I am excited about starting my first Twitter book study with the #educoach group. The book we will be reading and reflecting over is Jim Knight’s Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction. Jim Knight is a research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning and the president of the Instructional Coaching Group. I have attended Jim Knight’s instructional coaching workshop and am also in the process of reading Knight’s Instructional Coaching. I love his approach to instructional coaching and change in education.
Prior to taking part in our first chat session with the #educoach group, I wanted to blog about chapter one of Unmistakable Impact myself. (You see, I’m an introvert, and we need time to contemplate before sharing thoughts—if you’re interested in the introvert/extrovert approaches, which is NOT simply a matter of outgoing vs shy, I would recommend Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power or Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage).
Excerpts and thoughts from chapter 1 from Unmistakable Impact:
“Unless the current trends change, more than 12 million students will drop out during the course of the next decade—at a loss to the nation of more than $3 trillion.”
I am so thankful Knight pointed this out. I think society sometimes focuses on assessing the effectiveness of education via test scores and student achievement. While those are valid measures (along with others), I think we also must view effectiveness of education on the impact (positive or negative) it has on society. Think of the impact 12 million dropouts at a cost of $3 trillion will have on our society. That affects the economy in terms of productive citizens, cash flow through the economy, possibly more people on entitlement programs, etc. Improving education is imperative if our society intends on a continued path towards productiveness and success.
“Unfortunately, traditional school improvement plans are often very complex, and because they focus on literacy and mathematics to meet the demands of No Child Left Behind, they frequently overlook core instructional strategies.”
I first heard of School Improvement Plans when writing for a small-town newspaper while getting my bachelors over 10 years ago. I wrote a story on the district’s MSIP process and loved the idea of a school improvement plan. When I later got into education and studied these plans more through my masters, I had a recurring thought: These plans are long, complex and, most importantly, teachers and staff members know very little about them. So, how can they really be an improvement plan if the entire staff is not aware of what the plan is? Knight hit the nail on the head with this one. True change must be more targeted and “close” to those who are responsible for implementing it, including teachers.
“In Impact Schools, teams of teachers come together to intentionally plan how to use the high-leverage teaching practices, such as guiding questions, formative assessment, effective questions, or behavioral expectations, described in the Target.”
I think the key here is teams must be intentional. I see this beginning to happen in education and it is exciting. Getting together because you were told to or to plan things such as who is going to make copies is not teamwork. Teamwork is intentional discussion about what practices work and which ones do not. This key component can dramatically affect not only teaching, but more importantly, learning.
“The challenge of improving instruction in schools is so complex that likely only simple plans will work. However, simple is not synonymous with simplistic. A simplistic plan might be a dummied-down plan, one that removes complexity by removing sophistication. Simple is just the opposite. A simple plan is one that removes distractions so that only what matters remains.
How true this is. As a current classroom teacher and lead teacher, I feel this on an everyday basis. There is so much to focus on in teaching, so many ideas out there, it is sometimes hard to figure out where to put your energies. Do I focus on Marzano’s instructional strategies? Do I need to find strategies to build on my classroom atmosphere? Do I use Study Island, blogging, Twitter or other motivating technologies? Etc? With a constant influx of ideas and the newest trends in education, one must focus on this: What strategies are found to yield the highest impact? That is what a teacher, principal, teams, administrators and school boards need to focus on. Don’t work more, work smarter.