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We know this last year has been stressful. We know that next year’s challenges are already cropping up. We know you are looking for support to help your students recover the learning lost last year. We are here to support you with a series of articles that don’t just talk about learning loss recovery but provide tools and examples you can use to make learning loss recovery a reality in your school.
In our first article, we answered the question, “What are the actions of a principal who effectively leads a school with the outcome of learning loss recovery in order to increase academic achievement for each and every student?” In other words, “What are the four actions of instructional leadership?”
In our second article, we focused on the first action of instructional leadership: Determine an initiative whose successful implementation will ensure learning loss recovery and increase student achievement.
Last week’s article focused on the second action of instructional leadership: Determine the support for the implementation of the initiative. We also provided a tool to support implementation and detailed example of what it looks like when a principal utilizing this action.
This week we are focused on the third action of instructional leadership: Determine the monitoring system for the implementation of the initiative.
The Third Action of Instructional Leadership
The third action is to determine the monitoring system for the implementation of the initiative. This monitoring must be supportive and focused on a clearly delineated set of expectations that are understood by all stakeholders. This monitoring must include affirming and corrective feedback from a variety of sources—from you, as the leader of the initiative, from other school-site administrators, from coaches, from colleagues, and from outside experts. This monitoring must be focused on the growth of the person implementing the initiative. As a principal, you can think of this monitoring as the assessment of the initiative.
In order to lead the successful implementation of an initiative, the principal needs to understand and share the answers to the following questions:
- How will the teachers know that they have implemented the initiative at a high level?
- How will the teachers receive feedback regarding the progress of the implementation of the initiative?
- What supports will the teachers receive if they are struggling?
- How will this information be shared with the teachers?
This means that the principal must confirm the success criteria for the initiative, establish a process for monitoring the implementation of the initiative, establish a method for continued support for implementation, and share this information with the staff.
This tool is provided as a resource for you to use when determining the monitoring system for the implementation of your initiative.
Principal Sanchez leads a middle school of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders with the majority receiving free and reduced lunch support. This past year of online and hybrid learning showed her that those students who were most clear on their role in the process, did better than those students who were unclear or unsure. She knew that the success of her students, especially in a year of learning loss recovery, would lie in their ability to own their own learning. She presented this idea to her leadership team in May, and they decided that the initiative for the 2021–2022 year would be on developing student ownership.
Once the initiative’s goals and expectations were set, once the support plan was decided, she then had to determine how she and her two assistant principals would monitor the implementation. She explained that her task was to determine and lead these actions:
- Confirm the success criteria for the initiative.
- Establish a process for monitoring the implementation of the initiative.
- Establish a method for continued support for implementation.
- Share this information with the staff.
She began the process by answering the questions from the planning tool above.
What are the success criteria of the initiative?
“We know that we will best help our students take a larger role in owning their learning. For us, this means that our students understand and value the importance of always knowing what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how they will know when they have learned it. But we have some benchmarks we need to hit along the way if we want to reach this goal. We know that if we want to get to the students, we will need to go through the adults. So, we have to make sure our teachers understand and believe in the value of student ownership. We have to know that we all have a shared understanding of what it is, and what it looks and sounds like at the highest level. We must know the research-based practices that support student ownership—what they are, how they support student ownership, and what they look like when they are successfully implemented. For us to meet these benchmarks, I have to know along the way what my teachers are thinking. I need to know where they are in meeting the benchmarks, how they got there or didn’t, and what specific supports they will need to continue to grow.”
Once success criteria have been determined, Principal Sanchez then had to determine the following:
How will the teachers know that they have implemented the initiative at a high level?
“When we begin this initiative, we need to have a lot of conversations and professional learning sessions on student ownership and the practices that support it. I think that we will leave these sessions with the same ideas. But I know from experience that this might not be the case. That’s why when we begin the year, we will need to codify our understandings. Together, we will develop and put in writing what student ownership will look and sound like at the highest level for us. We will create a continuum from where we currently are to that highest level, knowing that this is about growth. We will also develop an initiative message. This message will explain why we are focusing on student ownership, what the value of it is to our students, and what the value is to the adults who support our students. We will revisit this message at the onset of every meeting on student ownership.”
Principal Sanchez knows that the monitoring must allow for growth. She then determined:
How will the teachers receive feedback regarding the progress of the implementation of the initiative?
When will teachers receive feedback regarding the progress of the implementation of the initiative?
“Feedback is an area that I have been working on as a principal. All the research supports the impact feedback has on learning. We discuss it with our teachers all the time regarding students receiving quality feedback. But we often fall short when it comes to adults receiving feedback. So, I know that if I am going to ask teachers to change, they have to be supported with consistent and relevant feedback. I also know that I cannot do this alone. We have had training as a campus on student feedback. It was important that we differentiated between giving advice and ‘feeding back.’ It is the same for adults. We need to “feed back” through a question-driven process. I see my role as supporting my teachers to make stronger decisions. I can only do this if I understand how they make their decisions. It is easy to observe someone, draw conclusions, and offer advice. But change happens when we support them to own the process. Question-driven discourse allows them to explain, clarify, and reflect on the decisions they are making to impact student ownership.”
“We have built several tiers of monitoring and feedback support. I am excited to try it out in September. Each teacher will be asked to self-reflect and share where they are in the process and their steps for continued growth. Typically, our teachers all participate in a collegial lesson study process that allows them to provide each other with feedback and support. In addition, our administration team conducts planned observations that are scheduled to include an immediate question-driven conversation. These conversations allow us to then reflect as an administration team to capture where our teachers are in the process, what supports are having the greatest impact, and where additional supports may be needed. We plan to keep these processes in place when we focus on this new initiative.”
But Principal Sanchez knows that she wants to ensure that the support is focused on individual teacher growth and that the teachers need to be active in the process. So, she determined:
How will the teacher identify when they are succeeding and when they are struggling?
What supports will the teachers receive if they are struggling?
How will the teacher have a say in determining their needs?
“I know that as an administration team, we need to have a good handle on who is succeeding and who is struggling. But we want the teachers to own their role in their own learning in this initiative. The self-reflection and question-driven feedback process will help us a lot in this area. Our teachers will self-assess against the continuum we developed. They will establish their own next steps and then utilize the collegial lesson study as a safe place to practice and get feedback. Our conversations with teachers after observations will give them a chance to reflect on their decisions and identify what is having an impact and where they may need to make changes. But, even with all of that, we will have teachers that are not as self-reflective or haven’t really bought into the initiative. For these individuals I will develop a differentiated plan that I work through with them.”
“We know that when we begin this initiative that it is going to take a lot of support and that we will have to differentiate. There are aspects of our plan that we will roll out at the beginning of the year that are for all stakeholders. After that, we will build in optional supports that teachers can utilize as they choose. And for those on a differentiated plan, we will offer some required next steps. These might include additional training on student ownership and the practices that support it. Some teachers might just need more time to grapple with the content, some might need the redundancy of hearing it again, and some might need to begin implementing it and then go back and learn deeper. We have asked teachers to open their classrooms so others could observe what supports they are offering students and to see how students react to those supports. We will also identify some teachers who show great success and pair them up with teachers who are struggling. They will be asked to share what decisions they are making, why they make them, and the impact they are seeing on their students.”
“I won’t lie. It will be a lot of work to implement and monitor this initiative. But the proof will be in the pudding once we see real growth in our students. I believe because this initiative will impact every classroom they are in, they are going to get tremendous support throughout their day.”
To ensure that her message is clearly articulated and understood, Principal Sanchez had to determine:
How will this information be shared in as many distinct ways as possible?
“I shared earlier how I realized that I expect the teachers to internalize the information differently. Knowing this, I can’t just share the plan and hope that everyone will hear it the same way. Codifying our initiative and success criteria will help us tremendously to ensure that we stay in agreement. I will share a copy of it with every teacher and I will bring this out in every feedback session. We will always start our conversation by reviewing it. I know it is important that we always keep the context and goal in mind.”
So, What’s Next for Principal Sanchez?
“I want my teachers to decompress from this year. But I know my team and they will want to be as prepared as possible for the new year. I have bought everyone a copy of Developing Student Ownership by Crowe and Kennedy and asked them to read it over the summer. This will begin the process of codifying our understanding.”
So, What’s Next for You?
This month, we are concerned with the practical answer to the question, “What are the actions of a principal who effectively leads a school with the outcome of learning loss recovery in order to increase academic achievement for each and every student?”
In other words, “What are the actions of instructional leadership?” There are four.
This week’s article has focused on the third action of instructional leadership: Determine the monitoring system for the implementation of the initiative whose successful implementation will ensure learning loss recovery and increase student achievement. We have shown you how to utilize the third action of instructional leadership. We have offered you a tool to support implementation. We have provided a detailed example of what it looks like when a principal utilizing this action.
Next week, in our final article for this series, we will provide these same types of tools and examples for the fourth action: Build a community of learners.
The Learning Brief
In this article you learned…
- The third action of instructional leadership.
- How to determine the monitoring system for an initiative whose successful implementation will ensure learning loss recovery and increase student achievement.
- How to implement the third action of instructional leadership with a tool and an example.
Can you imagine building an environment full of motivated, engaged, and eager students who own their learning?