The Why Loops

I spent some time last week running through some "why" loops to hone in on reasons behind my potential research question. I think the question is broad enough to allow for several avenues of exploration, but it was insightful to run through the cycle several times (below). We've actually used this mechanism as an instructional coaching team in the past and being familiar with the process helped me focus on larger issues. Granted, some of the issues contributing to some of the behaviors we see are well beyond my specific purview and definitely outside the scope of my AR project.

Below is a straight copy/paste of my brainstorming. I think items two and three are most within my realm of influence. I can use my time to focus on teachers who have recently participated in PD to help provide that instructional support. I can also work proactively with principals, helping them follow up with their staff members learning new methods or techniques and recognizing those either with informal pop-ins to see students in action or public recognition in front of their staffmates.

Why don’t teachers implement the training they’ve received in PD?

  1. Teachers don’t put their training into practice   
    • There are good ideas presented, but no time to work on building their own versions.   
    • The PD was focused on the why, not enough on the how   
    • Teachers don’t understand why they need to change practice   
    • The district’s communication about the offered PD is lacking clarity   
    • There is a lack of leadership when it comes to instructional vision.
  2. Teachers do now show evidence of putting training to use with students.   
    • Teachers don’t know how to implement ideas they’ve learned in the workshop   
    • There are so many demands on their time, planning new lessons falls to the back burner   
    • In-building support systems are lacking   
    • The district is strapped for money and hiring instructional coaches isn’t a priority.
  3. Teachers do not put learning from PD into practice.   
    • There is no outside pressure to implement ideas learned in training   
    • Principals are spread too thin to pay close attention to inservice teachers are attending   
    • Principals do not know what to look for after teachers attend inservice.   
    • Teacher evaluations are based on outdated expectations and promote superficial expectations.
  4. Teachers do not communicate implementation of learning   
    • Workshops in the district are often standalone with no formal structure for long term support   
    • The resources committed to PD for several years were focused on one-off training   
    • The district lacked a vision for teacher development as a continual process   
    • District leadership did not see the value of instructional support as a formal position in the district.
  5. Teachers do not implement learning from workshops   
    • No one follows up on the learning from the PD   
    • There was no formal method for recognizing PD   
    • There is no formal expectation of implementation from supervisors (principals, etc)

"Loop" by maldoit https://flickr.com/photos/maldoit/265859956 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Potential Action Research

Cobblestone walk in France

I'm taking a graduate course this semester on action research, part of which is defining and designing a question to tackle. Most of the coursework relates to classroom-level research by teachers to drive reflection and instructional change, but I'm not in the classroom right now. I'm thinking through what kind of teacher-focused research could help me in a coaching role.

  • Can reflection be an emergent property in teaching given the right context to grow?
  • How can formative data push teachers toward ideas in contrast with what they think is the "best" instructional habit?
  • How do PLNs (local or digital) change teacher practice?
  • What conditions are favorable for teachers starting - and completing - PD regimens?
  • Are mixed-format (online, self-paced, in person) PD sequences more or less effective than single-format (single sessions)?
  • What kind of follow up intervention or touchpoints can spur implementation of methods or ideas learned in professional development?
  • How do student results from trying new methods impact the type and frequency of PD offered to teachers?
  • How does implementing a new lesson or instructional method impact teacher satisfaction or overall morale?

This definitely isn't exhaustive, but it's a start. There are some others floating around my head that I can't quite verbalize yet. Much of what I'm interested in surrounds teacher intent to join PD, their actual attendance, and then, most importantly, their implementation of the methods and techniques learned together. What kinds of prompts or supports are needed to ensure follow through?

At face value, it seems collaborative action - longitudinal groups of teachers - working together has a high impact on implementation. But, given time constraints (including perceived time restrictions) on the part of teachers, this is hard to get off the ground at a systemic level during the school day.

The district as a whole is ripe for this kind of problem solving. Department and cross-department PLCs are forming and they are given freedom to choose how to spend that time. Perhaps a good way to start is to identify a team at each building willing to go through a more formal process. While their focus is on student improvement, I'm more interested in the supplemental activities I can provide as a coach to develop the action research mindset of the teacher.


Featured image from Unsplash by David Papillon