Collaboration for Growth in Action at ISM

Our team felt that the opportunity to visit classrooms while at NIST was a valuable experience and prompted great professional conversations.  We decided to make our CfG plan a reality here in the elementary school at ISM.  I am sharing because of the impact it has had on the overall collaborative culture here.  It is not to say we have not collaborated in the past, but doing it vertically and with a clear focus has been very positive.  Opening classroom doors and receiving timely feedback with mediative questions has had an impact on student learning.

On our return from Bangkok, we decided to provide time and structure for our teams to do walk-throughs in a bid to consciously build a culture of openness and collaboration.

In this blog post, I will briefly outline the process that we undertook. I will also share the benefits that we have experienced from taking the time to visit other classrooms and in turn, opening our doors to teacher visits.

Process in a nutshell:

  • use scheduled grade level planning time for visits (30 min walk through, 15 min debrief)

  • inform partner grade level or levels of our scheduled time and focus

  • brief our team on the importance of looking for positive examples of pedagogy

  • upon return from 30 min. walk-through (15 minute debrief), share examples of what we saw-engage in a focused discussion

  • insure timely positive feedback and a mediative question to the team visited.  The question provides an opportunity for further growth and professional conversation among the teachers/teams observed.

Benefits:

  • We found ourselves entering rooms we had never been in before. We met teachers we had never connected with and witnessed good pedagogy throughout. Professional conversations in the hallways between teachers who had never connected before has become common.

  • An example of the mediative question my team received- Grade four asked us, We saw language rich classrooms across the grade level.  What are some of the other strategies you use to help students access Tier 3 vocabulary?’  This question spurred a 45 minute intensive conversation in our grade 2 team planning meeting on vocabulary strategies that we use in order for our students to access the major concepts in our units….amazing!

  • Teachers are more excited to share what they are doing than ever before.  More transparency in terms of curriculum and the way people use their rooms as learning spaces.

  • Team meetings are more focused on how we can improve our pedagogy.  Mediative questions encouraging teachers to think deeper about what they are doing in their classrooms.

  • Less anxiety connected to other teachers or administrators visiting classrooms.

All of these examples and many more play a direct role in improved teaching at ISM which ultimately benefits student learning in a profound way.  Since writing this, many more (if not all) ES teams have participated in walk-throughs and it is evident that this collaborative process will continue!