is something that one can easily lose sight of in the hustle and bustle of our days.

Personalized KWL Charts

I was provided with a great strategy from Classroom Instruction that Works to help facilitate the reflection process with my students. A quote that really stood out to me while reading was, “By engaging students in setting personal learning objectives, teachers enable them to take control of their own learning, which increases their intrinsic motivation (Dean et al., 2012).” I found the section on how to create learning targets that are specific but not restrictive to be very informative. I was able to take my learning from this chapter and reflect on how I phrase my daily learning targets. I began looking at my posted targets for the day and assessing whether I was writing strong learning targets. I was very pleased to see that I did, indeed, write targets that seemed specific yet not too restrictive. When thinking about how I would help my students to create more personalized learning targets for our lessons/units, I really liked the idea of using a KWL chart as suggested on page 9 of Classroom Instruction that Works. I have used KWL charts in the past, but always as whole class activities. I never really liked that when completing this activity, there were always students who did not participate or appeared disinterested. So, taking cues from this book, I created individual KWL charts (KWL – Landforms) for each student to fill out. I focused on students’ activating prior knowledge around our topic and writing down thoughtful questions that they hoped to learn more about as we move through our unit. The students’ individual questions helped them to develop personalized learning objectives related to our unit. Each student housed their KWL chart in their binders and referenced it after each lesson as they reflected on their learning and filled in answers to their questions.

Self-Review Questionnaire

Another reflective activity I found to be worthwhile came from Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers. Hattie provided an example of using a self-review questionnaire as a way to engage students in the process of talking about and reflecting on daily goals and learning targets. I loved how the questionnaire encouraged students to think about their own effort put towards learning a lesson objective. Although I write learning targets on the board and speak to them during lessons, I came to realize that I was not doing enough to help my students make meaning and connections to the learning objectives. So, I decided to create my own version of the self-review questionnaire (Self-Review Questionnaire – Landforms) from Hattie’s book as a way to be more intentional in engaging my students with the learning targets for the day. My hope was that it would better support my students in meeting each lesson’s objective(s) and help my students to see the connection between the effort they put in during the lesson and how successful they are in achieving the daily objective(s). I used the questionnaire over the course of a few weeks in both reading and science and found that using it increased student engagement and improved students’ overall quality of work on assignments and tests during that period of time. A powerful message I was left with was, “Two powerful ways of increasing impact is to know and share both the learning intentions and success criteria of the lesson with students (Hattie, 2012).”

Reciprocal Teaching

For a lesson I prepared for this course, I chose to use the instructional strategy of reciprocal teaching (Lesson Plan & Reciprocal Teaching strategy). Initially, I was not going to use this strategy as I thought I knew what it was, but as I read about it in Instructional Strategies that Work, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought. Considering one of the lessons I was planning on doing, I realized this would be a perfect opportunity to try using this strategy with my students. So, I did further research on the topic in order to effectively implement it into my lesson. I learned that there are four main roles for students to participate in when engaged in reciprocal teaching: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Through my research, I also found some excellent handouts including a Reciprocal Teaching Graphic Organizer I could use with my students to help facilitate their work with one another as they read two relatively challenging articles on Loyalists versus Patriots. I knew that my students would not be able to successfully comprehend the articles if they were read independently and I was deciding on whether we should read the articles as a whole class or in partnerships/groups. In my research, I found an explanation for why/how reciprocal teaching could be useful in the classroom. It shared that reciprocal teaching encourages students to think about their own thought process during reading, helps students learn to be actively involved and monitor their comprehension while reading, and teaches students to ask questions during reading, making the text more comprehensible (Reading Rockets website). At that point in my research, I knew this instructional strategy would be great for the activity my students were to complete with the two articles. After the lesson was finished, I solicited feedback from my students. I love to get feedback from my students especially when I’ve tried something new. I was pleasantly surprised when all of the feedback my students shared was extremely positive. And, not only that, some of the things I heard my students share was so reflective and honest. One student remarked that the reciprocal teaching strategy forced her outside her comfort zone because as they rotated into each role throughout the two articles, she had to practice reading skills/strategies that were hard for her, but with the support of her group members she became more confident in those skills. In the end, many students shared that they were able to more deeply understand the two articles by working in their groups using reciprocal teaching. One hundred percent of my students said they really benefited from reciprocal teaching and would love to do it again. (By the way, I rarely get 100% of my students saying they absolutely found a strategy to benefit them. There are always one or two nay-sayers in the group).

Non-linguistic Representation

In Classroom Instruction that Works, we read about non-linguistic representations. The chapter on non-linguistic representations provided me with many ways to support students using this type of instructional strategy. In my non-linguistic lesson (Lesson Plan & Nonlinguistic strategy), I tried using movement as a way to help students learn some very challenging vocabulary words in the Declaration of Independence. The students loved playing a variation of charades and when we reviewed the vocabulary the following day, I was impressed by how much students remembered, being able to relate a movement with a vocabulary word and its meaning. When we moved into translating the Declaration of Independence later in the week, it was more understandable to my students and they were able to paraphrase the document with relative ease. I found this non-linguistic strategy to be highly effective, not to mention fun and engaging. I really appreciated this quote at the end of that chapter, “With each passing day, it is easier to assume that our students will need communication skills far beyond the basic ability to convey ideas with the written word. Teachers, therefore, must be cognizant of how they model the use of images, video, music, and sounds to convey information in ways that increase understanding (Dean et al., 2012).”

Feedback

Another strategy I read about in What Works in Classroom Instruction was called, “Pause, Prompt, Praise.” When helping to provide students with recognition feedback, the teacher should pause when the student makes a mistake, providing the student with time to find his/her mistake or error. After providing the student with time to find and fix his/her mistakes, the teacher should prompt the student, providing him/her with specific suggestions for improvement related to the error the student made. Lastly, the teacher should praise the student’s effort when the student begins to make improvements. I really liked this strategy because it can be so easy during the course of our busy days to either tell the student what mistake he/she made without giving him/her time to think it through themselves or give feedback to the student and forget to come back to praise his/her effort towards making improvements. I utilized this model in my classroom as I individually conferences with students during reading. I gave each student a form that had space for us to record our praise, questions, suggestions for improvement (or next steps) (PQS – Reading) so that students had a record of our conferences and what they could be focusing on in the days to come when working on reading skills. This form is one that I filled out, but was also used when students’ peer conferenced.

Another big take-away that surfaced for me when researching feedback was the need to be transparent with my students so they can better help themselves in reaching success. Hattie states that feedback allows opportunities for teachers to “…provide cues that capture a person’s attention and helps him or her to focus on succeeding with the task; it can direct attention towards the processes needed to accomplish the task; it can provide information about ideas that have been misunderstood; and it can be motivational so that students invest more effort or skill in the task (Hattie, 2012).” When students are given feedback, it is important for teachers to consider for what purpose the feedback is being provided and then aim to be as clear and specific as possible when providing feedback to students.

Additionally, Hattie spoke of making sure that when providing praise to students it does not “dilute the power of the feedback.” Keeping praise separate from feedback, according to Hattie, is imperative. This notion really made me reflect on how I deliver feedback and praise to my students. I think too often I mix feedback with praise so the student can feel positive about the conversation. But, after reading about Hattie’s perspective on praise and feedback, I realized how detrimental that can be and as Hattie points out, can confuse the student. “…providing feedback with no praise compared to feedback with praise has a greater effect on achievement (Hattie, 2012).”

Another aspect of feedback that resonated with me was when Hattie talked about how most feedback received by students comes from their peers. This was an important take-away for me because it made me realize how vital it is to spend time teaching our students how to provide constructive and supportive feedback. It seems to me that it would be well worth our time and effort to work with students on this skill and could be extremely valuable in the classroom.

A section of Hattie’s book I was pleased to read about was regarding errors needing to be welcomed. I speak to this belief often with students and their parents. “Errors invite opportunities. They should not be seen as embarrassments, signs of failure, or something to be avoided. They are exciting, because they indicate a tension between what we now know and what we could know; they are signs of opportunities to learn and they are to be embraced (Hattie, 2012).” This quote really sums up my own personal belief on recognizing and embracing errors, using them as opportunities to learn and grow. I often say to my students that we learn the most through our mistakes and failures. It was very affirming to read about this in Hattie’s book.

Differentiated Instruction

When I set up for lessons I always consider whether I should have my student in heterogeneous groups or homogeneous groups. Sometimes I struggle to decide which is the better option for a particular lesson/unit. On the one hand, if my students are in like-ability groups, I can really focus on working with those who are struggling while those who get the concepts at a higher level can work together, supporting one another through the tasks. But, often I find mixing my students up increases student engagement for all of my students because of the reciprocal learning occurring within each group dynamic. This statement stood out to me while I read, “While there is no doubt that every student in the class is likely to be different, an art of teaching is seeing the commonality in diversity, in having peers work together, especially when they bring different talents, errors, interests, and dispositions to the situation, and understanding that differentiation relates more to the phases of learning – from novice, through capable to proficient – rather than merely providing different activities to different (groups of) students (Hattie, 2012).” After reading this, I was actually quite pleased because lately I have been more inclined to keep my groupings for various lessons and subjects areas heterogeneous, noticing that students are, indeed, more engaged and focused. The outcome, in terms of student achievement, has been noticeable. So, as I prepare my lessons I make sure to create heterogeneous groupings to foster and support the learning of all of my students. In some of my lessons, students worked in cooperative learning groups that included a range of student ability, as did the groups I created for my math lesson.

Conclusion

Hattie states, “The remarkable feature of the evidence is that the greatest effects on student learning occurs when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers (Hattie, 2012).” A goal we have as teachers is to help our students become life-long learners. We know we have succeeded when students are able to exhibit self-regulatory attributes that seem most desirable for learners (self-monitoring, self-evaluation, self-assessment, self-teaching). And, how is this goal achieved? It is through visible teaching and learning that students become their own teachers.

Throughout his book, Hattie repeatedly states that teachers must see it as their role to evaluate their effect on learning. The only way teachers can improve their craft and better support students is when they are able to effectively evaluate what is working and what is not. In that way, teachers can “intervene in calculated and meaningful ways to alter the direction of learning to attain various shared, specific, and challenging goals (Hattie, 2012).”

“A safe environment for the learner (and for the teacher) is an environment in which error is welcomed and fostered – because we learn so much from error and from the feedback that then accrues from going in the wrong direction or not going sufficiently fluently in the right direction (Hattie, 2012).” The idea of embracing error and mistakes in the classroom was another strong message Hattie presents as a necessary piece of visible learning and was an important take-away for me. This is something I already know and value, but it is validating to read it again in Hattie’s book.

Intentional and effective feedback has one of the highest effect rates of all the strategies Hattie examined in his book. But, an important take-away from this particular strategy was the notion that this form of feedback will only happen when students are provided with appropriately challenging work. “The greater the challenge, the higher the probability that one seeks and needs feedback, and the more important it is that there is a teacher to ensure that the learner is on the right path to successfully meet the challenge (Hattie, 2012).”

Be the “positive change agents” for our students. It is so important that we, as teachers, banish this idea of labeling our students, trying to justify why students can or cannot succeed through a deficit-thinking model. Hattie spends some time explaining the high-impact teacher and what makes the difference between an experienced teacher and an expert teacher. Many will claim all their teachers are passionate and inspired by what they do. But what sets an expert teacher apart from all the rest? According to Hattie, expert teachers can identify the most important ways in which to represent the subject that they teach by helping students build strong connections to their learning. Expert teachers are proficient at creating an optimal classroom climate for learning by building an atmosphere of trust, encouraging mistakes and error. They are able to monitor learning and provide feedback. Expert teachers believe that all students can reach the success criteria – a belief that intelligence is changeable rather than fixed. And, lastly, expert teachers are able to influence surface and deep student outcomes through challenging goals and expectations.

It is the major role of schools to help students develop the skills and character traits necessary to succeed in the real world. As a school system, we must come to an agreement on the key knowledge skills and dispositions students are to learn. Hattie cites Ben Levin’s How to Change 5,000 Schools stating that as a system we must all have high expectations for all students; strong personal connection between students and adults; greater student engagement and motivation; a rich and engaging formal and informal curriculum; effective teaching practices in all classrooms on a daily basis; effective use of data and feedback by students and staff to improve learning; early support with minimum disruption for students in need; strong positive relationships with parents; and effective engagement with the broader community (Hattie, 2012).

Hattie continues by sharing the importance of school leaders supporting their teachers so that these system-wide changes can occur. Hattie shares that instructional leaders, those who attend to the quality and impact of all in the school on student learning, are more effective in providing the support that teachers need than transformational leaders, those who are attuned to inspiring teachers to new levels of energy and commitment towards a common mission. Although both types of leaders are important and valued, research and evidence shows that the instructional leader will better support their school and the needs of its teachers. This was an important take-away for me because as a student in a Teacher Leadership Masters program, if I am to take on the role of a school leader within my building, understanding what actions can help to make an impact on those around me will be invaluable.

The book finishes with a description of eight mind frames that are the groundwork of our every action and decision in school. Those include the belief that we are evaluators, change agents, adaptive learning experts, seekers of feedback about our impact, engaged in dialogue and challenge, one who develops a trust with those around them, someone who sees opportunity in error, and that we are keen to spread the message about the power, fun and impact that we have on learning (Hattie, 2012). As I reflect back on my post, I can find elements of these eight mind frames imbedded into my take-aways from what I learned throughout the course, Surveys of Instructional Strategies. As I move forward as a teacher leader in my school and district, it is these eight mind frames that I must always hold with me as I decide what step to take next or decision to make. For it is the actions and decisions I make that will have a lasting impact on those around me.

In the final chapter of Instructional Strategies that Work, the authors help the reader to put everything together by explaining the importance of how and when certain instructional strategies should be used. The metaphor the authors use to help explain the intention of this chapter is one of a conductor of an orchestra who must know when to emphasize each of the instruments and how to bring out their particular qualities in order to accomplish the purpose of the music. Just as an orchestra sounds best when the composer selects the most appropriate instruments and the conductor blends those instruments together in just the right way, when a teacher is able to pick the most appropriate instructional strategies to meet the needs of his/her students for a particular lesson or unit, students can achieve success towards the learning objectives. It is explained that creating the environment for learning is essential. Teachers must be thoughtful towards setting the learning objectives, providing feedback, reinforcing effort and providing recognition, and developing appropriate opportunities for cooperative learning as well as independent practice. Then, the teacher can decide which strategies will best help to support students in achieving the learning objectives.

References:

A Guide To … Productive Pedagogies Classroom Reflection Manual. Brisbane Albert, Qld: Education Queensland, 2002. Print.

Dean, Ceri B., Hubbell, Elizabeth R., Pitler, Howard, Stone, Bj. Classroom Instruction that Works. 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2012. Print.

Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers Maximizing Impact on Learning. Routledge: London and New York, 2012. Print.

Johnson, Ben. “Three Steps for Improving Teacher Questions .” Edutopia. The George Lucas Educational Foundation, 26 June 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. <http://www.edutopia.org/blog/improving-teacher-questions-ben-johnson&gt;.

Marzano, Robert J., Gaddy, Barbara B., and Dean, Ceri B. What Works in Classroom Instruction. Aurora, CO: McREL, 2000. Print.

Ozar, Lorraine A., and Michael J. Boyle. “More on Marzano’s Strategy – Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition.” Sustaining Oustanding Schools: SOS. N.p., Sept. 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. <http://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/ccse/pdfs/Reinforcing_effort_Sept_08.pdf&gt;.

“Reciprocal Teaching.” Adolescents Literacy. Ann B. and Thomas L. Friedman Family Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, n.d. Web. 11 May 2014. <http://www.adlit.org/strategies/19765/&gt;.

“Reciprocal Teaching.” Reading Rockets. WETA Public Broadcasting, n.d. Web. 11 May 2014. <http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/reciprocal_teaching&gt;.

Teacher Leadership Standard 11: Utilize Formative and Summative Assessment in a Standards-Based Environment

“Designing effective assessments is critical for any teacher. In order to make judgments about the status of a student or an entire class at any given point in time, teachers need as much accurate data as possible about an individual student’s progress, or the progress of the class as a whole, to determine their next instructional steps. As straightforward as this might sound, designing assessments, using them purposefully, and incorporating them into a system of overall grading take insight and practice.” ~ Robert Marzano

When I began the course EDU 6613 Standards-Based Assessment, I was asked to write down everything I thought I knew about the course topic. Initially I thought, “This shouldn’t be too hard!” However, as I sat down to begin drafting my response, I found myself struggling to come up with a lot substantive information about standards-based assessments. I realized that my understanding was primarily surface-level and basic at best. For example, I understood the primary difference between formative and summative assessments, which is that formative assessments are assessments for learning while summative assessments are assessments of learning. In other words, formative assessments occur throughout a unit of study and are used to gauge “next steps” in preparing students for an end-of-unit test, or summative assessment. Therefore, summative assessments are given when the learning is done and the student is ready to show what they learned by the end of a unit. I had also developed a lot of strategies for formatively assessing my students throughout the day. I also understood the importance of using assessments to analyze and determine your next steps in order to best support your students and their specific needs. But, I didn’t realize how many ways assessments could be classified nor did I realize how different learning targets (knowledge, reasoning, skill, product) match with different methods (selected response, written response, performance assessment, personal communication). For example, reasoning learning targets are best assessed using written response or through personal communication, but would not be as successful if presented using a performance assessment.  By the time I finished my first assignment, I realized I had a LOT of growing to do in the area of assessment and couldn’t wait to get started!

By the end of the quarter, I learned a great deal about assessment. One important take-away from this course was how involved and complex the process for creating well-balanced assessments can be, and how imperative it is that the assessment questions align tightly with the learning targets being covered. Ken O’Connor remarked in How to Grade for Learning that, “For grades to have real meaning, they must be relatively pure measures of each student’s achievement of the learning goals (O’Connor, 2009).” I came to realize that if I wanted to gain accurate, relevant information about what my students understand, I would have to be much more intentional about developing assessments that clearly match the learning targets and ensure that each question is presented in the best way possible to capture my students’ understanding of the targets. Another big take-away I had after finishing this course was that the structure of the assessment questions should mirror the way in which the content was delivered during the unit. Students should not be blind-sided with the assessment method, but rather should know ahead of time how each target will be assessed. Our goal is never to try to “trick” or “stump” students, but rather it is to give students the tools and resources needed to fully prepare for the assessment. In the end, we want our students’ performance to be a true indication of what they know and understand.

So, where to start? Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis and Chappuis, the authors of Classroom Assessment for Student Learning, do a wonderful job of walking through the process for developing a well-balanced assessment that can be used for student learning. First and foremost, when designing an assessment, teachers must have clearly defined learning targets. The assessor must always know what he/she wants the students to know by the end of the unit. Once the targets are developed and can be clearly articulated in a student-friendly manner, then the teacher can begin designing his/her assessment. Aspects of the design phase include determining the type of assessment, which include selected response, written response, performance assessment and personal communication assessment. Depending on the way in which questions are posed, an assessment could include one or more of these four types of assessment questions. Secondly, the teacher must consider the various types of questions that can be assessed including knowledge-based questions, reasoning questions, skill questions and product questions (Stiggins et al., 2011). These are dependent upon the types of learning targets being assessed.

In order to apply the learning I gained from the texts I read, I was asked to work towards developing a cohesive unit that would incorporate everything I understood about the readings. The development of my unit, which included an end-of-unit assessment, was perhaps the most exciting part of my work in this course as I was able to finish the course with a unit that I knew was tightly aligned to learning targets, based upon rigorous state and national standards. My Final Product, a social studies unit covering the basics of the three branches of our federal government, illustrates how all of my work and learning came together in the end. In addition to developing a unit with an assessment, I was asked to consider ways to include my students in the learning process. “When students know how they will be assessed, and especially when they have been involved in assessment decisions, the likelihood of student success is increased greatly (O’Connor, 2009).” So, I also created a way for students to keep a Competence Portfolio of their work throughout the unit so that they may be able to self-assess their own progress and develop strategies to ensure they’re success on the end-of-unit assessment.

“Marks and grades are meaningful when – and only when – they are based on quality assessment (O’Connor, 2009).” Another component of assessment, once a well-balanced assessment is created, is to consider the best way to grade the assessment results. O’Connor’s text was used to help analyze the various methods for grading and in the end, determine the most appropriate way to grade student work so that the grade is the most accurate reflection of what the student knows and can do. Through various activities and assignments, I learned about advantages and disadvantages to various types of grading methods including averaging and standards-based grading. O’Connor states, “One symbol cannot do justice to the different degrees of learning a student acquires across all learning outcomes (O’Connor, 2009).” I learned that giving constructive feedback via a standards-based grade that is attached to a descriptive rubric enables the students to better understand the meaning behind their grades. In my end-of-unit project, I developed a Criteria-Based Rubric so that when students received their grade, they were also given specific, descriptive feedback to help bring meaning to the number grade at the top of the test.

In the end, if well-crafted learning targets are used to develop a quality assessment, and the grading rubric accurately supports both the learning targets and the assessment method, one could successfully pinpoint what each student knows and can do. Standards-based grading, ultimately, is the best way to capture what students understand, but only if done well. After completing the course Standards-Based Assessment, I walked away having a greater understanding and appreciation for the intricacies of standards-based assessments. I now approach my development of assessments with a more critical eye, considering how my questions are being asked, which learning targets each question is aligned to, what type of knowledge or skill I am assessing, and if the assessment is most appropriate for the learning that has occurred. Additionally, when given assessments to use, whether ones developed by my school district or ones that come with purchased curriculum, I now take the time to carefully examine the assessment and reconstruct the assessment if needed to ensure the assessment will give me the information I need to know about my students’ understanding.

References:

Marzano, Robert. (2010). Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading. Bloomington, IN.: Marzano Research Laboratory.

O’Connor, Ken. (2009). How to Grade for Learning K-12 (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin, A Sage Company.

Stiggins, R., Arter, J., Chappuis, J., and Steve C. (2012). Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing it Right – Using it Well (2nd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ.: Pearson Education, Inc.

Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website for Washington state: http://www.k12.wa.us/SocialStudies/EALRs-GLEs.aspx

Center for Civic Education: National Standards for Civics and Government: http://www.civiced.org/standards?page=58toc

Teacher Leadership Standard 7: Utilize Instructional Frames to Improve Teaching

 In my seven years as an educator, I have worked in a school district that has been using the Danielson Framework to help guide teachers as they strive to improve their own craft. Each year, my principal has used this framework to evaluate the quality of my teaching and to provide me with feedback on what my next steps should be in growing myself as an educator. When I was first hired, I was provided with a consulting teacher to give me the support, tools and resources I needed to successfully make it through my first two years of teaching. Additionally, I was fortunate to have been placed at a school and on a grade-level team that provided me with a tremendous amount of support. My grade-level teammate, who is now a consulting teacher for other new teachers in the district, provided me with more guidance and support than a new teacher could ever ask for! She truly went above and beyond her duties as a teammate to help me be successful.

As a result of being placed in the care of so many amazing mentors and coaches, I was able to demonstrate proficient characteristics of teaching and learning at the start of my career. My focus then became one of moving myself towards exemplifying the distinguished characteristics as outlined in the Danielson Framework. During the 2012-13 school year, I had a mix of both proficient and distinguished marks as seen on my 2012-13 End-of-Year Evaluation. The following year, as my school district switched to a slightly new system for evaluating teachers and principals, I was again evaluated based on the criteria described in the framework. However, this time, being at the Focus level, I was only evaluated on Criterion 8. Criterion 8 examines participating in a professional community, growing and developing professionally, showing professionalism, and establishing team student growth goals. I was able to demonstrate distinguished characteristics in all categories as seen in my 2013-14 End-of-Year Evaluation.

Through my work in this program, I have had the opportunity to further explore the Danielson Framework, and continue to develop and hone my skills as a teacher. Prior to starting this program, I would say I was very familiar and comfortable with the Danielson Framework.  But my knowledge was limited in that I knew what I was being evaluated on and how to demonstrate proficiency, but I was not always sure how to demonstrate certain characteristics to meet the framework’s criteria at the distinguished level. So when I was given the opportunity to do just that in a few of my courses, I seized the opportunity.

In my Accomplished Teaching class, I took time to explore the Danielson Framework through the lens of reflection and teacher leadership. I learned that, through reflection, one can work successfully towards accomplishing high levels of success in all four domains of the framework. Whether it’s 1b Demonstrating Knowledge of Students or 2a Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport or 3b Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques, one of the best ways to achieve success is to reflect on your practice. In Reflective Practice to Improve Schools, it states that one should insert reflective practice everywhere. This can be done by taking time for oneself by reflecting on lessons taught in the quiet of an empty classroom after the children have left for the day, getting together with colleagues and reflecting in a more collaborative setting around goal areas set by the team, or even building in time for meaningful reflection with your students.

In the course, Leadership in Education, I was also given the opportunity to explore the Washington State Principal standards as outlined in the TPEP. Through this course I was able to examine the six standards through the lens of teacher leadership and was given the opportunity to develop a professional growth plan around the standards. The following is the reflective work I did to meet that expectation.

Introduction

The demand for classroom teachers to take on more defined leadership roles within their buildings has increased significantly in the last several years. In my school district, it is not uncommon to have at least half of a staff charged with leading various committees, helping to facilitate the growth and development of their colleagues so that they may go back to their classrooms better equipped to support student growth and achievement. In my building, for example, we have two literacy facilitators, a teacher responsible for providing us with support as we navigate our new professional growth and evaluation system, TeachScape, and someone representing our staff at union meets. For me, that role is technology integration specialist. It is a responsibility that I love because I get to be at the forefront of any new technology rollout. As part of my role, I need to be aware of the digital resources teachers have available for use with their students and the ways in which technology can be effectively integrated into their classrooms. Furthermore, I need to be able to successfully deliver important information to my colleagues in a meaningful and engaging manner. The way in which I deliver instruction must come across as approachable and user-friendly, otherwise teachers will begin to resist the new digital resources available to aid and support teaching and learning.

In the future, it is my hope that I will be able to broaden my roles and responsibilities by getting involved in other leadership opportunities. I would love to become a mentor to new teachers, providing them with the guidance and support they need to survive their first few years of teaching. I would also love to join committees involved in the selection of new curriculums and/or the development of assessments and other resources that will be used by teachers throughout the District. Regardless of the specific leadership roles I may take on in the future, there are common characteristics that are necessary for any leader to exhibit. The remainder of this blog will serve to examine those essential leadership characteristics while reflecting on my strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the WSP Standards. Furthermore, I will share insights into the areas I must work on developing in order to successfully fulfill my roles and responsibilities as an effective leader.

WSP Standard One

Visionary Leadership: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by leading the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by school/program and community stakeholders.

Strand 1 – Advancing a school- or program-wide shared vision for learning.

Strand 2 – Putting the vision for learning into operation.

Strand 3 – Developing stewardship of the vision.

To be a successful leader, one must have a clear school vision that supports achievement and learning for all students, a vision that is shared among a variety of stakeholders. A school vision, regardless of how unique it may be, must be grounded in the fundamental belief that all students can and will achieve at high levels (Disposition 1 – the educability of all students & Disposition 2 – high standards of learning). As a leader, one must take the necessary steps to “advance” their school’s vision, putting “the vision for learning into operation” and developing “a stewardship of the vision.” In other words, it is the responsibility of the school leader to take ownership of promoting the school’s vision while ensuring that all stakeholders are also able to stand behind and promote the school vision. It is imperative that a school leader makes changes and adjustments to the systems it has in place in order to ensure the vision is fully supported and implemented. Each year, schools will find themselves with new teachers and families joining their school community. It becomes necessary, then, that a school leader take the time to revisit the school vision annually, consulting others as they assess the effectiveness of the vision and how systems may need to change in order to better support the school’s vision.

My Visionary Leadership Analysis completed during my Leadership in Education course serves to illustrate how my school strives to meet the rigorous demands of WSP Standard One. A critical component of my school’s ability to continually advance our school’s mission, putting it into operation and building a stewardship of the vision is because my principal encourages a participative decision-making process when making important school-wide decisions. This model is supported in Owen and Valesky’s book, Organizational Behavior in Education. The authors’ state that it is important to “develop greater harmony and consistency between the goals of the organization and the human needs of people who work in them (Owens & Valesky, 2015).” Using a participative decision-making process allows us as a school to gather information via various types of surveys, which help to inform the decisions we make collaboratively as a staff the following year.

According to the Jung Typology Test, I am an ISTJ personality (introverted, sensing, thinking and judging). As an ISTJ, I am devoted to my job and responsibilities. I am also very dependable. My ISTJ personality is an asset because I am willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the success of all students (Disposition 5 – ensuring students’ success). These traits are important when developing and sustaining a school vision because, as a leader, one must always keep the school’s vision at the forefront of his or her mind when making important decisions. Being devoted to my roles and responsibilities as a leader will allow me to keep the school’s vision at the center of decision-making when determining what is best for kids.

However, as an ISTJ, I may come across as aloof or unapproachable. In order to help create and sustain a school vision that is supported by all stakeholders, I must actively work on being approachable so that others see that I am willing to work with them in order to get the task accomplished. As a leader, one must be willing to listen to and consider all sides presented by various stakeholders, working together to keep the vision central to all key decisions that will ultimately affect students, staff and parents. As my school’s demographics or the dynamic of the school shifts over time, I need to be ready to facilitate a discussion about the school’s vision and how it may need to be adapted or changed in order to best meet the needs of all students. By working on being approachable and open to the views of others, in addition to collaborating with a variety of stakeholders in keeping the vision present, I will be able to make smart decisions when deciding what is best for student growth, especially if what is currently in place no longer supports students and their needs.

Goal: I plan to work on developing my ability to be open and approachable so that others may feel comfortable seeking me out for guidance and support.

Rationale: I know that collaboration among stakeholders is essential if a school’s vision to be successfully implemented and sustained over time. By being more approachable, I will ensure the continued growth and productivity of my school staff and students. [Standard 1, Strands 3]

WSP Standard Two

Instructional Improvement: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by leading through advocating, nurturing, and sustaining district/school/program cultures and coherent instructional programs that are conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.

Strand 1 – Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining an effective school/program culture.

Strand 2 – Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining student learning.

Strand 3 – Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining coherent, intentional professional development.

Standard Two is focused on instructional improvement. As a school leader, one must be able to “demonstrate understanding that student learning is the fundamental purpose of schools.” This is achieved when a school leader is able to “advocate, nurture, and sustain” an effective school/program culture, student learning, and the professional development of his or her staff/colleagues. This includes developing systems that support students’ needs as individual learners in addition to developing systems that foster a sense of collaboration around curriculum, instruction and assessment practices among teachers for the purpose of improving teaching and learning (Disposition 3 – continuous school improvement). A school leader must be willing to hold all stakeholders accountable for their choices and actions, ensuring that all decisions are made in the best interest of students.

According to the Managerial Grid, I demonstrate a high concern for both results and people. As a leader, I am able to take feedback and criticism in order to work with others in developing a common understanding of objectives, and will strive to find ways to improve team performance (Disposition 3 – continuous school improvement). Additionally, with my ability to take feedback and criticism and turn it into positive change, I am able to develop a sense of trust and respect among those with whom I work. As a result, others will feel more comfortable in taking risks and finding creative ways to work towards successful outcomes (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices & Disposition 12 – development of a caring school community). Furthermore, according to Douglas McGregor’s X-Y Theory assessment tool, I value the Y theory of management. This means that I believe that people will strive for excellence in what they do and will be willing to take responsibility and show initiative. Based on this belief, I would assume that my staff would be willing to come together, working collaboratively in order to create an optimal learning environment for their students while implementing “best practices” in their classrooms. Additionally, according to the Ross-Barger Philosophy Inventory, I am a pragmatist. I would be open to allowing teachers to use a variety of methods and processes in their classrooms, as long as they prove to be successful. This view, I believe, would also help to foster a sense of trust among those with whom I collaborate, as teachers would know that I trust them to make sound decisions for the purpose of supporting student growth and achievement.

It is the responsibility of school leaders to hold their staff accountable for their choices and actions, especially when decisions are made in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment. If there are staff who are making decisions that do not support the school’s vision or do not support the success of all students, it will the leader’s responsibility to help get those staff members back on track. These types of conversations may involve conflict, especially when the staff in question believes firmly in what he or she is doing. According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, I am at times able to find ways to compromise while at other times I am more likely to avoid or withdraw when potential conflict arises. This is something I must work actively to change, as conflict is an inevitable part of any collaborative working environment. It will be important that I learn ways to effectively problem solve with those with whom I am working in order to ensure the school’s vision is upheld and student success is promoted (Disposition 5 – ensuring students’ success).

Goal: I plan to work on developing the dispositions that are conducive to compromise and problem solving when conflict arises.

Rationale: This goal is very important to me because it takes the collaborative efforts of many to improve instruction for the purpose of advancing student learning, including difficult conversations about what is the “best” course of action. I need to be open and willing to accept others’ ideas and suggestions if I am to show that I am willing to compromise and problem solve. In working on developing the ability to effectively compromise and problem solve as opposed to avoid or withdraw when conflict arises, I will be able to better support those with whom I work. This includes students, teachers, parents and other community members. [Standard 2, Strand 2]

WSP Standard Three

Effective Management: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by ensuring management of the organization, operations, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.

Strand 1 – Uses a continuous cycle of analysis to ensure efficient and effective systems.

Strand 2 – Ensuring efficient and effective management of the organization.

Strand 3 – Ensuring efficient and effective management of the operations.

Strand 4 – Ensuring management of the resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.

A school leader must always be willing to examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs and practices (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices). This means taking time to evaluate one’s own management systems. A school as an organization must ensure its systems support students’ safety, learning and well-being (Disposition 5 – ensuring students’ success). This includes how the budget is spent, how student discipline is handled, how the specialists’ schedule is organized, how specific programs are implement school-wide, etc.

As identified on the Managerial Grid, I am someone who is able to take feedback and criticism and turn it into productive and positive decision-making. This is a useful trait because as school leader, I will need to be willing to examine the systems I have helped to put into place in order to determine their effectiveness and how efficiently they are running. By being open to the feedback and criticism of others, I can use that information to reflect on my own decisions and make adjustments accordingly (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices).

A huge part of the success of any school organization is the leader’s ability to delegate responsibilities to those with whom they work. It is not reasonable to expect a school leader to make all of the decisions when it comes to things like how the budget will be spent, what the specialist schedule will look like, how special programs will be implemented, etc. As an ISTJ personality, I can become easily frustrated when others are not able to rise to the occasion and complete a task in the manner that is expected. This can become my downfall as I may feel the urge to micro-manage others once I’ve delegated certain tasks. This can potentially place a strain on my relationships with others and increase the level of distrust among those with whom I work. It will be vital that as I delegate roles and responsibilities to others, I am willing to step back and trust that they will follow through and do a great job!

Goal: I need to work on learning to trust that others will successfully follow through on their commitments.

Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I can then take the energy and attention that I would have misplaced into micro-managing others and focus instead on ensuring that the structures and systems are running smoothly and continue to support students’ emotional and personal needs. Furthermore, by working on improving my weaknesses in this area, I will continue to establish a culture of trust and support, which is necessary in any well-managed organization. [Standard 3, Strand 2]

WSP Standard Four

Inclusive Practice: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by collaborating with families and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.

Strand 1 – Collaborating with families and community members.

Strand 2 – Collaborating with and responding to diverse communities.

Strand 3 – Mobilizing community resources.

Standard Four promotes the power of collaboration with families and community members, response to diverse community interests and needs, and the mobilization of community resources. As a school leader, it is important that he or she reaches out to families and the greater community. Seeking to collaborate with these stakeholders is integral to the success of all students. Families and the community serve as a link between school and home. By building a strong relationship with parents and other community members, a school leader can more effectively reach all students, especially those “hard-to-reach” students. Just as teachers collaborate together in their own professional learning communities, so to should the families and community members collaborate with the school leader and his or her staff. Furthermore, as our communities grow in diversity, it is important that a school leader take steps to get to know those with whom they are interacting with on a daily basis. This is important because when considering the programs and instructional practices that are implemented, a school leader and his or her staff must be aware of the diverse cultures and how those cultures may influence student learning (Disposition 4 – culturally responsive programs and leadership). A school leader must also take steps to utilize community resources to improve the quality of education for all students. This may include reaching out to businesses and tapping into their resources such as getting school supplies donated to students in need or creating a relationship with the local doctor’s office so students and their families can receive necessary health care services (Disposition 12 – development of a caring school community).

According to the Leadership Survey, my leadership style focuses on high task and high relationships. This is an asset because I value both providing students with a quality education as well as maintaining strong relationships with others. The Managerial Grid further supports this because I show a high concern for both results and people. Knowing that I must work with diverse groups of people, I will do my best to make choices that preserve both the quality of education for students as well as nurturing the relationship I have with others by taking steps to ensure my students and their families are well supported with regard to their safety, learning and personal well-being (Disposition 12 – development of a caring school community).

Where I might end up struggling to meet this standard is when faced with situations involving potential conflict. Again, as mentioned on the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, I am sometimes an avoider when it comes to conflict. Collaboration inevitably brings about conflict in some form or another.

Goal: I need to work on developing my sense of collaboration and problem solving when dealing with others, whether families or community members, who may not see things the way I do.

Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I will be able to work passed any insecurity I may have in order to provide my students and their families with the necessary supports and resources they need. [Standard 4, Strands 1 & 2]

WSP Standard Five

Ethical Leadership: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.

Strand 1 – Using the continuous cycle of analysis for self-assessment of professional leadership

Strand 2 – Acting with integrity, fairness, and courage in upholding high ethical standards.

 A school leader must always act morally and ethically in their role and/or position as they hold a position of power and have the ability to affect great change. This requires a school leader to examine his or her assumptions, beliefs, and practices in order to make decisions that are grounded in good morals and ethics (Disposition 6 – willingness to continuously examine one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and practices). Creating growth goals is a way for a school leader to examine his or her assumptions, beliefs and practices in a meaningful and productive way. As stated in the WSP Standards, a school leader will act with, “integrity, fairness, and courage in upholding the high ethical standards” (Disposition 8 – bringing ethical principles to the decision-making process). Furthermore, a school leader will accept and take responsibility for his or her decisions (Disposition 10 – accepting the consequences for upholding one’s principles and actions).

In the course EDAD Leadership in Education, I read Houston, Blankstein and Cole’s Spirituality in Educational Leadership. This was a very powerful text because it allowed me to examine the principles of intention and moral purpose, attention, unique gifts and talents, gratitude, unique life lessons, holistic perspective, openness and trust. I was able to use this text and the discussions I had with my fellow cohort members to further develop my understanding of Washington Principal Standard 5.

School leaders are faced with making a myriad of decisions each and every day. Sometimes those decisions are simple, while at other times the decisions are difficult and complex and could have lasting impact. As an ISTJ personality type, I have a keen sense of right and wrong. This will be an asset to me as I strive to fulfill Standard Five, which requires a leader to make decisions and act in ways that exemplify integrity, fairness and courage (Disposition 8 -bringing ethical principles to the decision-making process).

However, being an ISTJ personality, I may at times speak too candidly which could result in putting strain on the relationships I have built with others. It will be important for me to work on developing my ability to speak truthfully, but do so tactfully. This will ensure that I maintain the positive and trusting relationships I have worked hard to develop and maintain.

Goal: I plan to work on communicating my thinking and beliefs in a way that is supportive, showing care and concern while maintaining integrity, fairness and courage by always presenting the truth and what is right.

Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I will be able to keep the communication lines open, thus allowing me to continue to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders on maintaining a shared vision, improving instruction, etc. [Standard 5, Strand 2]

WSP Standard Six

Socio-Political Context: A school or program administrator is an educational leader who has the knowledge, skills, and cultural competence to improve learning and achievement to ensure the success of each student by understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context.

Strand 1 – Understanding the role of schools or programs in a democracy

A school leader must always be willing to advocate and take action to ensure all students are provided with a free, quality education (Disposition 7 – the right of every student to a free, quality education). This means that a school leader must get involved in the politics of education, taking a stand to voice opinions in order to influence decisions made at the national, state and local levels.

Knowing that I have a keen sense of right and wrong, according to the Jung Typology Test, means that I will be able to voice my beliefs and support what I know to be true and just with regard to public education. I can assert myself in a way that advocates for those who matter most, the students and their families (Disposition 11 – using the influence of one’s office constructively and productively in the service of all students and their families).

However, of all six standards, this is perhaps the one I also feel most unequipped to handle. I have not yet developed a strong understanding of the legal issues surrounding education. Furthermore, my pragmatist view on education could serve to be a hindrance because of my personal feelings towards top-down mandates that I don’t necessarily believe is what is best for students. Some of those include No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. In my experience and based on the research I’ve read, I have not seen much evidence that mandates such as NCLB or RTTT are effective nor are they benefiting our students in the ways they set out to do. In many respects, they go against much of what I believe education is about which includes giving school districts and individual schools the ability to make the important decisions that will directly impact their students and their families. It is the principals and teachers, on the “front lines”, who should be making the decisions that will impact students because it is they who are the ones working with students and their families on a daily basis. Teachers and their principals should be able to have the freedom to create learning environments that allow students to experience learning in a hands-on, interactive and collaborative manner. As a school leader, I would find it difficult to promote such top-down mandates. However, if over time mandates such as NCLB or RTTT ever did prove to be what is best for student success, I would be willing to set aside my personal feelings and work to promote them for the greater good of the school community (Disposition 9 – subordinating one’s own interest to the good of the school community).

Goal: I will strive to educate myself in the political, social, economical, legal and cultural contexts that will help me to make informed decisions.

Rationale: By focusing on this goal, I will be able to take meaningful steps towards ensuring the students and their families under my charge are well supported and afforded the same opportunities as everyone else because I will be better able to advocate on their behalf. [Standard 6, Strand 1]

Conclusion

As I reflect on the six WSP Standards and examine the information gathered by completing a variety of assessments, I have come to realize that I possess a lot of strengths when it comes to the specific characteristics needed to fulfill a leadership role in education. I have also come to realize that there is much I need to improve upon if I am to be an effective leader over a long period of time.

As a leader, I am someone who values both results and relationships. I firmly believe it is important to set high expectations for those with whom you work, while also taking the time to establish strong, trusting relationships. Results and relationships, no doubt, directly impact one another. However, part of building a trusting relationship with others is related to how you react and respond to others. While I know, and my assessments have proven to me, that I value relationships and will strive to develop strong relationships, I can at times come across as aloof or unapproachable. This can become a problem as I collaborate with others. I need to consciously think about how I present myself so that I show others that I am willing and able to come to the table with a variety of people to make decisions that will support student growth and achievement.

Another area I must work to develop is my ability to work through conflict. This is something I know I struggle with, as conflict makes me feel uncomfortable. I will often try to withdraw or simply avoid it. This is not the disposition of a leader as it is the responsibility of a leader to face conflict head-on, working to problem-solve and/or compromise. However, I am good at accepting feedback and criticism, turning that feedback into positive change. So, when conflict does arise, especially when it involves specific feedback or criticism of my choices or actions, I know I will take the necessary steps to enact whatever change is needed.

Through the process of reflecting on the WSP Standards and my strengths and weaknesses, I was able to develop goals that will allow me to work on shoring up any deficits I have to ensure I become a capable, successful school leader whether that be as a mentor coach for new teachers, working on committees involved in the improvement of curriculum and assessment or as a facilitator within my building helping my colleagues learn to navigate and integrate the numerous technology resources available to them and their students in the classroom.

References:

Barger, R. (1999). The Ross Barger Philosophy-Inventory. Retrieved from http://www3.nd.edu/~rbarger/ross-barger

Blake, R. & Mouton, J. Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid. Retrieved from http://www.bumc.bu.edu/facdev-medicine/files/2010/10/Leadership-Matrix-Self-Assessment-Questionnaire.pdf

Danielson Framework (this .pdf outlines each component of the Danielson Framework which was used during my Accomplished Teaching class)

Houston, P. D., Blankstein, A. M., & Cole, R. W. (2008). Spirituality in Educational Leadership. Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin.

Jung, C. Humanmetrics Jung Typology Test. Retrieved from http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

Kilmann, J. & Thomas, K. (2010, March 2). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Retreived from https://www.skillsone.com/Pdfs/smp248248.pdf

Owen, R. & Valesky, T. (2015). Organizational Behavior in Education: Leadership and School Reform. 11 ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Principal / Program Administrator – Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB). (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://www.pesb.wa.gov/pgppilot/standards-strands/principal-program-administrator-career-level

York-Barr, J., Sommers, W., Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Research Guide for Educators (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.