I received a phone call from a principal this week requesting ideas for how to establish an assessment of the value of vertical team PLCs in her school. It is important to have a plan so that down the road as questions are posed regarding time or staff investment, a school leader has a response.
I suggested that I would envision a timeline of change that would encourage continued practice or consideration for modifications.
Change 1—a change in teacher to teacher conversations and changes in teacher relationships.
Change 2– an observable change in individual teacher practices during instruction
Change 3—an observable change in what students are doing in the learning process
Change 4—measurable increases in student achievement (academic, behavioral, attitudinal)
A principal might observe Change 1 occurring as she reads through the minutes or agendas from the teams’ meetings. Conversations should become more collegial. Teachers being vulnerable in sharing lagging student progress. Consider the following continuum for identifying progress.
Initially, teachers attend the meeting as individuals. There may even be complaints that MY time would be better spent having time in MY room. On the way to franchise, teachers begin to find value and satisfaction and collegiality in “helping each other” for the good of students. At this point teachers are sharing. As teacher reach franchise, they begin creating things/opportunities together. These items or strategies are taken back to the teachers classroom where they are implemented independently. As PLCs move toward teams, there is a shared responsibility for student learning. Sharing of student work is necessary and classroom observations emerge.
The learning that teachers are doing in a PLC becomes visible as teachers experiment and make changes in their practice. Considering the continuum above as teachers share ideas and create learning strategies teachers’ use would become observable. Principals may note this in minutes where teachers share the results of classroom experiments. It may be evident in lesson plans or walkthrough observations. Surveys regarding teacher change might be valuable here.
The change of teacher practice is now observable in a change in student learning activity.
Teacher redesigns learning centers and more students do more skills practice while at centers.
Teacher adds differentiated components to a unit design and more students are emotionally engaged in learning process.
Teacher ask higher level questions and more students are practicing critical thinking.
Teacher is using original documents in history and an increase in student questioning and analysis is observable.
This student change is most likely observable in walkthroughs and classroom observations. Data walls or continuum charts are visible means for teachers to see the changes their students are making toward becoming independent learners.
Student surveys might be helpful here.
This is the one that started us down the road. Evidence that student achievement is present. Test results, student work samples and projects, student demonstrations and testimonials all provide data. Parent reports regarding student interest and choices outside of school are also an indicator.
I was recently working with the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) material. That work and reading reinforced the need to see that student achievement generated through teacher learning and change in practice, is a process, not an event.