Exploring Beliefs in Practice

What follows is an email exchange I recently had with a coach who has been in several days of training with me and has spent time studying Questions for Life as a tool for facilitating conversations. Your questions are critical tools for exploring teachers beliefs and their impact on teaching decisions.

Kate wrote:
Our school adopted The Literacy Collaborative Model about five years ago. This was, at the time, adopted by 85% or more of our staff to phase in at the primary grades. About three years ago the decision was made, with staff vote, that we’d expand to grades 3-6. We have a Primary Literacy Collaborative coach and an Intermediate Literacy Collaborative coach who teach classes to our teachers in this particular model/approach to balanced literacy (We also have a district provided Instructional Coach and a Title I Math Specialist). Sounds good on paper! However, we know that there are professionals who are not ‘on board’ with this model.
Our principal had a group of us in yesterday to read an article (Julie E. Wollman “Are We on the Same Book and Page?” The Value of Shared Theory and Vision” Language Arts; May 2007; 84, 5; ProQuest Educational Journals) and then asked us:
Where are we in terms of literacy here?
· Where are we going?
We had discussion about what’s being observed in classrooms, what appears to be going well, what appears to not be going well, practice, theory, school culture, school dynamic of trust, and all that this article brought up. Ultimately, we needed to schedule another meeting for we just had so much to ponder. When we return together next week, we are to bring ideas for a survey, interview, inventory, etc. that we could share with the entire school about our beliefs on literacy; a tall order in my opinion.
I was hoping for guidance in framing some questions that might help us to get to the heart of beliefs folks have in teaching literacy. I was thinking a survey could be a first step. Others think small group dialog as a first step. Everyone is thinking that we don’t know what beliefs are and we need to know.
Any particular thoughts you could exchange with me, over the next week or so?

Thanks for thinking of me. Here are a few questions that used in conversations or open ended surveys might start uncovering how beliefs are driving process. Let me know what you think.

If an observer were present in you classroom, describe what they’d see you doing that you feel most strongly communicates your beliefs about literacy?

What would they see students doing that that communicates your literacy beliefs?

How has the Literacy Collaborative Model (LCM) reinforced your beliefs about literacy?

How has it caused you to question, stretch, or modify your literacy beliefs?

What parts of LCM tap your efforts to implement because they align with your existing beliefs?

What parts do you struggle to implement because of doubt or nagging questions from a conflict with your beliefs?

I’m wondering what other teacher are finding when they _______________for literacy achievement?

I’d love to have someone observe my literacy efforts doing _____________ and help me decide if __________________.

I’d like to see our literacy efforts have teachers do more ______________ and students do more ________________________.


We plan to take these to our meeting . I’m particularly drawn to the questions that have each teacher verbalizing what s/he sees as strengths in their classroom instruction as well as what would be teacher/student roles in showing literacy theory and beliefs in practice. I think that part of the reasons I’m drawn to them is that they speak to me about the practice and effects on the students while leaving out a sense of self-worth in the teacher. Does that make sense? I’ve just been sensitive to the linking of self-worth as a person and performance evaluation of students’ achievement lately. I might be completely off base!

If it’s okay, I’d like to keep this dialog open and pick your brain again later.


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