Instructional Leadership Part II: Digging Deeper on the “What & How of Instructional Leadership”
Stephanie Hickman: Hello, and welcome. I'm Stephanie Hickman with the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning, or NCECDTL. Thank you so much for joining us today for the second session of a three-part series on instructional leadership. Digging Deeper on the What and How of Instructional Leadership is our topic for today, and I am so excited to be joined by two colleagues from the Ounce of Prevention: Marsha Shigeyo Hawley and Maia Connors, so thank you to them for joining us. We'll hear from them in just a few moments.
Just as a reminder, in our first session, we really focused in on those key organizational conditions that are necessary for effective practice in early childhood programs. If you missed that, you can go to the ECLKC and listen to the recording. Today, we're going to dig a little bit deeper, and then for the third session in the series in September, we're going to be exploring ambitious instruction and teacher collaboration. There's just a little teaser for you. But before we get started, I just wanted to go over some of the ON24 webinar platform features. We will be using some of these to interact throughout the session today.
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So, thanks again for joining us, and I will now go ahead and turn it over to our first presenter, Marsha.
Marsha Shigeyo Hawley: Thank you so much, Stephanie, and we have a lot to do today in an hour, and so we're going to focus on collaborative job-embedded professional learning routines and how they support effective teaching and learning. We're going to review the key competencies of an instructional leader. We're going to advocate for instructional leaders facilitating the routines for effective teaching and learning and the systems that support them. We'll introduce our process we call data dialogues to support data-driven decision-making for better teaching and learning, and we're going to share the research behind all this, how jobembedded professional development is informed by research studies.
So, we believe that there are key instructional leadership competencies that are found to be most effective in advancing teaching and learning practices in early childhood education. These competencies are what instructional leaders need to know and what they need to be able to do and the attitudes that they need to have, and this includes all instructional leaders, directly supporting teachers, supervising the instructional leaders and leaders of early childhood systems. We feel like that's really important to think about.
So, what are they? We believe that all of these competencies are essential for instructional leadership. These aren't a checkoff list of everything you should do, say and demonstrate but rather the capability to apply or use a set of knowledge, skills and abilities required to successfully demonstrate critical behaviors and attitudes for optimal instructional leadership in early childhood education. Just to note that throughout our program at the Ounce, we recognize that our knowledge development, six of the seven standards is what we focus on. We recognize that the standard on effective management, which is not starred here, is real essential and requires a set of different skills to support the financial and human resources that support instructional leadership, and it's deserving of a separate integrated set of knowledge, skills and attitudes and a specific way to be certain that all of these are consistently met.
We need to just acknowledge that this is essential for the systems to support teaching and learning to assist, but we have a description of each of these competencies and wanted to make sure that you can see them. And I'm going to go back to something that we reviewed in our first learning session of this series, and we focused on the Early Educational Essentials, and I just want to review briefly and introduce you to the measurement tool and the importance of using this framework in any discussion about instructional leadership in early childhood education.
Our survey measurement, development and validation work in early care and education settings that today's session is based on is grounded in the decade-long research conducted by the UChicago Consortium of Researchers to develop a conceptual framework of five essential organizational supports that are critical for school improvement. Now, if you notice that, you know, there's also not just five. We've got more here, so the framework begins with a focus on the classroom so the leadership as the driver of change, and this focus on classroom is where that work of schools, teaching and learning occurs. How well a teacher does with his or her students depends on multiple other domains or subdomains in the school, and that first, as you can see in the arrow, is on-school leadership.
So, Early Education Essentials survey measures program leadership and these other organizational conditions, and the results highlight the importance of the relationships, and all of this really can only happen with trust. Impressively, what we've found and what we've learned is that Chicago elementary schools that the study was based on, strong on three or more of the five essential supports were substantially more than likely to improve, but those who didn't and who had weaknesses were relegated to a much lesser rate of improvement.
So, I really want to go through what the one essential on effective instructional leadership is, so I'm actually going to read them out. Effective instructional leaders strategically focus on children's healthy development and early achievement, and they engage families in children's learning and support teachers to be effective in their daily work. They cultivate shared understanding and commitment to a purpose-driven vision for the program that is grounded in child-developmental science and developmentally effective teaching and learning practices. They hire staff determined to continuously improve learning opportunities and outcomes for young children and families.
In daily interactions, they build and maintain mutually trusting and respectful relationships and build strong professional community focused on improving children's learning. They galvanize all resources, staff activity and program operations toward a vision for excellence and sustained improvement. They practice shared leadership and cultivate a cadre of leaders among teachers, families and the community. They support professional advancement for faculty and staff, and they manage resources for sustained program improvement. So, what does this all mean? We'd like to have a moment to hear from you.
Let's get your impressions on the role of the instructional leader. To help you out, we're going to start with a poll. We're going to have poll questions that are going to be here for you, and to help you, you can think of what you think the role of the instructional leader in an early childhood program is, and if you have a different idea, please put that in the chat box. So, we're going to use the poll and chat box to allow you to answer, and you can have more than one question so — So, what you need to do is make sure that you click on whatever you think is really important, the role of the instructional leader is, and then after you click on your response, please select submit. You have to hit submit in order for us to see. If you have a different answer, please write it in the chat box. So, let's see.
I'm — Okay. If you're able to just click on the boxes, be able to see it, and hit submit so we can look through that. There are a lot of comments coming through the group chat, and in the questions that a lot of people are saying all of the above. Which is also a good answer. And now there's a lot of themes about supporting teachers to do and facilitation of various activities, as well.
Stephanie: Okay. Great. So, we've got a lot on supervising and monitoring staff knowledge. We have a large number of people who really feel like need for the classroom environment and how the resources are used are really important to focus on, and, you know, we're not going to undermine how important it is to monitor and ensure compliance. I mean, we have to make sure that that's happening, and we also — And a lot of people felt like the resources for teaching and learning were really important. Were there other things, Maia, in the chat box?
Maia Connors: A lot of similar themes, we have, ensure high-quality learning expectations and high learning expectations and promoting understanding of those among families. We have supporting positive teaching practices, promoting program expectations, serving as a safe resource for education staff, getting at that element of trust, promoting professional development and learning, supporting individual development plans. Somebody suggested that safety is another role.
Marsha: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Okay. Great. Okay. So, what do you think of that? I mean, I'm thinking that it is really important. All of these are important, but I really enjoy being able to hear some of the other responses because these are pretty simply stated in terms of what we know instructional leaders need to be able to do, but I really appreciated hearing those live answers for that, so as we think about this, I'd like to find out from you, Maia, what we know about the research and the growing evidence of what the importance is or the organizational conditions and leadership, what those are in terms of what we know about instructional leaders.
Maia: Absolutely, Marsha, so I can definitely talk through what some of the research says. I think one of the big impressions that I got from those poll responses is that instructional leaders, you know, that's a really big job. It encompasses a lot of different responsibilities and roles really of leadership that's in very complex ways on very complex topics, and I think that's a theme that you'll see through some of the research that has been done, as well. So, we've talked a little bit about what instructional leadership is.
I'm going to spend a little bit of time talking about what research tells us about why it is so important in early childhood programs. I do want to say that this really is an emerging topic within the early childhood field, so the idea that strong leadership is important is really not a new one, right? Across all sectors there's quite a lot of empirical research, especially that comes from K-12 education, to suggest that strong instructional leadership is associated with quality improvement of schools, school performance, and strong child outcomes and student achievements. So, this is a body of work that has been led by Tony Bryk and his colleagues, as well as many others, including Michael Fullan and many other researchers who have done both empirical work or, you know, research settings as well as a lot of theoretical work being done to help us understand what the framework is for leadership and how that might interact with other characteristics of programs and classrooms within the education setting. So, as I said, a lot of what we know comes from K–12 research.
There's actually quite a bit of work that's been done at the University of Chicago, and one of the things that has really become apparent is that it seems that leaders might be particularly important because of the kinds of program structures that they're able to set up and the kinds of cultural expectations that they cultivate within their programs and their schools, so these program-level supports seem to be a really important piece of what good leaders can do to sort of transfer those skills, that knowledge that they have into the classrooms, the communities that they work within.
So, research suggests that these organizational supports really are key to helping teachers particularly reflect on and understand their practice, which we know is a key part of quality improvement. And as I said, this information comes from K-12 settings, right, that a lot of this work is done in schools, but we actually have a lot of evidence to suggest that we think that it probably works similarly in early childhood programs, as well although, as I said, that body of work is much newer and more nascent.
So — But one example is, I recently conducted a study where we asked program leaders in early childhood programs about the kinds of professional development supports, such as coaching and mentoring, that they support and provide for teachers and their programs, and then we asked teachers about the kinds of professional development that they engage in, and we also did classroom observations to understand the quality of the classrooms in those programs over a couple years, and what we found is really interesting. It may not surprise those of you on this call, but teachers were more likely to report that they worked with a mentor in programs where their leader reported that the program supports mentorship, and we also saw greater quality improvement over the course of the year in those programs that provided mentorship support, and I think, you know, that's particularly important to understand because often we think of mentoring or coaching of teachers, you know, to improve classroom quality is something that happens with one teacher within a classroom, right, sort of in isolation, but I think what this work shows is that actually those processes really don't work as well without the support of a strong leader in the program and without the organizational conditions of that program to help support that work. We think that's really important.
And as I said, in early childhood, you know, there are really not that many studies, so we don't know a whole lot about exactly how this works, but there is more and more research happening every day, and this really is an area that is becoming focused for a lot of researchers in early childhood, so one example of this is at the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It's currently funding researchers at Mathematica, a research firm, to conduct a large study of leadership in early child education, and so this is going to be a really exciting study to watch. I think we're going to learn a lot about who instructional leaders are in programs, what job titles they have, what roles they have and how the leadership really is related to quality of programs, as well as child outcomes.
Marsha: Maia — Maia, there's a question that someone put in the chat box, and they wondered if there's any research on how leaders work and handle, deal with complacency in classes.
Maia: Oh, interesting, that's a great question. You know, off the top of my head, I don't know of any. That's a fabulous research question to pursue further.
Stephanie: It is, isn't it?
Maia: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, that is a struggle, right, and I think a lot of — a lot of what instructional leaders' roles are is to really think about how to build the culture of their program into one that has high expectations and is driven by quality improvement, and that's part of what makes the job so hard, right? So, in terms of particular strategies for dealing with that, you know, I don't know of any work that's looked specifically at that, but I know that that idea of how do you cultivate healthy culture, and peer learning, and collaboration for improvement absolutely is something that we've thought a lot about and actually is a really nice segue to this next slide where —
So, at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, we have been focusing a lot on this research, and actually we have developed a professional learning program for instructional leaders called Lead Learn Excel that builds on this research, and we have developed a model that supports instructional leaders to grow in their jobs, particularly around supporting continuous improvement and collaboration with their teachers with the goals of facilitating job-embedded professional learning among teachers in those instructional leaders programs, of course, with the aim of achieving excellent classroom instruction.
And so this program works in many others ways that I've described, right, where by supporting instructional leaders through parallel processes to those that we would hope that they are able to facilitate with the teachers in their programs, in particular facilitating team lesson planning and peer-learning groups among their teachers, which can help to create some of the infrastructure that might support that culture of improvement in the program, as well as using data and understanding — and understanding data through data dialogues, which Marsha is going to talk more about today.
So, we have learned a lot in this process of developing and evaluating the Lead Learn Excel model, and I will say the headline from all of that is that implementing instructional leadership really well in early childhood programs is really, really hard to do, which is probably not a surprise to any of you given how many other roles we've already talked about instructional leaders have. So, one finding from an evaluation that we did of Lead Learn Excel is that instructional leaders reported engaging in instructional leadership practices about one to two times per month on average, and we didn't really know what to expect in terms of frequency, but this is really only about half as frequent as we had hypothesized might be best practice, and again, I think this really speaks to just how many hats instructional leaders wear, how many things are on their plate, everything from safety to family engagement to high-quality instructional guidance, and, you know, it can be really hard to make time and space to do this.
One interesting thing that we found is that instructional leaders who are working in early childhood programs that are based in schools reported being able to engage slightly more frequently in these instructional leadership practices than those instructional leaders who were in community-based or program-based settings, and again, I think that's probably not surprising. It is likely that there are sort of infrastructure and routines set up already in elementary schools in higher grades, for example, that may not already exist in Head Start programs or other community-based programs, and so building it from scratch could be much harder to get started.
Another finding of our evaluation is that, by the end of Lead Learn Excel, actually less than 10 percent of participants reached full integration of all three of the core instructional leadership routines. Most were in initial stages of implementation, so they were trying them out. They were learning how to do them well, but really fully implementing and integrating them took a very long time, and, you know, this was a pretty intensive program that lasted for longer than a year, and really what this says to me is that understanding how to implement these, how to build the culture and how to really make these part of your everyday practice is a really, really challenging thing to do. I think it underscores how important it is that we're supporting leaders in their role.
But despite how hard this is and despite how many things are competing for people's attention, leaders really, really valued these practices and saw how beneficial they were. Seventy percent of leaders who engaged in Lead Learn Excel said that they intended to continue all three of these core routines, and that really feels like a really important finding in contrast to just how hard it is, and it really raises the question for us of, so what can we do to help these instructional leaders meet their goals. What are the kinds of supports that they need to be successful in this, and how can we design our programs, our professional development and our systems to support them in reaching these goals and supporting their teachers in engaging in practices that are going to help them improve? So, at this point, I'm going to turn it back over to Marsha to talk through some of the answers that we've come up with.
Marsha: Yeah, that's a hard one, right? So, how do we support instructional leaders in early childhood education? We know that teachers and educators can provide consistency effective teaching and learning practices when they're supported in the work that they do and that when there's an opportunity for a collaboration so that they can learn from and with each other, and often we know teachers are isolated in their classrooms, and family-childcare educators are often isolated in their homes, and home visitors also need to be part of a learning community.
They really need opportunity so that they can take time away from the action to help plan for effective practices in the action that's a part of a daily, weekly and monthly work. Jobembedded professional learning means that learning takes place in the workplace during work time, that you're actually doing that in work, so we believe that the instructional leader is the driver of improvement so that effective leadership is that driver, and the routines, jobembedded professional learning routines, are the vehicle for that improvement, and I think that that's really important. Like, we have to have the routines to do that, and one of the most important tasks of an instructional leader is to establish relational trust and develop professional community. In other words, support for teaching and learning processes for better child outcomes depends on the relationship for learning that starts with the instructional leader, and job-embedded professional learning, what happens on the work site during work hours, supports that complex work of teaching and focuses on what young children's learning needs are.
It really helps to focus on the challenges and practice and propels the learning and other improvement goals of the program, and this is really important to emphasize, that there is a deliberate professional development focus on children's learning needs, that this is what we do with a focus on learning and improvement goals of the program and that this work is grounded on the appropriate practices in early childhood that targets that complex work of teaching and learning, and that's what the research is really based on. Like, how do we know how we can help in the action, out of the action to plan for that when teachers really do need support?
So, when can we do that? You know, how can we support data-driven collaboration, decisionmaking? How can we engage our teachers and families together in continuous learning and improvement? So, I'm going to go over what learning — one of the important competencies for leadership. An instruction leader really must be a visionary leader. Standard one of our instructional leadership competencies is visionary leadership, and I'm not going to read all of these because we did provide a handout for all of the competencies, and all of these are listed, but a competency that an instruction leader needs to have developed is able to develop and articulate what the vision of early childhood education is for the program. Be able to talk about that. That instructional leader is responsible for making sure that data is collected about equitable outcomes and uses an inquiry process for analyzing that attention to equity, and an instructional leader uses facilitation skills during job-embedded professional learning and cycles of improvement and uses protocols to build trust, promote active and equitable participation to ensure productive dialogue, not just griping, and really foster inquiry, develop knowledge and problem-solving.
So, for example, in a Head Start preschool program, the education manager may facilitate program-wide peer-learning communities and have teaching teams dig into data related to school-readiness goals. They collaboratively use the data to work with a coach to develop goals and plan coaching cycles. The team meets the ed coordinator, the ed manager, the coach, the teaching team. They work to explore the ideas, experiences and engage in productive dialogue together so that they transform that professional learning, and you move from the ineffective ways of goals and expectations are set by others. Teachers do this by themselves, off-site training and workshops, monitoring implement, you know, teachers just for compliance to working to have teachers co-construct those improvement goals, share the responsibility and professional collaboration, have those routine times to do that and be able to use observation, coaching and reflection themselves for that improved practice.
So, what we're going to do is, we're going to look at a video to think about one of the things that an instructional leader really needs to be able to do, and this video is one that we did not have time to show in part one of our series, and if you haven't had time to see part one, it is on the website, so you're able to see, that but we're going to use a protocol to view the video that wasn't shown and have a chance to look at that. We're just going to show a two-minute clip on — And we want you to focus on the facilitation skills of an instructional leader who can support teachers in the decision-making process and to be looking at that, and we want to be able to have you think about, what actions should an instructional leader be able to do, and how can they use these collaborative routines to discuss common challenges and examine rapid-cycle steps towards improvement to examine effective solutions. So, what we're going to have you do is use this protocol, and I want you to be thinking about, what connections did you hear leaders and staff making about the small changes towards improvement? And then watch for, what skills did the facilitator use to promote inquiry and construction of knowledge? And then think to yourself, "What implication might this have in my own work?"
Marsha: Okay. I'm going to stop it at that point because I really want you to be able to think through, what connections did you hear leaders and staff making about those small changes towards improvement? And you can write them in the chat box. What skills did the facilitator use to promote inquiry and construction of knowledge? And then if you, you know, think about what implications might this have in your own work, so if we can have you write in the chat box, and I know that there's — We're going to be — We're going to work on uploading the document with the competencies. I'm sorry that didn't happen. So, are there any questions, responses? Do you see anything, Maia?
Maia: So, one person says that small changes make a difference. That's a nice thing to pull out.
Marsha: Mm-hmm. That's true.
Maia: Yeah, and a lot questioning, summarizing, identifying. I think it might be identifying, you know, data, pieces of information, counting things, asking good questions, building relationships, somebody is highlighting, which I think is really, really important.
Marsha: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Maia: Self-reflection on what isn't working, that's a — Ah, that's a good one. That's a good one. Marsha: That's a very good one.
Maia: A few people are saying, "Reflection." Asking open-ended questions, I think, is a really nice observation.
Marsha: That's a good one. Yeah, because those are — Those questions are really important.
Maia: Mm-hmm. Somebody noticed that teachers are getting really excited to make bigger changes in their programs.
Marsha: That's great. That's great.
Maia: The facilitator got them to elaborate on their answers, which is a nice extension of asking open-ended questions, right, the same as you might do with children, asking them to say more about what they're thinking.
Marsha: Yeah, that is really a good one. Thanks.
Maia: Some people are noticing that they're using very concrete examples and are being pushed to make specific observations and reference data of sorts. Right, and they're actually being — You know, they're, like, pushed to the next level to make the connection.
Marsha: Mm-hmm. That's good. Okay, well. Thank you. Thank you so much, and we'll make sure that we get all of those comments, those chats so we can think about that because those are really good. Thank you. Thank you so much. But it all goes into, like, what do we do to think about the role of the instructional leader? Like, what does that leader do? And then what the instructional leader does to help improve teaching and learning processes, you know, what else can they do? How do they think about that?
And so — And standard two is that an instructional leader provides consistent and coherent instructional guidance by building a strong professional learning community that collaborates to continuously improve teaching, family engagement and learning for all young children and that an instructional leader uses multiple contexts for job-embedded professional learning that build staff knowledge, skills and dispositions, including observation and performance feedback, peer learning and collaboration, coaching and mentoring and reflective supervision and appraisal of performance. I'm going to actually go into what we know is really important from Head Start Performance Standards.
We need to determine the strategies that help to individualize teaching and learning at multiple levels. We need think about how to provide individualized plans for professional learning targeting professional improvement for staff as we provide support for teaching and learning for children and families, and in this trajectory of learning, there are various levels of support that are needed. Finding those strategies to collect data to determine the individual and targeted needs is a key competency of the instructional leader, and there are universal supports that everyone needs, but in collecting and looking at data, the best niche for knowledge and support is really on the shoulders of the instructional leader to identify the optimal level and then assess and identify further needs. In our work with Lead Learn Excellent, we found that bringing together teaching teams to identify and work together on practice and programs through examining data, individuals are really likely to be less isolated and become part of a community of learners. In our first video, we observed the facilitation skills of the instructional leader. In this experience that you're going to have now, we're going to view a class data dialogue about class scores in a peer-learning community at a Head Start program.
Think about the multiple demands of a leader and how essential it is to support teachers and educators to continuously focus on teaching and learning and to review data together as a team and so what you think the role of an instructional leader is in facilitating collaboration through data dialogue. Think about the multiple demands of a leader, the essential needs that teaching teams have to discuss and think about their data, and we're going to use another protocol thinking through a thinking lens. What connections do you hear teachers making collaboratively, and how did the use of a protocol — What you're seeing is a protocol for examining the data. How did that promote inquiry and self-reflection towards classroom improvement? And then the last one is a question related to yourself: What implications might this have in your own work? I'm going to show you the next video clip, and again, it's just a couple of minutes, and I'm going to show you. I'm going to stop it, so be watching it.
Woman No. 1: We had a 5.5 in language modeling. That was a weakness, okay? [Laughter] A 5.5.
Woman No. 2: Were you surprised there?
Woman No. 1: I was surprised.
Woman No. 2: Okay.
Woman No. 3: I'm very surprised.
Woman No. 4: So, linger there.
Woman No. 1: I thought it would probably be a seven, but that's why I was surprised.
Woman No. 5: So, we noticed that our instructional supports were a little bit lower in the morning, and that would've been during toothbrushing, kind of, like, dancing on the carpet and during our morning meeting, which is — We were discussing how that is something that the classroom was a little bit lower on last year's well during whole-group time and just how it can be a little bit more difficult during whole-group time to individualize and to ask those to do language modeling to keep the quality feedback high when you have 19 children you're trying to contain and keep at a kind of relatively peaceful level and when you're trying to do everything at the same time, but then it was able to be raised up a little bit when we went to free-choice time because it was more small groups and individualization, and — and things like that.
Woman No. 6: So, — And I hope you don't mind my take this to a — different level, but it makes me think about some of our conversations we've had where you already are thinking about the patterns of children and how many, you know, how many children are in the room particular times and how that influences your connections with them as some of them transition, and they have a harder time transitioning into the classroom, some who may come very, very early or on days when they all come at the same time, and it makes a difference in terms of how you position yourself and help them to adjust and interact.
Woman No. 5: Mm-hmm.
Woman No. 7: In the back of my mind, when we first had to write down our questions and thoughts, whatever, I'm still thinking, "How can we move from the three-point goal?" And really that gave us an idea of maybe we can do more small groups, and some of the things that we're trying to move the children from point A to point D, you know — No, I'm saying point A, point B, but we're trying to move them to point A to point D, so we've been discussing among ourselves. Maybe we can have — When they have some choice, we can have more small groups, as well with the children.
Marsha: Okay. Thanks. What I'd like you to do is really think about that protocol. What connections did you hear teachers making collaboratively? How did the use of the protocol promote inquiry and self-reflection? If you can type your chat answers into the chat box and then think about what implications might this have in your own work as you watch that. And, Maia, are there any responses?
Maia: Think people are still thinking for the moment. I wonder if we should go back and put the protocol back up on the screen for people to reflect on.
Marsha: Okay. There we go. What connections did you hear teachers making collaboratively? How did the use of the protocol — You saw the sections that protocol actually had some very prescriptive questions to promote inquiry. Did you see that happening? And what implications might this have in the work that you're doing?
Maia: So, some folks are saying that they're thinking about how they could change their daily routine to improve quality and noticing how there are changes in quality across the course of the day.
Marsha: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Maia: We're seeing connections to large and small groups. Some focus on supporting students to make transitions. So, I think a lot of people are noticing that, by looking at the class data, the teachers were able to think about sort of what is happening in their classrooms. What's the context in terms of schedule or transition or number of children or size of group that might be related to how they interact with their children or how children interact with one another.
Marsha: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Maia: That's a good one as a way of highlighting, you know, to think in more detail about how classwork can vary. People are noticing that teachers are able to acknowledge the areas of improvement, not just their strengths, but also think about how they might be able to make adjustments and improve their scores.
Marsha: Yeah, themselves. Mm-hmm.
Maia: And noticing that people really are being self-reflective, and I think that's a great theme of all of this, right, is that by using these kinds of discussions and protocols that they — You know, it's really getting people to think about their own practice in a really deep way.
Marsha: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Does anybody have any suggestions or thoughts about what this might have in their own — what implications this might have or thinking about this in their own work?
Maia: So, several people are saying that they really like how teachers were asked to reflect on their own scores and asked to come up with some of their own solutions and refinement rather than being told what to do, and I think they're — Several people are noticing the sort of element of trust, lack of judgement, really allowing teachers to take ownership over their own data and their own improvement. Marsha: Mm-hmm.
Maia: So, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the importance of the sort of self-reflective classwork analysis maybe.
Marsha: What I — What we found was, by doing this, it really did build that sense of trust amongst teachers. You could see that when she jokingly said, "You know, we — That's a bad score," you know, you know, and just said, "I really thought we did better," but, you know, the realization like, "Well, we were focusing on here. While we did that, we started watching that maybe we weren't focusing on all the things that we needed to do." Teachers have so much to think about, and what you can see in that video is how much teachers learn from each other and how they can think together not to be competitive in this environment but how to really think about how they can help each other and within the classroom.
One of the things about early childhood programs is that there's never just one person. There's usually more than one, and people work together. Whether it's an assistant or whether it's two teachers, there are always other people in early childhood programs, and so there's adults working together with children, and so that collaboration really helps, so that is a really important part of job-embedded professional learning, that teachers really have time to think about, you know, and educators really have time to think together about what they're doing and examining that process together.
Maia: Yeah, Marsha, there's a lot of comments about the sort of lack of judgement and trust, and sort of people were noticing that teachers really were feeling free to be vulnerable, which we know is a really hard thing to do, and so I'm wondering if you might be able to talk a little bit about as an instructional leader what the leaders can do to sort of help reinforce that culture of safety and culture of reflection and vulnerability in their program.
Marsha: Well, what you didn't see in that video is the actual protocol itself, and so the protocol actually helps to build in that equity so that not any one person can take over the conversation. Everybody has a chance to really look at their data and think about that data and how they're — what it means to them, and so then they can go around at each group, and what you also didn't see in that video is that each teaching team got to share their own reflection of what they were learning, what they were seeing and what they were doing and some of their concerns and fears, and so the use of a protocol really helps to give people voice as well as build that sense of trust and work together so that not any one teacher in a classroom saying, "Well, I've — You know, I'm just not going to show anybody what I'm doing here because I'm not confident," but really gives them a chance to think about what they can do to support themselves as a team and how others can bring in those ideas of what they're doing, so what you can see in the use of protocol in, let's look at the data and talk about it, think about it and use this framework for building that safe space, actually helps to make sure that the facilitator gets everybody to think about the voice that they have and what they're all learning. Everybody has room for change. Everybody has room for improvement. You know, even those with higher scores need to think about what they're doing, and those with lower scores can learn from other people, so it's a growing way of building those skills with other people.
Maia: Great, and I think, you know, one thing to notice here is that this is a conversation about data, right, which can cause a lot of anxiety in a lot of people for all kinds of reasons, right, not only because looking at data is a challenging thing to do, looking at data about your own practice can be very scary, and being able to achieve that level of trust even within the conversation about data, I think, is really quite a remarkable feat.
Marsha: Right, and I think what it does, Maia, is it demystifies the data, so I think, you know, like, I think everyone is afraid when they hear data-driven decision-making, which we spoke about earlier, to be able to think about that. Are there any other comments before we move on?
Maia: I think this is a great time to move on.
Marsha: Okay, because I really want to just emphasize that the role of the facilitator to support that collaboration is really key, that that's really the role of the facilitator is to support that collaboration to build that trust, so thank you very much. In order to make change happen, teachers really need a lot. What do we need to do to help them make that shift, and how can we do that? There are essential organizational conditions for optimal teaching and learning experiences. That's what we're been focusing on, and these are the essential organizational conditions for optimal teaching and learning. They need protected time. They need opportunities to reflect. They need opportunities and help with analyzing. Then they need to think about what they can do to modify what they do, and they need help to think about trying it again and doing it again. They need to have the supportive professional learning system that includes more than just, you know, professional development plans completed on a form. They need more than just sending them out to training. They need protected time to have time to reflect, analysis and plan and do this together.
So, thinking forward, connect this information to what you already know and what you're already doing. I'm sure you're already doing a lot and building learning groups together to examine how to begin building instructional leadership at multiple levels within your system. Organizational and building-level support is really important, so, you know, rather than to just wait for the coach to come or wait for other people to get there to help you to build those learning groups yourself within your organization is really important, so how you do that is get to build those times and carve that out because teacher educators really need and deserve this, and that's how they'll improve. And I want to just make a nod to acknowledge that we have had a great deal of support to do this work. We have Race to the Top funds to help us do this throughout Illinois, and the Early Education Essentials are what we're founded on, and the UChicago Consortium are both essential partners with Lead Learn Excel, and we want to acknowledge that our partners are also our supports with other funders that help us do this. Bill and Melinda Gates has helped us, Stranahan Foundation and the Pritzker Children's Initiative. And I'm going to turn this over to Stephanie to help close up and tell us what to do next.
Stephanie: Thanks so much, and I just want to give a huge thank you to both Marsha and Maia and Maribel, who is on the back end from the Ounce of Prevention, for joining us today, and thank you all for participating. We want to invite you to save the date for the last instructionalleadership webinar in the series September 5. Again, we'll be discussing those essentials of ambitious instruction and teacher collaboration. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. I'm going to go ahead and show you guys the evaluation slide.
We really do encourage you to complete these evaluations. You do get a certificate of complete upon completing it, and that's available for the next three days, so again, thanks, everyone. You can go ahead and click directly on the slide. I'll also include the evaluation link in the group chat.
I hope everyone has a great afternoon. Thanks so much.Close
This is Part II of the three-part series on instructional leadership. "Instructional leadership" means program leaders are strategically focused on children's early achievement. They nurture trust and collective understanding and responsibility for excellence and improvement among staff and parents. In this webinar, explore the key competencies effective instructional leaders need. Discover how leaders can support education staff through job-embedded professional learning and data-driven decision-making. Learn how all this can advance children's early learning and development outcomes.