Changing Instructional Behavior
Curriculum and assessment reforms are dictated by statewide or nationwide standards and imposed at the system level, but instructional change cannot be imposed upon teachers in this directive, top-down manner. Instruction is a human behavior and can only be changed at an individual level. Furthermore, changes in behavior cannot be mandated but must develop out of voluntary, internal commitment that is achieved through self-reflection (Second Order Change). Effective pedagogical change is inspired.
If student achievement is to improve, instructional practices must become aligned with what research reveals about brain-based learning. However, effective school-wide practices do not come about overnight. Schools and school districts have experienced serious setbacks because they jump directly into standardizing instructional practice. Changing and aligning behavior related to instruction is a developmental process that goes through four stages in order to realize wide-spread effective pedagogical practice.
First, teachers must be aware of a clear focus on improving and aligning teaching and learning. Teachers must also understand why the process of aligning teaching and learning across the school is of primary importance in achieving educational reform goals (high levels of student achievement). Then, teachers must plan collaboratively and dialogue effectively using shared language. Finally, effective practice can become consistent and routine throughout the campus.
The STAR Process is an integral part of each stage. Teachers need to see teaching and learning in action on a regular basis, talk about their observations using a consistent and respectful vernacular, routinely apply what they are learning to their own lesson planning, and continually reflect upon what Powerful Teaching and Learning looks like in their own classrooms.
To achieve measurable outputs, there are two necessary inputs: standards-based curriculum and standards-based instruction. A majority of reform efforts have only addressed one input: aligned curriculum. For true turnaround to take place, there must be a clear focus and effective process to bring about change in student learning. Since reform efforts are judged by student performance on standards-based assessments, we must include the input of effective, standards-based instruction. We need to build a common awareness that instruction is fundamentally different than curriculum and assessment. Instruction is about human behavior in the classroom.
Educators must share a common understanding of why instruction is so important. Without a clear and effective focus on instruction, we are unlikely to meet reform goals. A distinction must be made between standards-based curriculum or assessment, both of which are aligned with pre-determined content, and standards-based instruction, which encompasses teaching and learning practices aligned with the philosophy that all students must meet standards. Instruction is different than curriculum and assessment and must be approached differently as well. Also, educators must understand that their instructional methods impact student outcomes.
Teachers observing lessons together through the lens of the STAR Framework develop a common language for discussing their observations. When educators are able to dialogue about teaching and learning using a consistent and understood vernacular, both individual and group reflections can be applied to planning for future lessons. In order to implement Powerful Teaching and Learning school-wide, teachers must be able to plan lessons with collegial support and regularly reflect on lessons already taught.
Research shows that there is more variance between classrooms in the same school than there is between schools (Baker, Gratama, Peterson & Thompson, 2010). The only way to close the gap between pedagogical practices within a school is for educators to interact with each other on a regular basis. Common practice emerges in schools when teachers routinely collaborate, plan lessons together, and visit each other’s classrooms to ensure lesson pedagogy is aligned and consistent across the campus. Instruction is a behavior ruled by habits and routines, so teaching and learning will not be different until common language and the reflective process become part of daily or weekly school routines.
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