Lightwork Fundamental Changes Resulting in Improvement

Many hands make light work.-African and Arabic proverb

I hope our work inspires your school community. Enjoy and happy co-teaching! Together, you and your team can do it!
Network Improvement Communities and PDSA Cycles

So what exactly are Network Improvement Communities? Network Improvement Communities or NIC(s) are highly structured, intentionally formed [social organizations], collaborations among educational professionals, researchers, and designers, that aim to address a high leverage practical problem (Bryk, Gomez & Grunow, 2011; Dolle, Gomez, Russell & Bryk, 2013). They are marked by four essential characteristics (Byrk, Gomes, Grunrow & LaMahieau 2015):

  • they are focused on a well-specified common aim
  • they are guided by the deep understanding of a problem, the system that produces it, and a shared working theory of how to improve it
  • the work is disciplined by the rigor of improvement research
  • they are coordinated to accelerate the development, testing, and refinement of interventions and their effective integration into varied educational contexts

My goal was to facilitate professional development meetings on differentiated instruction increasing collaboration opportunities between special education and general education teachers through deductive and inductive learning. Towards this endeavor, I specified and engaged in several activities with teachers in anticipation of the successful completion of my fieldwork. These are they.

At the outset of this work, I conducted ecological surveys of teacher environments in order to collect baseline data on how current instructional spaces were designed as well as to observe instructional practices and how my student population responded to direct instruction. I collected data by conducting thick observations in several programs. Qualitative data revealed that many students with IEPs engaged in off task behavior during direct instruction because they were not engaged in the material. Based on these observations, I created data collection logs and under my supervision, my team of three recorded our findings.

Thick Data

Thick observation is the collection of observable behaviors in context.

Prior to implementing improvement work, we conducted classroom observations over a period of 6 weeks throughout the months of September and October in order to identify root causes contributing to the academic failure of students with disabilities. Along with my team of three para-educators we observed teacher instructional spaces and documented student behaviors on data collection charts.

Preliminary findings revealed much. As teachers were setting up instructional spaces and familiarizing themselves with IEP accommodations for their student populations data collected allowed me to put together behavioral strategies in order to provide struggling students with access to the curriculum. However, as the weeks went by, two areas which overwhelmingly required attention and improvement was in teacher knowledge of student IEP goals and accommodations and the implementation of research based behavioral and instructional practices for students with disabilities.

Student Reinforcement Continuum Strategies

As I began to make connections with teachers in an effort to build collegial relationships, it was obvious that we were all interested in learning something new. I was interested in the instructional approaches teachers implemented to engage students and they were interested in learning effective behavioral and instructional strategies that might better support their student population. Based on these concerns, we decided to create small learning communities where education specialists and teachers could come together in order to examine research on improvement work and collaborate.

The first professional development meeting I facilitated on differentiated instruction was held in September. This meeting, which was an entrée into what would soon follow in the area of differentiated instruction, set the stage for our NIC. The following questions were posed by teachers during the meeting held in September:

  1. Teachers wanted clarification on instructional accommodations vs. modifications.
  2. Teachers wanted more information on the role of the education specialist in co-teaching models.
  3. Teachers wanted a clear definition on DI.

Teacher opportunities to learn “something new” could only happen if collaboration time increased amongst special education and general education teachers. Based on the information provided by teachers, as well as my experiences coordinating my schedule with general education teachers, we knew that we needed time to communicate. The goal being that collegial relationships would be built and that general education teachers would receive information regarding special education practices and I would become familiar with the content being delivered in teacher programs.

Fishbone Diagram!

Let's Make A Wish

Driver Diagram

Network Improvement Communities

Back 2 Back

Network Improvement Communities in action!

In order to ensure that teachers had opportunities to collaborate and common plan, we knew our workshops needed to be structured and we needed to ensure that we remained on task, following agenda items so that each teacher’s time was respected. In addition to this, we knew that building relationships with others was an important piece to this process.

Par Duex

Our goals were clear. We endeavored to build a Networked Improvement Community (NIC), in which a team of teachers would commit to making improvements to their learning environments as well as examine current research in the area of differentiated instruction and implement research based instructional strategies into their programs for the sole purpose of building classroom models that would serve as the standard at our school site. In doing this, we hypothesized that we would design engaging lessons taking into consideration the unique learning styles of our students, particularly students with disabilities, ultimately leading to students making academic gains, achieving their Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, and raising their GPA scores. If implemented with fidelity, we projected that students would remain on track to graduate and that they would graduate on time with their peers.

PDSA Cycles I and II
We're Getting There, We're Getting There...
Co-teaching Models

Old School Love: Teaching and Learning, Getting Back to the Basics

"We had the right idea in the beginning, and we just need to maintain our focus and elevate. What we do is we update our formulas, we have certain formulas but we update them with the times, the [content] is elevated the [teaching style] is elevated but it's still [old school]." -Guru

Differentiated instruction is widely accepted as a “common sense” approach to teaching. This common sense approach suggests that all students can learn, however, they learn based on individual learning styles that do not fit the “one size fit all model” commonly applied in classrooms today. Simply put, if teachers expect students to make gains academically, they must differentiate instruction.

Differentiated instruction suggests that teachers respond positively to the learning styles of each student. When implemented with fidelity, differentiated instruction as a framework is reflective, informed, diagnostic, connective, application- oriented, problem-focused, quality- concerned, and sustained (Tomlinson 2005). In doing this, students are more engaged in the learning process which leads to academic success.

Students working in the "Learning Center"
In order to effectively tackle the issue of lack of differentiation in teaching, teachers must reflect on their practice, improve their pedagogy, and be willing to respond to the learning styles of their students in a culturally responsive manner. -John Sandy Campbell, MA, MEd

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Created By
John Sandy Campbell


John Sandy Campbell, MA, MEd 

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