01 SES 04 B, More Than an Education Professional: Teachers Spanning Therapy and Health
Purpose of the Study
This project explores how an all day professional development program that included topics such as the network improvement communities (NICs), the PDSA cycle and 5Whys empowered teachers to think “out-of-the-box” about possible solutions to classroom issues. The process included facilitating reflection about the educators’ role in the classroom and in the school setting.
The following research questions guided the study:
RQ1. How do educators perceive the educational system is currently working as measured by the 5Essentials survey?
RQ2. What is the educator’s role in removing identified barriers?
Interactions among students, the school context, and the larger community influence students’ academic achievement by aligning ecological and sociocultural factors. The ecological approach indicates creating a classroom environment conducive to learning, while the holistic approach includes students, families, teachers, schools, and communities. The sociocultural theory indicates the importance of societal contributions to individual development, demonstrating the importance of the community cultural artifacts, local practices, activities, and concepts in which individuals participate.
There is increasing interest in improving academic opportunities; however, the variability that exists in the educational context does not allow for a one-size-fits-all solution. Thus, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2016) focuses on developing a model addressing issues of variability in education. The model includes “the idea of networks in conjunction with the use of improvement science to help the field of education get better at getting better” The networks, which are the networked improvement communities (NICs), have four characteristics: (1) clearly defined objective; (2) understanding of the possible solutions; (3) implementation of a rigorous method to articulate the implementation of the program; and (4) a coordinated implementation and testing of the practices. Improvement Science is a “problem-solving approach centered on continuous inquiry and learning” (REL, n.d.). Bryk et al. (2015) articulated the importance of utilizing the PDSA cycle as a systematic approach in which possible solutions are tested and changed rapidly by utilizing the plan, do, study, and act (PDSA) cycle to inform the system to be improved. The American Institutes for Research (2017) indicated a NIC helps organizations learn from promising practices implemented in a specific context.
Educational System and Diversity in Ecuador
As a part of the effort to increase academic expectations, a National Plan “Plan Decenal 2006-2015” was developed and renewed in 2018to continue toward an improved education system (Ministerio de Educación,2018). This plan incorporated a renewed focus on quality schooling with equity and a vision of increased tolerance and inclusiveness. Societal issues that impact academic achievement relate to funding, teacher preparation, and to the reality that teachers’ voices were ignored.
The National Institute to Assess Education collects information on teachers and students to strengthen the education system in Ecuador by identifying areas in the curriculum that require increased time allocations and/or different instructional foci and revised delivery methods. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Education wants to improve education at the different levels and the assessment systems in place; therefore, it is expected that educators are prepared to articulate philosophies incorporating the country’s diversity within the curriculum. The diversity of Ecuador’s cultural and linguistic population is reflected in the languages spoken in the nation. Ethnologue has documented 21 indigenous languages (e.g., Cofán and Quechua). Considering Ecuador’s linguistic and cultural diversity is key to offering an equitable education to all, so the implemented educational system has added demands on teachers to ensure education is equitably offered to all of the country’s citizens while increasing teacher quality and raising the literacy rate at K-12 levels.
This exploratory study utilized a mixed-method approach to collect quantitative data from the 5-Essencials Survey for Teachers before the workshop. The qualitative data were collected from four focus groups after completion of the workshop. The researchers obtained IRB approval before conducting this research. The 5-Essencials Survey assesses five constructs: (1) effective leadership, (2) collaborative teachers, (3) involved families, (4) ambitious instruction, and (5) supportive environment (UChicagoImpact, 2018) The qualitative data included focus groups responding to six open-end questions, adapted from Langley et al. (2009), related to teachers’ perceptions about improvement of students’ academics due to the leadership in their school system, collaborative work with other teachers, supportive environment in their schools, involvement from families, and (5) ambitious instruction. Participants Teachers were assigned by the principal of the educational institution to be part of the professional development. Twenty participants were part of this exploratory study with a range of educational experience between 5 to 26 years working in the institution located an urban area in Ecuador. The group included 13 female teachers and 7 male teachers. These practicing teachers taught different subjects such as music, physical education, English, French, technology, and all subjects as elementary teacher substitutes. Data analysis The data analysis for the quantitative data produced central tendency measures (mean and median) to determine the distribution of the respondents’ answers regarding their positive or negative perceptions about the questions presented in the surveys. The data provided enough information to start a conversation to reflect on their role as educators as well as issues within the classroom and the institution. Teachers were able to reflect upon their responses about school leadership, teacher’s collaborations, families, instruction, and environmental supports to determine issues affecting all the teachers participating in the PD to prioritize the issues and find possible solutions to the issues affecting academics or teaching. The qualitative data were analyzed utilizing the constant comparison technique (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), which compares existing findings with new information. Throughout the process, the researcher developed codes that could be categorized based on the meaning of the data. This constant comparison allowed of the codes to emerge due to an iterative process. The data were categorized and grouped by similarity (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007). The qualitative data uncovered two themes: (1) limited academic support and (2) teacher disempowerment. The themes demonstrated the disconnect between teachers and school administration to solve classroom issues.
This project is important because classroom teachers and administrators should work together and be empowered to determine what changes need to be implemented to achieve the desired academic outcomes. Establishing a systematic process could help teachers reflect on their role regarding issues within the classroom and the school. The data indicate that participants were able to consider the variability in outcomes that exist in education and how these variations (e.g., students, teachers, and administrators) pose challenges to finding solutions that fit all issues or contexts. Realization of the complexity of their educational setting and other stakeholders’ roles in achieving a desired goal utilizing a systematic approach empowered the participants. The impact of this realization was explained by Lewis (2015) and Bryk et al. (2015), indicating that self-study is a form of methodology for facilitating improvement in the school context. Partnerships should be formed among school administrators, parents, and teachers to support students’ academic success and to integrate changes into complex systems (Hannan et al., 2015). The results from the quantitative data opened conversations about the teachers’ perceptions of the support they had from the leadership, parents, and colleagues. The qualitative data revealed the different issues impeding teachers from focusing on improving academic achievement. Each of the open-ended questions can serve as a problem to be solved. However, the importance of implementing changes using the PDSA cycle as a guiding process to determine the order of issues remains. The qualitative data indicated that teachers felt they were not part of the decisions required to support students in the educational system. Thus, as teachers are expected to implement new initiatives to support the educational system goals and requirements, school administrators should listen to teachers’ concerns and involve teachers in the decision-making process to implement the desired transformative educational goals.
American Institutes for Research (2017, April). Establishing and sustaining networked improvement communities: Lessons from Michigan and Minnesota. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/midwest/pdf/REL_2017264.pdf Bryk, A.S., Louis Gomez, Alicia Grunow, and Paul LeMahieu. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s schools can get better at getting better. Cambridge, MA; Harvard Education Press. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2016, May). Integrating collaboration, learning systems, and empowerment to accelerate improvement in education — The promise of NICs. Retrieved from https://www.carnegiefoundation.org/blog/the-promise-of-nics/ Ethnologue (2019). Languages of the world. Retrieved from https://www.ethnologue.com/country/EC/languages Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine. Hannan, M., Russell, J. L., Takahashi, S., & Park, S. (2015). Using improvement science to better support beginning teachers: The case of the building a teaching effectiveness network. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(5), 494-508. Langley, G. J,. Moen, R .D., Nolan, K. M., Nola, T. W., Norman, C. L., & Provost, L. P. (2009). The improvement guide: A practical approach to enhancing organizational performance. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Leech, N.L. & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2007). An array of qualitative data analysis tools: A call for data analysis triangulation. School Psychology Quarterly, 22(4), 557-584. DOI: 10.1037/1045-38220.127.116.117 Lewis, C. (2015). What is improvement science? Do we need it is education? Educational Researcher 44(1), 54-61. Ministerio de Educación y Cultura del Ecuador. (2018). Propuesta de la comunidad educativa para el plan nacional de educación 2016-2025. https://www.siteal.iiep.unesco.org/sites/default/files/sit_accion_files/siteal_ecuador_0240.pdf Regional Educational Laboratory Program (REL). (n.d.). Introduction to improvement science. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/west/Blogs/Details/2 UChicagoImpact (2018). Retrieved from https://uchicagoimpact.org/our-offerings/5essentials
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