We think one of the best ways to inspire teachers to change their classroom practices is to observe other classrooms. There is something powerful about watching another teacher teach real lessons with real students. You can’t help but put yourself in the situation. How would you launch the lesson? What questions would you ask the students? What would you do when the little boy in the back row gets confused? These reflections are the foundation for inspiring change.
So how can teachers observe classrooms? Live observations, while valuable, require leaving your classroom and finding teachers willing to let you in. During our work with schools across the country, we’ve found hundreds of teachers willing to open their classrooms to our video team. These are real teachers teaching real students. Our video production team recorded actual classroom lessons, focusing on both the instruction and the student interaction. These lessons were edited into 15-20 minute segments that remove some of the transition time (like passing out assignments or getting into groups) without removing any of the important instruction. The end result is a series of classroom clips that show full lessons, from introduction to conclusion, in segments short enough for a teacher to view in 20 minute sessions.
STAR Online has been up and running for a while now. Many folks across the nation regularly use it to develop Powerful Teaching and Learning in their classrooms. That said, we think we can do an even better job explaining how STAR Online works and how teachers are using it every day.
In a nutshell, STAR Online is an online solution for implementing and supporting Powerful Teaching and Learning in your classroom, school, or district. It is a free service for educational professionals, and a supporting service for those who we help with their School Improvement efforts.
But, What Is Powerful Teaching and Learning?
Powerful Teaching and Learning is a combination of instructional best practices that correlate with student achievement (as measured by test scores) regardless of poverty. Powerful Teaching and Learning is student-centered, builds conceptual skills and knowledge, shows evidence of meta-cognition and personal reflection, is relevant to the learners and is supported by strong relationships.
Put simply, Powerful Teaching and Learning helps all kids learn.
When we started working with the Sedro-Woolley School District, they were facing the same challenges as many other districts. Student achievement was stagnant and they were not reaching Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals. Despite their extensive planning and efforts to reform curriculum and testing, Sedro-Woolley still wasn't seeing the improvement that it was looking for.
Determined to achieve progress, administrators decided to shift the focus from their previous methods toward finding ways to modify and strengthen teaching practices. That's where we came in.
We helped walk the district's Instructional Improvement Team (made up of principals and central office staff) through the process of improving instruction as a whole - assisting in an area where making changes can be overwhelming and take up more resources than the district may be able to provide. Using our STAR framework, staff members began using the tools we've developed through years of research to begin implementing Powerful Teaching and Learning in the classroom.
Our video team went to Sedro-Woolley to listen to their story:
The services provided for Sedro-Woolley School District included:
Part Two will explore how the staff members at Mary Purcell Elementary developed a common language to better understand the ins and outs of good instruction and learned to effectively collaborate to put new practices aligned with Powerful Teaching and Learning in place. Stay tuned.
In our last post in this series, we discussed how there are four important layers of instructional support, that they are not mutually exclusive, and that they complement each other. We also stated that it is very important to recognize that we are not trying to choose between these layers, but actually trying to make sure that all four layers are aligned in order to maximize the effectiveness of the instructional support.
We feel it's important to make this distinction (we are not trying to choose between layers, but instead that the real choices are within the layers), because of dozens of comments we've heard over the last year while conducting research projects across the state. We've heard over and over again about how teachers are confused because their district has recently chosen an instructional practices framework when they're already using Gradual Release of Responsibility, the STAR Protocol, or any number of instructional strategies. Using Thanksgiving dinner as an analogy, we're going to try and illustrate why there really isn't a conflict in the decision described above and how the different layers of instructional support are complementary.
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