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TRANSFORMING INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES


out teachers and students thrive in environments where positive interactions are the norm. Without these relationship building, collaborative conversations, teachers suppress their concerns and ideas about improving their practices because they may fear being viewed as incompetent. Creating school environments where teachers feel safe and supported to engage in these behaviors is essential to transforming instructional practices.


Research also supports the position that the best decisions about teachers’ professional development needs come from the educators themselves—the people who work with students daily and who implement instructional decisions in real time. Gordon (2004) reasoned, “if teachers are expected to facilitate holistic student learning, then school needs to be a place that enables continued emotional, cognitive, social, and moral development of teachers themselves” (p. 13).


Active and Engaging Collaboration, Observation, Experimentation, and Reflection One method to facilitate teacher-directed collaborative conversations is through active and engaging collaboration, observation, experimentation, and reflection. This method, outlined in Figure 1.2 on page 32, provides multiple opportunities through three distinct stages for teachers to share their concerns and successful practices with each other. In Stage One, Identifying Common Problems of Practice (Collaboration), teachers investigate student achievement data by looking for instructional practices that may have contributed to unintended student outcomes. As a result, teacher behaviors are at the forefront of the conversation. Other problems of practice emerge when teachers openly share their strengths and weaknesses in non-judgmental conversations about their lesson designs and implementation strategies. In Stage Two, Finding Possible Solutions (Observation and Experimentation), teachers discuss intervention strategies to improve their instructional practices. They then inspect research literature to determine if it supports the implementation of the proposed intervention strategy for the school’s population. Examining this question enables teachers to consider the unique instructional needs of their students. Once teachers decide how to redress their instructional practices, they observe expert teachers (those who may be experienced with the particular instructional approach) implementing the proposed strategy; then they experiment with the new strategy in their classrooms. Once teachers have experimented, they then move to Stage Three, Professional Reflection (Reflection). Through group and individual reflection, teachers discuss if the strategy produced the intended outcomes or if the strategy should be changed or eliminated. If this stage is ignored, teachers may regress to their old instructional habits either out of comfort or an inability to understand the purpose of the change. To illustrate how this process has worked, a middle school science teacher enrolled in EDAS-591: Instructional Leadership shared how she successfully used this method:


30 Virginia Educational Leadership Vol. 8 No. 1 Spring 2011


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