In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve discusses creating belief systems that help support teachers, cause growth, and increase efficacy.
You can find Pam Moran’s book here: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools
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00:00 Steve Barkley ponders out loud is brought to you by, The Kaleidoscope Profile, available in both print and online formats. K-scope reveals the sensory styles, perceptual styles, and temperament styles that influence how individual students prefer to work and view the world. Discover more at plsclasses.com/kscope.
00:21 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley ponders out loud podcast. For the last 35 years I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. In each of the coming episodes, I’ll explore my thoughts and my learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning and leading. Thanks for listening in.
00:45 Shaping belief systems that support continuous teacher efficacy. In reading the book, Timeless Learning, I came across information from one of the authors, Pam Moran, who described her dissertation done back in 1997 and she explored the question, why do some educators continue to evolve and change over time and others do not? As I looked at some of her findings, I thought that it really lays out a mindset for coaches and school administrators, teacher and educators at all levels. How do we develop an underlying belief system in teachers that will support them in having an ongoing continuous growth focus for themselves as educators? I’d like to read a paragraph from the book and then kind of go back and pull it apart and give some of my thinking, about her findings. She writes highly successful teachers identified as changing instructional practices over time, appeared to have some characteristics in common.
02:36 First, they believe they make a difference in the lives of the learners they serve. They engage in critical inquiry to make sense of learners’ needs. What we once referred to as “kid watching”. To continue to realize their efficacy. Over time, they seek out critical friends with whom they can reflect upon the challenges of reaching every learner and from whom they can gain insights into what to do when they aren’t connecting a learner and learning. They’re willing to try new approaches to support individual children. They exhibit an internal sense of control and an inherent belief that they impact student success by making changes and how they work with young people. And even in 1997, these highly efficacious educators believed that engaging young people and authentic real world learning would support them to construct relevance and meaning in their lives. Let me look first at believing they make a difference in the lives of learners they serve.
03:58 I’ve often described that one of the important pieces of pure coaching is creating an opportunity for teachers, successes — small successes, to be observed and celebrated with a colleague. One of the negative sides of teaching is that most often our successes go unnoticed by anyone and that makes it extremely difficult to celebrate in isolation. I believe that teachers gain ongoing perseverance as they celebrate successes. When a teacher makes a change in a strategy in the classroom and sees a change in students’ response, the celebration of that change reinforces the teacher and encourages the teacher in the future to be looking for another opportunity to impact a student by changing him or herself. I’ve always found that every time there’s a phenomenal thing that happens with the teacher and students, there’s a tendency for Hollywood to come in and make a movie of it and it kind of gets turned into a miracle.
05:39 And that miracle allows the rest of us not having miracles at the time to kind of write it off. It becomes much more critical that we keep advertising and promoting and sharing those moments of teacher impact on students as encouragement. I find it’s very important for beginning teachers who don’t have a repertoire of past successes to assist them in persevering. That they can hear the stories of their early mentors and colleagues that will encourage them to stay the course and to persevere.
06:33 I find that extremely valuable when schools create opportunities for teachers to observe students who they have had in earlier years, a couple of years later. And when the teacher can go into that classroom and see the growth that students have made and they know that it is — they know that it was seeded by the work that they had done with a student, it can be extremely, extremely rewarding. I had a great example of a school district that had the football team for each home game. The players were able to select the teacher from their past who had impacted them and at halftime, those teachers were named and recognized. I can’t imagine the power of that on a teacher. I worked with another school district that made all the teachers K-12 part of graduation ceremonies so that teachers from the primary grades recognized the role that they had played in the success of those graduating seniors.
08:08 Pam Moran’s second item certainly speaks to the importance of coaching opportunities and PLCs. When she states that the strong teachers are engaged in critical inquiry and that they are working with a group of critical friends. That reflection element is so important to ongoing growth and way too many of our schools today still have teachers working in isolation and teachers dealing individually rather than collectively with the needs of students. School leaders need to model and in many cases initially help facilitate that critical inquiry and that work of critical friends who are analyzing and importantly creating a new strategy, a thought, a process, an idea to carry out with students. We need to avoid teachers thinking that they are turning to a coach or a colleague — quote “for an answer” end quote. Instead that they are engaging in collaborative, creative, problem solving. And that in many cases they are inventing and discovering the success opportunities for a student.
10:05 The finding that these highly successful teachers exhibit an internal sense of control — very critical that school leaders prevent teachers from feeling disempowered by rigid curriculum structures that suggest the teacher’s role is one of executing a predetermined plan rather than that the teacher is the designer of how learning will occur. Because that textbook, that curriculum guide, that pacing guide does not know the students with whom that teacher works. And while all of those things are critical guidelines to be there for the teacher, we need school leaders who are continually reinforcing that teaching is a critical decision-making process and that teachers are making countless decisions about how to spend the time with students, how to create the environment for students as well as what tasks are most likely to generate the student engagement that would lead to learning. This idea of a teacher as a creator of the learning opportunities is reinforced by her statement that these highly effective teachers see the importance of engagement and that engagement is likely to happen when the students are working in authentic real world learning and constructing meaning from the task in which they’ve engaged.
12:27 Moran concludes with “…the best teachers educate young people for life, not for school. Such teachers are far more interested in children taking joy in learning with them as they navigate through life than they are in whether their children pass other peoples standardized test. They know that motivated learners will continue to pursue their interest and passions across the vast wasteland of rote content learning that becomes increasingly irrelevant across time as we move further and further from it.” As you considered these critical characteristics for teachers to develop, I think we can identify that in many ways, school leaders need to model their engagement in the same process. How are school leaders engaging in continuous inquiry with critical friends? How are leaders constantly trying new approaches to increase teacher engagement and inquiry, experimentation and risk taking? In many cases, having that driven by challenging goals that educators are setting for themselves. Creating professional learning environments so that teachers are engaged in the same processes that they need to carry out for their students. Thanks for listening.