Initiating Joint Inquiry into Teaching and Learning
Ideally, this cycle of pre-conference, observation/data collection, and post conference will be a starting point for continuing questions that will lead to further inquiry.
Candidates will be asked to consider: What questions do you have about student learning in your classroom, or what classroom learning issues are you most interested in working to improve? Consider your Teacher Research question. What parts of that question might you be able to pay attention to with this inquiry? (brainstorm possible starting points for inquiry)
An Example Conversation 1
Student Teacher: I find myself worrying about:
- getting students to be quiet and attentive when I start class,
- from time to time I hear bits of comments that may suggest students being disrespectful of each other, or of me;
- a handful of students aren't turning in much work
- For my Teacher Research question I want to pay attention to finding ways to engage reluctant learners: noticing which students are disengaged and what types of activities seem to draw them in. I also want to pay attention to how strengthening relationships with me and other students draws these dis-engaged students into the learning community.
Supervising Teacher: Select one topic or issue from the above list that you would like to pursue. What, at this point, is causing the most concern for you as a teacher?
Student Teacher: Well, the most important issue right now is students not turning in work, but you've given me some ideas for how to address that such as student and parent contact, more reminders in class, etc. so I have a plan and I'm not sure more information is needed right now on that. So, (and this may sound like a small thing but it's really bugging me) I am having a hard time getting students' attention when I want to start class or transition to another activity. They don't hear the directions I'm giving them so they ask me to repeat things and it feels like a lot of time is being wasted.
Supervising Teacher: So you want to know if the percentage of students not paying attention is too high and if too much time is wasted starting class?
Student Teacher: Yes, exactly!
Supervising Teacher: How does that relate to your Teacher Research topic and to what you are paying attention to with that right now?
Student Teacher: Well, getting the attention of Chris and some of her friends sitting around her, students who all seem to have checked out this week, would relate back to engaging reluctant learners and looking at the impact of relationships.
What are you currently doing to address the issue and what might you do?
Student Teacher: Well, I tried waiting until I had their attention, but they just keep talking, so I eventually give up and talk over them. I ask individuals to quit talking, and they do, but then other students start talking. What else should I do?
Supervising Teacher: I had trouble with that class too. They really like to talk. Do you have a standard way of letting them know you want their attention and what that means, like they should quit talking or whatever it is they are doing and look up at you?
Student Teacher: I've talked about that, but maybe I should go over my expectations again. How did you get their attention?
Supervising Teacher: They knew that when I went up to the overhead that I was going to say something to them. I'd usually begin by saying something like, 'Class, your attention for a moment please,' and then I'd wait, briefly, until they got quiet.
Student Teacher: I'll try that, and I'll have a conversation with them at the beginning of class about showing respect when someone is talking.
In order to understand this issue more fully, what additional information (data sources) would be helpful?
An Example Conversation 2
Student Teacher: It would help to know what percentage are paying attention and how many aren't, so I can tell if it's really a problem that I should address. Is it just Chris and her group of friends, in which case I should maybe change where they are sitting, or is it more widespread? If they aren't paying attention, what is it they are doing instead? Are their questions caused by their not paying attention or because I'm not giving information and directions clearly? I know that's a lot, but knowing all that would help me figure out what to do.
Supervising Teacher: That all makes sense. I'm not sure if I can collect all that information in one observation, but let's go on to the next question and figure how we might gather some of that information.
Supervising Teacher: Let's think about what kinds of information some of these data sources might generate. If I collected "at-task" data, where I code what each student is doing over a period of time, that would answer a couple of your questions. Perhaps I could video tape the students at the beginning of class, so you could watch it while you're not teaching and could focus on seeing what the students are doing. I could record their questions, so you could think about what the questions are really asking, look to see if the student was or wasn't paying attention, and figure out the cause. I could just audio tape the beginning of class, which is less intrusive, so you could review the questions and your directions and see if the confusion was due to gaps in your instruction or their not listening. Where do you want to start?
Student Teacher: I think for now I want to focus first on what they are doing-on task or not on task. I'd like to video tape later on, but right now I think it would be too distracting. So, if it's okay with you, lets start with "at task" data and we'll see if that gives us the information we need.
Supervising Teacher: That sounds fine.
- Which up-coming lesson and when during that lesson (at what point and for how long) might this information be collected?
- When do you want to do this?
Student Teacher: How about on Monday, at the beginning of class. Tomorrow, Thursday, I'll review my expectations and talk with them a bit about what those mean and why it's been a problem. We'll have one more day to practice these new expectations, and then you can collect data on the next day.
Supervising Teacher: Okay, so my understanding is that I'll record at task data on what students are doing at the beginning of class, while you're giving initial information about what they'll be doing for the class and directions for the first activity. How about if I code these things: on task will be a circle (and that will mean they are quiet and appear to be listening to you), talking will be a "T," doing other work will be a "W." Anything else we need to include?
Student Teacher: No, I think that covers it. Thanks.
When will we meet to discuss the information that was collected?
Supervising Teacher: I'll leave the data with you (maybe in the top drawer of your desk?) when I'm done. Then, could you look at it during 6th period and we could talk about it after school?
Student Teacher: Sure.