A Parallel Protocol for Increasing Learning
Contributed by Barb Pitchford and Paul Bloomberg
Teaching is complex work and because of the complexity of the work, teachers naturally connect with colleagues to solve problems, make decisions, and share challenges, frustrations, and successes. Current research has shown that although educators align naturally, that alignment does not necessarily guarantee productivity. In fact, “contrived collegiality” (Fullan and Hargreaves, 2012) is more the norm than the exception.
During our decades of experience working with leaders and teacher teams, we have developed, refined, and honed an efficient and effective way for teachers and leaders to collaborate to continuously evaluate their impact on students. We call this process Impact Teams.
Impact Teams Definition:
An impact team is a team of educators who partner with students in learning. They unleash their expertise to understand impact and take collective action.
Impact Teams have a 3-fold purpose:
- To increase learning for all
- To cultivate growth-mindset
- To increase awareness of what specific actions have the greatest impact on learning
Impact Teams use a variety of protocols purposefully. The one protocol that is used most frequently is called: Evidence • Analysis • Action. This 3-step protocol can be used at all levels of a learning organization:
- In the classroom with students
- With teacher teams
- With the school instructional leadership team
- With district leadership teams
The following description conveys how teacher teams and the classroom teacher can use this powerful protocol for learning:
Evidence • Analysis • Action: Impact Team Meeting Protocol
This 3-step protocol can be used with any clear set of success criteria by teams of teachers; we define these teams as Impact Teams. Success criteria are the statements that help learners recognize if they have been successful in their learning. Success criteria can be developed for: standards based assessments, criteria related to meta-cognition and self-regulation, behavior expectations, and school or district learning initiatives.
During the meeting each member has a defined role for meeting efficiency:
- Trained peer facilitator
- Note taker
- Active team members
The team uses the following steps to guide their inquiry/ learning. The purpose of the steps is to build shared knowledge of what collaborative actions have the greatest impact on student learning.
Step 1: Evidence
The facilitator describes the evidence by naming the success criteria for mastery that describe the “look-fors” in the learning. The evidence may include:
- Students: Student work with criteria based rubric, student voice / perception data, goal setting sheets, conferring data based on success criteria
- System: Learning walk data based on co-constructed success criteria of a learning initiative, teacher/stakeholder perception data, benchmark data, state summative measures or a combination
Step 2: Analysis
The facilitator leads the analysis. The team makes inferences based on why each criterion was mastered or not mastered. While making inferences, the team is trying to understand the “why” or the “root cause” for mastery or non-mastery of the criteria. The richer the “evidence”, the more reliable the inferences will be.
Step 3: Action
The facilitator leads the team discussion by looking at needs for the learners and determining strategies/next steps using two to three high impact strategies.
The classroom teachers uses the same 3-step protocol to implement the formative process with students in their classroom:
Evidence • Analysis • Action: Classroom Protocol
The classroom teacher utilizes success criteria from the standard(s) being focused on in the unit of study. Success criteria can be developed for: learning tasks, standards based assessments, criteria related to meta-cognition and self-regulation, behavior expectations, and a school or district learning initiative.
- Rubric or checklist based on standards-based success criteria
Step 1: Evidence
The teacher communicates or co-constructs success criteria for the task, assessment or assignment with the students. Teacher may use an exemplar to co-construct the criteria with students.
Step 2: Analysis
The teacher models self and peer assessment using samples of student work and then directs students to self and peer assess highlighting and discussing the criteria throughout the process.
Step 3: Action
The teacher models setting goals and how to revise work after the self and peer assessment is completed. Teacher then directs students to set goals by using the success criteria from the self and peer assessment. Students revise their work based on feedback from self and peer assessment.
The core purpose of teacher collaboration is to ensure high levels of learning for all students. Too often we get caught up in data analysis, perseverating on obstacles over which we have no control, and/or feeling powerless to make a difference with challenging students. At the heart of Impact Teams is academic optimism and a belief that together we can make a positive impact on our students. And we can and we do by sharing common learning goals, constantly and collectively evaluating our impact, and engaging the students in this simple yet powerful process.
Barb Pitchford is a dedicated and passionate educator with over 40 years of experience in K-12 teaching, counseling, and building leadership. Paul Bloomberg is an experienced school improvement coach and trainer who has transformed districts through coaching, professional development and curriculum support. Schedule an on-site or virtual consultation, seminar, or workshop with our author consultants today!