High needs, high stakes


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Susanna Steeg

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High needs, high stakes

  1. 1. High Needs, High Stakes Teachers’ Tensions Within LearningSusanna M. Steeg, Ph.D.George Fox University
  2. 2. An invitation…“Thought flows in terms of stories – stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn in the form of stories.” ~ Frank Smith
  3. 3. Why narrative? “Researchers in education who gravitate towards narrative inquiry are inherently interested in details,complexities, contexts, and stories of human experiences of learning and teaching. [Narrative] resists easyanswers…often reveals what has remained unsaid, what has been unspeakable. It [shows] the importance of context, reflexivity, difference, and multiple identities…. It compels us to care about people’s lives in all their complexity and often moves us to action (Schaafsma & Vinz, 2001, p. 1)”
  4. 4. Some background Me District This course experience
  5. 5. District snapshot District StateGrade 3 2010 70.7% 82.8% 2009 63% 82.8%Grade 6 2010 46.6% 76.6% 2009 52.7% 76.5%Grade 10 2010 52.9% 71.3% 2009 38.9% 66.1%*percentage of students at or above proficiency in reading, based on stateassessment
  6. 6. District Context 04-05 05-06 06-07 White 36.2% 34.1% 33.1% Hispanic 29.7% 31.9% 33.3% American Indian 32.1% 32.4% 32.0%District’s reaction to low scores: Programs! Expert vs. teachers Direct instruction
  7. 7. The course Theoretical Foundations to Literacy Textbook: Lenses on Reading, Mandel & Morrow Major assignments  Initial Theory Paper  Final Theory Paper
  8. 8. My questions  What factors deserve consideration for teachers in high-needs, high-stakes, heavily-programmed districts regarding the structure, content, and emphases of their learning?  What did it mean to teach the learner in this particular course? What tensions emerged?  What happens when teachers experience tension/cognitive dissonance between their thinking and the “doing” mandated by their district?
  9. 9. “Knowledge about teaching develops in theinteraction between the individual’s hopes, ideals,and desires on the one hand, and the feedback, or‘backtalk’ from the other participants in…concreteeducational settings…” (Korthagen, 1996, p. 102).
  10. 10. Findings “There’s no room to breathe, here”
  11. 11. Where students were“We have been given a program to follow “withfidelity,” and even given “lesson maps” so weknow which instructional strategies to use whenand what examples to use. This way no teacherswill leave out any skills or strategies, or focus onunnecessary ones. By taking away teacher choice,our district hopes that all students will belearning what the publisher (and a consultantwho created the lesson maps) has deemedimportant for that particular grade level.”
  12. 12. “I am feeling a lot of tensions in teaching readingespecially from the district mandates, the readingguidelines and non-negotiables that they (the district)has strenuously mandated us to follow. Having XXXX as“the chosen one” who knows everything we should andbetter be doing to teach kids to read feels stifling andtakes the joy out of feeling ownership over my ownteaching. I really dislike the way our district ismandating our way of teaching reading, and therestrictions placed upon us with a heavy hand. Whomakes these rules and regulations and based up what? Itis frustrating to be treated like reading robots basedupon other’s beliefs. Have I or am I being brainwashed tobelieve certain things about reading by administrationand their beliefs? It is something I am thinking about.”
  13. 13. “What I have discovered is that I have a largequantity of defiance theory for the idea that aperson is only smart if they can prove themselvesthrough a specialized evaluation. (Maybe thisshould go to the state; better yet they could taketheir own endorsement assessments and provetheir worth as an instructor.) I am an effectiveteacher because I can teach not because I can spurttheories.”“Right now I am glad we have direct instruction forour reading program because I do not see all thesteps needed to be successful as a reader.”
  14. 14. “Most of the time, I feel wishy-washy when it comes towhat is best for our students. After spending a day or twowith our consultants, I feel myself having been “swayed”to their position; then I have to present it to the staff, andI hear the comments that three years ago I would havebeen making: “Our students need be to exposed to grade-level materials, a variety of genres, and building capacityto read a whole book, not just an excerpt in a basal.”Sometimes I feel like I finally get it…and then I realize Idon’t.”
  15. 15. “I am ready for the magic pill that cures allproblems. I know it won’t happen, but I still wishfor it. This course did not give me a clear cutanswer to my problem; instead it muddied thewaters more.”
  16. 16. Teachers’ attitudes/dispositions as shapedby these forcesWithin this course, teachers indicated a clear senseof the “high-stakes” nature of literacy assessmentand its influence on district policy and practice. Passive resistance Lots of questions  Why is it important to know this?  This can’t change the way I teach…why should I learn it?  This won’t work for “our kids” Desire for easy answers or ONE right answer
  17. 17. My response “OK, how can I take the next step?”
  18. 18. Things I did Created pre/post opportunities Renegotiated rubrics/assignments Asked lots of questions Created time for them to talk, discern shared ideas, identify tensions Response strategies Something Something I Something Something I that wonder I’ll share disagreed surprised with me
  19. 19. Factors deserving consideration in highstakes districts History and culture  District  Schools  Cohort Personal priorities—conversations that lead to shared interests  Students  Teacher Coming to peace with not having it “right” Making space for teachers not to know Acknowledging the impossibility of big changes Pushing boundaries
  20. 20. “That which was from the beginning, which wehave heard, which we have seen with our eyes,which we looked upon and have touched with ourhands, concerning the word of life…that which wehave seen and heard we proclaim also to you, sothat you too may have fellowship with us.”I John 1:3
  21. 21. Thank you!Susanna M. Steegssteeg@georgefox.edu
  22. 22. “I will no longer just adopt someone else’s way ofthinking as my own without much reflection andinner thinking of my own beliefs. I know I need toalways continue to step outside my world to learnmore in order to grow and justify my beliefs. Thisis one of the highest and best goals for those weteach.”