Monday, May 30, 2011

Action research in education

This presentation covers basic approach on educational action research and basic technique on this research.
Detail Description:


1. What is educational action research?

2. Approach on educational action research.

3. The importance of educational action research.

4. How to do an action research in education and report the result.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cultivating Personal Learning Networks through Participatory Action Research in ELT

Tomorrow, I'm presenting a talk on PLNs and action research at UPTC 2011 and wanted to include a link here for those who were interested. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions below!

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Cultivating Personal Learning Networks through Participatory Action Research in ELT

Tomorrow, I'm presenting a talk on PLNs and action research at UPTC 2011 and wanted to include a link here for those who were interested. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions below!
.prezi-player { width: 550px; } .prezi-player-links { text-align: center; }

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ethical Leadership

As part of an overall educational philosophy, ethical considerations, along with aesthetics, provide an axiological framework of what makes a good school. The perception of what makes a school good has been associated with the notion of accountability which has given rise to high-stakes testing (e.g., No Child Left Behind Law) in ways that fundamentally limit how common assessments measure a wider range of student learning (Conley, 2011, p. 20). Reaching a point in today’s schools where “students...find [ethical reasoning] as important in their lives as content knowledge (Sternberg, 2011, p. 39) will place equal importance on how the curriculum, assessment, and instruction subsume issues of reality (i.e., metaphysics), knowledge (i.e., epistemology), and values (axiology). In turn, students become better prepared for college and a career when an educational and life-long philosophy mirror each other.

Ethics in schools, based on moral principals, embodies various dimensions of schooling:

community involvement, school buildings and grounds, classroom spaces, organization of knowledge, uses of learning materials, philosophy of education, teaching strategies, staffing patterns, organization of students, rules and regulations, disciplinary measures, reporting of student progress, administrative attitudes, teacher roles, and student roles (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 46).

Within each of these dimensions, a variety of moral principles can be applied, especially notions of compassion, wholeness, connectedness, inclusion, justice, peace, freedom, trust, empowerment, and community (Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2007). Indeed, given the 10 different moral principles to be applied to the variety of dimensions possible, prioritizing becomes foremost. Academic leaders (i.e., instructional leaders) therefore play a central role in how ethical behavior emerges at the school, faculty, and classroom levels such that a holistic approach to curriculum, assessment, and instruction afford learners the greatest probability of succeeding in a global society where many future jobs have yet to be created.

Areas where ethics play a central role

Ethics play a key role in schools; among faculty where professional development is the result of a democratic, iterative, and reciprocal communicative process; and within the classroom according to how student achievement excels through a democratic, iterative, and reciprocal communicative process among students as well. The three areas - school, professional development, and classroom - are not meant to be viewed as existing in isolation, but rather adapting to each other (i.e., as an overall complex system) temporally and spatially according to network principals, namely in terms of connection and contagion (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). A moral imperative thus becomes the skillful utility of a network that incorporates moral principals within the different dimensions that reside in each of the three aforementioned areas.

School ethics. Of the four major philosophies (i.e., idealism, realism, experimentalism, and existentialism), idealism and existentialism render a juxtaposition worth considering since both are considered at either ends of the philosophical continuum (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2009); ethics or values are seen as being “absolute and eternal” at the conservative end, while existentialists view values as being “freely chosen” and “based on individuals’ perception” (p. 37). To resolve this juxtaposition, philosophies and their respective reasonings must adhere to the “four pillars of a professional learning community: mission, vision, values [or collective commitments], and goals” (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008, p. 166). Particularly, moral judgments are best viewed in terms of overall mission and vision statements that set out to achieve goals by establishing collective commitments.

Rooting school-wide goals in collective commitments comprises of equitably input from all educational stakeholders (i.e., board members, administrators, teachers, parents, & community leaders). For example, Adlai Stevenson High School, one of the most successful schools in the United States (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008), creates collective commitments that ultimately drive what the faculty do on a daily basis. The following provides some detail:

Every candidate for a teaching or administrative position is asked to review them before applying, and the statements are referenced repeatedly as part of the interview process. The commitments are studied and discussed during new staff orientation as veteran representatives of the group review each commitment and stress its significance. Experienced teachers tell net staff members, ‘this is what it means to join this faculty. These are the promises we make to each other and to our students. These are the promises that have made us who we are, and we ask you to honor them.’ Upperclassmen mentors review the student commitments with incoming freshmen during the first week of school and stress, ‘these are the commitments the students who have gone before you have made to make Stevenson the school it is today. If you honor these commitments, you can be assured you will be successful here, and you will make an important contribution ot our school’s tradition of excellence’ (Wiles & Bondi, 2007, p. 150).

Action-based, collective commitments communicate not only express expectations in terms of what needs to be done at the individual level but are developed and adapted in such a way that groups of people are not marginalized. “Consensus decision-making” (n.d.) leads to a more professional learning community by virtue of taking one a collective and connective responsibility.

Ethics and professional development. Ethics and establishing a moral imperative is key to addressing the problems the field of education faces with regard to professional development. The problem with professional development is that it

(a) frames accountability in terms of summative assessments that assumes academic outcomes through simplistic relationships of causes and effects,

(b) adheres to a singular approach to differentiated instruction that focuses more on the program than on people and practices,

(c) ignores the importance of setting priorities,

(d) ignores that much of learning is unintentional and is emergent,

(e) recognizes that interaction is more important that simply the content or topics being discussed (Reeves, 2010).

To address these issues, a sense of right and wrong consequently drives the change process both in teacher behavior as well as individual perspective. Implementing change in how professional development is planned and implemented stems from a moral imperative towards a common good (both for the individual and the professional learning community) and not a top-down directive expressed in terms of an obligation imposed by those outside the school (e.g., state legislation, standards, etc.) (Reeves, 2009). Hence effective professional development remains ethical as long as professional learning, as opposed to professional development, endures through an ongoing, situated learning cycle that considers the learner, context, and the learning itself that emerges through the experience (Webster-Wright, 2009).

Professional learning and ethical behavior become apparent through an explicit moral code. Typically, a moral code is stated in terms of what a teacher can do (i.e., beneficence) and what a teacher cannot do (i.e., non-maleficence) (Ozturk, 2010) while other principles include justice, fidelity, and autonomy (Cook & Houser, 2009). If principals, for example, are fair and just, respectful of established rules and principles, and are mindful of individual freedoms and diversity, then so too will the faculty (Karakose, 2007). Essentially, modeling a code of ethics and professional learning transitions an individual from a novice to becoming an expert learner through ethical decision making; that is, doing “the right thing for the right reasons at the right time” (McDonald, Walker Ebelhar, Orehavec, & Sanderson, 2006, p. 162).

Classroom ethics. Classroom ethics builds a democratic, learning community. A democratic learning community involves “creating the kinds of ties that bond students together and students and teachers together and that bind them to share ideas and ideals” (Sergiovanni, 1999, pp. 120-121). Ties between students and teachers provide the basis for understandings the sociocultural complexities that influence academic progress. For example, pedagogy can serve “as a bridge between...home culture and the classroom” (Cammarota & Romero, 2011, p. 492) in ways that can benefit the community, referred to as “social justice youth development” (p. 490). As a matter of ethics, understanding what goes on at the homes of students can offer insight into a pedagogical perspective that both adheres to the curriculum as well as making learning experiences that are more relevant and meaningful for each student.

A classroom with international students can bring about ethic complexity. A common goal among parents from collectivistic societies (e.g., Kenyan, Mexican, Japanese, etc.) is that students should be moral and should maintain a strong bond with family; a goal that can be more different for those accustomed to a more individualistic society that places individual success as a top priority (Rothstein-Fisch & Trumbull, 2008). Moreover, a paradigm of sameness, or tendency to presume that international students, each with their own ideology, will assimilate to the dominate culture, is likely to continue especially among poor, urban schools where little parental involvement is commonplace (Caruthers, 2006). Even in terms of becoming bilingual, a non-equivocal notion, investigating how some students take on an additional language (e.g., English as a second language) and respective cultural underpinnings while others find it a challenge will lead to a shift from “‘colorblind’ philosophies” (Fitts, 2006, p. 356) to one that is pluralistic and more accepting in the way diversity is celebrated within a school.

Ethics play a role in how schools adapt values or collective commitments throughout the system, how academic leaders guide teachers in their own professional development, and how teachers promote a more equitable education within the classroom. Ethics and moral reasoning that align with the mission, vision, and goals of the school provide the direction and justification by which all educational stakeholders are to follow. Similarly, academic leaders guide novice and expert teachers alike via a moral code based on beneficence and non-maleficence. Finally, ethical behavior within the classroom leads to a more equitable learning experience based on the backgrounds and sociocultural upbringings that is specific to each learner. As a result, the academic leader (i.e., instructional leader) must mediate between collective commitments (i.e., values, moral code, moral reason, and moral judgment), professional development - more accurately termed as professional learning, and current teaching practices to avoid treating each discipline as separate and independent endeavors. In doing so, curriculum, assessment, and insturction is not seen as solely a specific issue related to the teaching practice, but more of connective and collective responsibility that is more likely to lead to greater academic achievement.

Ethical concerns relating to curriculum, assessment, and instruction

As ethical considerations regarding schools, professional development, and the classroom are not handled in isolation, nor are issues concerning curriculum, assessment, and instruction. The job of the academic leader is to find meaning and relevance to school goals and state and national standards in terms of the written, taught, and tested curriculum; student assessment; and differentiated instruction. The ethical academic leader (EAL) is the primary mediator through which all educator stakeholders voice an opinion and are given the freedom to act in ways that are beneficial and are consensual to all learners.

The EAL and the curriculum. An academic leader uncovers standards that can be incorporated within the curriculum in terms of big ideas and deeper understandings (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). An EAL can tie standards and the curriculum to the learner’s perspective. For example, 51 states and territories within the United States have adapted the Common Core State Standards Initiative (National Governors Association, 2009), which is a state-led effort, involving many teacher leaders in determining what students should learn. Many more academic leaders will be required to continue adding and adapting standards, sharing common assessment practices, and determining at a local level how the standards will be met. Determining how the standards will be achieved will take careful and critical pedagogical mindsets to assure that the student’s perspective and identity are not lost as they pertain to the curriculum.

Ethics, values, and culture play an important role towards the influence of individual perspective” (Hiriyappa, 2009, p. 85). Indeed, cultivating a learner’s identity can contradict educational ideologies that mitigate race as a factor in advancing the educative experience. For example, colorblindness, as an ideology, “is particularly persuasive because it seems to advocate for an equal and just society. However, in a just society skin color would not be associated with degrees of power or privilege” (Patterson, Gordon, & Groves Price, 2008, p. 97). One solution is by implementing a “critical language pedagogy” that aligns a learners identity through language that instead of ostracizing one’s ethic, value system, and culture, creates a curriculum that provides “opportunities for students to compare multiple perspectives on language variety and dialects, including sociolinguistic perspectives, widespread language ideologies, and students’ own preexisting viewpoints” (Godley & Minnici, 2008, p. 338). The role of the academic leader is to mediate between state standards, the curriculum, and those educational stakeholders that are involved in the teaching the curriculum (i.e., students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community leaders) by allowing for open, iterative, and reciprocal discourse that is tolerant of diversity.

The EAL and assessment and instruction. The EAL champions formative assessment in schools. “Formative assessment is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students’ status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics” (Popham, 2008b, p. 6). Since formative assessment entails both instructional adjustments on the part of the teacher and modifications to current learning tactics, the EAL’s role is to provide opportunities for sharing contextual circumstances by which such student-and-teacher adjustments and modifications take place. From an ethical standpoint, the benefit of sharing assessment practices throughout the learning community is to avoid assessment bias, or the “qualities of an assessment instrument [or technique] that offend or unfairly penalize a group of students because of students’ gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, or other such group-defining characteristics” (Popham, 2008a, p. 73). So not only must honest and deliberate discourse among students, teachers, and administrators cover student and teacher adjustments, but it should also be sensitive to students’ identity in the way in which they are being assessed.

Ethical instruction connects the building of cognitive structures with the affectiveness of teaching and learning. EALs who promote through assessment and instruction “metability” (Garner, 2007) or “ongoing, dynamic, interactive cycle of learning, creating, and changing” (p. xv) among learners and at the same time encourage a spiritual dimension to learning that include elements of “acceptance, curiosity, enjoyment, flexibility, patience, and perseverance” (p. 133), among others are creating opportunities for learners to not only gain knowledge and skills, but also to become more driven to act on that knowledge and skills through a “social emotional learning” (Hoffman, 2009, p. 533) or even an “existential intelligence” (Armstrong, 2009, p. 182). Students and teachers alike need to feel like they belong, that their contributions to a particular community has some form of impact, and that mistakes are celebrated as opportunities for improvement. It is the EAL’s job to assure that such an environment exist so that knowledge and abilities can be put to use in ways that benefit the individual as well as the group (i.e., school or network).

EALs are most effective then consistently taking part in ethical decision making. An EAL typically chooses between one of three different ethical decision criteria when choosing to take action: utilitarianism, rights, and justice (Robbins, 2001). A utilitarian approach to decision making seeks to take action in ways that benefit the higher number of educational stakeholders. Respecting the rights of students, teachers, etc. is another factor when making a decision that impacts the quality of learning in schools. And third, decisions are made by being fair or just to those who will be affected by the change. Of the three criteria, the utilitarian approach is least favorable because it ignores individual rights and personal equity (Robbins, 2001). EALs directly or indirectly answer to all stakeholders through the ethical decisions they make on a day-to-day basis. Some decisions will require consultations with other teachers, the EAL ultimately making the final decision, at times the team alone will make the decision, the EAL may make the decision alone, or the decision may be made between the team of teachers and the EAL (Alvy & Robbins, 2010). Thus, ethical decision making is a highly situational act that if done consistently well, can lead to sustainable professional learning and high-impact improvements to student achievement.

Ethical decision making occurs at various levels. Schools establish mission statements, vision statements, values (e.g., collective commitments and moral codes of ethics), and goals that not only must align with each other but also impact each other based on the major philosophy a school happens to adapt, typically choosing among one or more of the following: idealism, realism, experimentalism, and existentialism. The role of an EAL is to contribute to the development of these four pillars that make up a professional learning community (DuFour, DuFour Eaker, 2008) so that teachers begin respecting certain collective commitments through a certain moral code. Beneficence and non-maleficence, along with justice, fidelity, and autonomy, hence guide the novice teacher to becoming an expert in terms of knowledge base, skill set, and disposition. Finally, ethical behavior in the classroom lends itself well to building a democratic learning community among students. Many notions applicable to professional development and ethics also apply to the classroom with the central theme of recognition of sociocultural factors that negate the paradigm of sameness assumption based on “colorblind” philosophies. The EAL’s responsibility is to create an open discourse whereby teachers are able to share how ethics within their respective classrooms celebrate diversity and learner identity in ways that promote a more educative experience. School ethics, ethical professional development practices, and classroom ethics then link to how the curriculum is written, taught, and tested.

Academic leaders have a moral obligation to contribute to standards (e.g., the Common Core State Standards Initiative) then find innovative ways to develop a curriculum that is relevant and meaning to the students at a local level. The curriculum should promote big ideas and understandings (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007) in ways that promote critical thinking skills. In turn, the EAL serves as a mediator in bringing together state standards, or what students should be learning, to a local level in determining how students are to meet or exceed said standards. Assessment and instruction, commonly viewed less as being separate distinctions and more as an iteration between informally assessing the students and making subsequent adaptations to instruction and students modifying future study tactics, is to unite cognitive development (i.e., metability) with a spiritual dimension of acceptance, curiosity, enjoyment, flexibility, patience, and perseverance (Garner, 2007). Therefore, the successful EAL will have the ability and wherewithal to know when to make key decisions, who to involve in the decision-making process, and will have the foresight to anticipate how the decision will impact each of the educational stakeholders in ways that both preserve individual rights and retain overall justice.


Alvy, H. & Robbins, P. (2010). Learning from Lincoln: Leadership practices for school success. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Cammarota, J. & Romero, A. (2011). Participatory action research for high school students: Transforming policy, practice, and the personal with social justice education. Educational Policy 25(3), 488-506. doi: 10.1177/0895904810361722.

Caruthers, L. (2006). Using storytelling to break the silence that binds us to sameness in our schools.The Journal of Negro Education, 75(4), 661-675. Retrieved from

Christakis, N. & Fowler, J. (2009). Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Conley, D. (2011, March). Building on the common core. Educational Leadership, 68(6), 16-20.

Consensus decision-making: A virtual learning center for people interested in making decisions by consensus (n.d.). Retrieved from

Cook, A. & Houser, R. (2009). ASCA ethical standards and the relevance of eastern ethical theories. Journal of School Counseling, 7(28), 1-24.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work: New insights for improving schools. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Fitts, S. (2006). Reconstructing the status quo: Linguistic interaction in a dual-language school. Bilingual Research Journal, 30(2), 337-365. Retrieved from

Glickman, C., Gordon, S., & Ross-Gordon, J. (2007). Supervision and instructional leadership: A developmental approach. New York: Pearson.

Godley, A., & Minnici, A. (2008). Critical language pedagogy in an urban high school English class. Urban Education, 43(3), 319-346. doi:10.1177/0042085907311801

Hiriyappa, B. (2009). Organization behavior. New Delhi: New Age International (P) Limited, Publishers.

Hoffman, D. M. (2009). Reflecting on social emotional learning: A critical perspective on trends in the united states. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 533-556. doi:10.3102/0034654308325184

Karakose, T. (2007). High school teachers’ perceptions regarding principals’ ethical leadership in Turkey. Asia Pacific Education Review, 8(3), 464-477.

McDonald, W., Walker Ebelhar, M., Orehovec, E., & Sanderson, R. (2006). Ethical decision making: A teaching an dlearning model for graduate students and new professionals. The College Student Affairs Journal 25(2), 152-163.

National Governors Association. (2009). Fifty-one states and territories join common core state standards initiative: NGA center, CCSSO convene state-led process to develop common English-language arts and mathematics standards [Press release]. Retrieved from

Ornstein, A. & Hunkins, F. (2009). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues. New York: Pearson.

Ozturk, S. (2010). The opinions of preschool teachers about ethical principles. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice 10(1), 393-418.

Patterson, J., Gordon, J., & Groves Price, P. (2008). The color of caring: Race and the implementation of educational reform. Educational Foundations, 22(3-4), 97-116. Retrieved from

Popham, W. (2008a). Classroom assessment: What teachers need to know. New York: Pearson.

Popham, W. (2008b). Transformative assessment. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Reeves, D. (2009). Leading change in your school: How to conquer myths, build commitment, and get results. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Reeves, D. (2010). Transforming professional development into student results. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Robbins, S. (2001). Organizational Behavior: Custom edition for University of Phoenix. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Rothstein-Fisch, C. & Trumbull, E. (2008). Managing diverse classrooms: How to build on students’ cultural strengths. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Sergiovanni, T. (1999). Building community in schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sternberg, R. (2011, March). Building on the common core. Educational Leadership, 68(6), 34-39.

Webster-Wright, A. (2009). Reframing professional development through understanding authentic professional learning. Review of Educational Research. Vol. 79(2), 702-739, doi: 10.3102/0034654308330970

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2007). Schooling by design: Mission, action, and achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wiles, J. & Bondi, J. (2007). Curriculum development: A guide to practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

TESOL Talk (3)

TESOL talk is for anyone interested in teaching English to students of other languages. Participants are encouraged to bring their own perspective and experience to the open discussion so that we might find new and innovative ways to improve how English is learned.

(Open) Agenda: (1) introductions, (2) attendees will bring up theories, experiences, and/or opinions as talking points, and if time permits (3) presenter will bring up theories, experiences, and/or opinions as talking points.

CU Sessions

Description: Next week's session will take attendees through the process of designing a performance task for the EFL/ESL classroom.


Performance task teacher interviews

Leading Professional Practice

"Think photo album, not snapshot...thinking like an assessor...means considering an array of evidence that will show that our efforts have succeeded” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007, p. 230). Linking evidence to success implies connecting effect data with cause data through leadership and learning that can be represented in the following four ways:

  • Lucky: good results with no understanding of the reasons; replication of success not probable

  • Losing: poor results with no understanding of the reasons; replication neither probable nor desirable

  • Learning: poor results with clear understanding of the reasons; replication of mistakes not probable

  • Leading: good results with clear understanding of the reasons; replication very probable” (Reeves, 2010, 17).

Thus, assessing the development of teachers and determining the “relational support and social capital” Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 69) needed emerge through the collection of ongoing evidential learning as it becomes an overall learning ecology. Formal learning, experience, mentoring, performance support, self-learning, community-based learning, and informal learning act as types of learning in a learning ecology (Siemens, 2006) that each hold special support requirements needed in order for teachers to be successful. That is, being successful occurs both at the level of each individual teacher as well as at the level of professional learning community, both of which are ongoing and have an iterative and reciprocal effect on each other as they relate to improving student achievement.

Currently, the teaching profession experiences enormous gaps between what teachers expect and what they receive when it comes to professional development (Wei, Darling-Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009, as cited in Reeves, 2010) . Professional development is defined as “that which results in improvements in teacher’s knowledge and instructional practice, as well as improved student learning outcomes” (Wei, Darling-Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009, p. 3). Indeed, measuring student learning stems from indicators that transcend those that focus only on professional development (i.e., what a teacher knows and can do); that is, measuring what a teacher knows and can do serve as a subset to more global measurements that relate indirectly to effects and causes linking to improvements to student achievement. In order for professional development to have relevance and meaning for educators, a purposeful, professional learning community is created “where members have developed a community of mind that bonds them together in special ways and binds them to a shared ideology” (Sergiovanni, 1999). A shared ideology is a conglomerate of opinions and perspectives that amass student achievement indicators to individual teacher goals through open and diverse discourse among local stakeholders and educators outside the school system.

The bedrock of improving teachers’ knowledge base, instructional practice, and student achievement culminates from the ongoing pursuit for a network of personal learning communities. A professional learning community (PLC), for example, is defined as educators committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2006, as cited in DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008, p. 14).

Collective inquiry occurs at a variety of levels, from the least to most important: congeniality, collegiality, and community of practice – the last being the most important in terms of fostering value-added leadership (Sergiovanni, 2005). But instead of viewing a community of practice as a single unit of analysis, or viewing one’s identity in terms of one particular community (Wenger, 1998), a more connectivist view places the learner (i.e., educator) at the center of one’s personal learning network whereby one’s identity is cultivated through the various interactions among the different communities that may exist, whether face-to-face or online. Hence, a “common purpose or domain of knowledge” which has in the past been referred to as being a tenet of a community of practice (Hanson-Smith, 2006, p. 302) now becomes a tenet of ongoing personal inquiry in terms of how an educator (i.e., learner) expects to influence the various communities of interest and how these communities might influence the educator.

In order to understand how to assess the development of teachers, academic leaders (i.e., principals, material designers, etc.) recognize the different responsibilities that teachers have. Since the implementation of the Paideia program in 1982, teachers have been known to assume one of three roles in leading learners to higher achievement: (a) didactic, (b) coaching, and (c) seminars (State, 2011). More recently, these three roles have been characterized as “didactic instruction, facilitation of understanding and related habits of mind, and coaching of performance (skill and transfer)” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007, p. 129). When not teaching, teachers assume yet more responsibilities by “contributing to the curriculum, analyzing results based on sound indicators, and being live-long learners” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007, pp. 155-166). Undeniably, assessing teachers is complex given that much depends on how the academic leader creates the environment for interactive, diverse, and open discourse to occur. The academic leader, therefore, accepts a special role and responsibilities when integrating communal expectations with the personal needs and interests of the teachers as well as the students.

An academic leader holds responsibilities that are distinct from those typically found among teachers. The following strategies, for example, are actions one should take followed by others that one should not take:


  • Use humor.

  • Include all teachers and content areas.

  • Explain strategies briefly and then give participants a chance to practice or observe them.

  • Explain strategies briefly and then give participants a chance to practice or observe them.

  • Build from teachers' existing work.

  • Present yourself as a continual learner.

  • Include samples of student work.

Do not...

  • Talk too much.

  • Talk and then ask, ‘Any questions?’

  • Present too many strategies.

  • Focus solely on the leader's own classroom” (Margolis, 2009).

Moreover, academic leaders conduct a gap analysis (i.e., the different between the ideal or vision and reality) then set professional development efforts that are devoted to closing this gap (Wiggins and McTighe, 2007). The knowing-doing gap alludes many school organizations, enough to claim that most educators know how to improve schools but lack the resolve to carry it through (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, 2008).

Assessing the development of teachers takes into account the different types of learning within a learning ecology. “Formal learning, experience, mentoring, performance support, self-learning, community-based learning and informal learning” that collectively make up a learning ecology (Siemens, 2006) are the pathways for educators to increase their knowledge and pedagogical skill set. Academic leaders channel these pathways such that teachers can continue to become more effective and efficient curriculum experts, analysis to school results, and life-long learners. As an example, teachers may need training on entering various online communities such as Classroom 2.0 (2011) where they may begin connecting with other teachers from similar educational contexts. Teachers may also contribute to WikiEducator by developing professional development projects around certain subject areas such as teaching English to students of other languages (Stewart, 2010). Contributing to wikis can serve as a mentoring program that promotes cooperative and collaborative interaction between the mentor and mentee. Finally, online Moodle classes (Stewart, 2011) can help academic leaders to support experienced-based collaboration and support for those teachers who are offering a blended or distance-learning course to students.

Academic leaders can assess development needs by promoting teacher leaders. The following are five primary ways that teachers can function as leaders in a school:

  1. Train and provide staff development for other teachers

  2. Coach and mentor other teachers

  3. Develop and write curriculum

  4. Be decision makers and leaders of school-making teams

  5. Serve as members of teams, committees, task forces, or quality circles” (McEwan, 2003, p. 104).

Distributed leadership then shifts responsibilities to those who have the “will, expertness, temperament, and skills” (Sergiovanni, 2005) and is not bound to one’s position, rank, or status. Moving teachers from being dependent to independent to interdependent educators centers on building formative assessment measures that arise from frequent contact and open communication throughout the learning community (i.e., learning network). The three-minute walk-through (Downey, Steffy, Poston, & English, 2009) allows for frequent dialogs between supervisor and teacher as a means for reflection on action. Instead of traditional observations that judge a teacher’s performance at a single point in time, observing and giving feedback that leads to some future change in behavior or perspective is at the heart of what formative assessment sets out to achieve. Ideally, open collaboration between teachers and academic leaders permits the learning progression to flourish as teachers are encouraged to take risks and share personal experiences related to current teaching practices.

Networking leadership entails a shift in rationality. A clockwork I theory of management holds that leadership requires a top-down directive as to what and how people should work (i.e.,ends-ways-means approach); whereas a clockwork II theory of management asserts that people are rational only when working cooperatively and collaboratively through open communication (i.e., means-ways-ends approach) (Sergiovanni, 2005). Rational people strategic plan through a linear process that might include the following nine steps: (a) “identify common beliefs, (b) identify the organization's vision, (c) identify the organization’s mission, (d) formulate policies, (e) conduct external analysis, (f) conduct internal analysis, (g) state objectives, (h) develop and analyze alternative strategies, and (i) design action plans” (Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2007, pp. 234-235). Similarly, as in the case of technical rationality, there would be an a priori agreement exists regarding ends (Schon, 1983) such that a consensus (and possibility conformance) would be established and stated in terms of being “shared” (e.g., shared mission, shared vision, etc.). An alternative is a networked approach that better accounts for the unpredictability of human behavior. Properties such as connections and contagion that establish the structure and function of social networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009), reflecting-in-action (Schon, 1983), and other divergent notions subscribe to a leadership rationality that is both top down and bottom up.

Professional development that is emergent evolves through an ongoing pursuit of action research. In order for teacher development to emerge, academic leaders establish a learning environment such that “human flourishing, practical issues, knowledge-in-action, and participation and democracy” (Reason & Bradbury, 2008, p. 5) influence each other. The goals of action research are generally two fold: (a) “improving practice or developing individuals” and (b) “transforming practice and participants” (Herr & Anderson, 2005, p. 9). Through a cyclical process that involves problem setting (i.e., establishing research questions), a review of the literature as it pertains to problem setting and solving, taking action, and reflecting on both past and future actions (Jaipala & Figga, 2011), a praxis approach to teaching is much like what the field of applied linguistics seeks to do with teaching language learners. A praxis approach in the area of applied linguistics can be viewed by reflecting on the following question: “How can theory, no matter how global its claims, be interpreted so as to be relevant to local circumstances?” (Widdowson, 2010, p. 10). It is precisely the merging of theory and practice that drives professional development improvements which can only be achieved through ongoing, open discourse that celebrates diverse and perspectival discussions of actions taken as well as changes in personal beliefs and opinions.

Supervision in Practice

Hiring new teachers at a new school permits academic leaders to get to know the teacher candidates' personal beliefs about teaching and learning, their personal accounts of past experiences in the classroom and as a life-long learner, and their overall attitude or habits of mind as they pertain to what they know and what they can (or cannot) do. The hiring process would include a written exam, a mock class, and would end with an interview. The final interview gives teacher candidates the opportunity to explain further their perspective based on what they shared in the written exam as well as during the mock class, along with other topics related to them as a learner. The grade levels include teachers who wanted to teach high school band (levels 10, 11, and 12 grade learners) and the objective is to hire a music director and an assistant music director.

The hiring process begins by administering a written exam. The written exam tests for levels of understanding related to music theory, musical instruments, and what-if scenarios that would require candidates to express opinions on typical instances they might face in the classroom. The what-if scenarios would be based on the art and science of teaching (Marzano, 2007) which might include questions like the following:

  1. What would you do to establish and communicate learning goals, track student progress, and celebrate the successful interpretation of a musical piece?

  2. What would you do to help students effectively interact with a musical piece, the composer, and the learners themselves?

All questions in the written exam would also relate to the various myths (Zmuda, 2010) that lead to misunderstandings about teaching and learning. And finally, the written exam would cover the candidate’s understanding of the common core state standards (2011) and how common assessments in music might “potentially use the novice-expert continuum to chart student progress toward the higher levels of cognitive functioning...” (Conley, 2011). Once the written exam is completed and has been graded, a mock class would be scheduled.

Various techniques would be used to evaluate the mock class. Candidates would be required to submit a lesson plan beforehand to explain the objective of the class, to anticipate problems that learners might face, and to present a rationale for implementing chosen activities. A rubric would be used to measure a variety of criteria such as teacher presence, student engagement, and general flow of the class. The class would also be videotaped so that further reflection and analysis could be made. Possible interview questions would be generated based on the results of the written exam and what was observed during the mock class in order to better understand the candidate’s perspective and understanding.

The interview would bring all prior information about the candidate together so that the hiring committee would be in a better position to ask more appropriate questions related to what the teacher knows, can do, and beliefs pertaining to overall disposition. The recorded class would provide context to questions related to teaching practice, and the results from the written exam would serve to inquire about possible gaps in understanding. Knowing how the candidate feels about learning in the 21st century would also help communicate to the hiring committee the importance of life-long learning given the ubiquity of web tools available (e.g., wikis, blogs, websites, learning management systems, etc.). For example, candidates who know how to cultivate their own personal learning networks demonstrate how a on-demand support can lead to becoming a better learner. Videlicet, how a musical director interacts with other musical directors through musical contests, online communities, and workshops can help promote better understandings and teaching practices that ultimately lead to higher student achievement.

Part of implementing a written test, mock class, and follow-up interview is to measure the developmental needs of the individuals to be hired. Once the musical director and assistant director have been hired, further supervision will be needed so that mission and vision statements, values, and school goals are communicated and followed through. Simply, it should be understood between musical director and academic leader (e.g., principal, curriculum designer, etc.) what should be taught, how it should be taught, and what authentic literacy is present (Schmoker, 2011). This might include a discussion about what musical pieces are being prepared, how students are preparing for the pieces, and how many public concerts will be performed. More generally, an understanding as to the role of arts in a students overall development would help assure that students are getting a well-rounded education and that students are given the opportunity to excel in a variety of ways.

Goal and problem-setting for the musical director and the assistant director orientates professional development efforts that not only adheres to the mission and vision of the school but also helps motivate teachers to reach personal achievements as well. A mentoring program includes both inhouse faculty and outside faculty and provides the means for reflective practice to germinate through participatory action research (PAR). PAR thus becomes the standard process by which all professional development endeavors originate, heeding to an open discourse that is acceptable to diversity, interaction, and autonomy. Goal and problem-setting is a manifestation of open discourse within a learning ecosystem. And as a person (e.g., musical director) adapts to the environment, so too might a teacher adapt a goal or problem. Therefore, teacher supervision becomes a reflective journey between administrators and teachers ascribed more to how and why a goal or problem exist than simply what the goal is in and of itself. The role of the supervisor is to direct, facilitate, and coach each teacher so that reflective practice leads to becoming a better teacher and not simply associating certain traits concerning being a successful teacher.

As a supervisor guides teachers from dependency to independency on to interdependency, the tendency is to think in terms of professional development as a means to being a good teacher. But in a dynamic system such as one found in a school district, it is the act of becoming that is vital. Depending on the situation, most teachers may be the expert or novice at any given time, to the degree that even labeling teachers as dependent may not be helpful from a supervisory standpoint. Academic leaders are at their best when they can recognize the circumstances that result in teachers being dependent, independent, or interdependent and then to create a discourse that either leads them to becoming more interdependent or finds ways to take advantage of a teachers interdependency in new and innovative ways relating to leadership. As Hillary Rodham Clinton boast that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a becoming and capable teacher.


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