Naming Instructional Shifts: Connecting Voice Data to the Powerful Instructional Practice 

During the 2021-2022 school year, the Instructional Support Team (IST) at Thomas Kelly College Prep invested in the work of lifting student voice in their own practice, sharing their data and practice changes with one another and deepening their understanding around the learning conditions measured by Elevate. Because of this work, they were positioned to grow the student voice work to the entire school community during the 2022-2023 school year. 

The IST engaged the whole teaching staff in the surveying of young people to determine a condition of focus. They collectively reviewed their Elevate data in cross-department professional learning communities, naming opportunities and challenges. After a review of the data, teachers then answered the following:  

  • Given these opportunities and challenges determined by student voice data and our instructional focus on differentiation, where do we want to focus our work? 

Teachers chose to focus on Meaningful Work, a condition that measures the extent to which students feel that their classwork is meaningful, interesting and connected to their lives outside of school. In order to shift the experiences of young people around the condition of Meaningful Work, the IST supported teachers to center themselves in a communal understanding of meaningful work and connect this understanding to their current classroom practice, asking teachers to consider where these three principles show up in their instructional practice:  

  • Help students discover the personal relevance of learning
  • Connect class work to life outside of the classroom
  • Create opportunities for student choice 

Then, in order to deepen teacher understanding of Meaningful Work, the IST led teachers in the selection of a practice shift. Teachers enacted this practice shift and came back to their learning communities to reflect on their enactment and their learning, responding to the questions: 

  • What meaningful work strategy did you try?
  • Did it work? 
  • What was the impact on your thinking about meaningful work?
  • What was the impact on student learning? 
  • What would you do differently?

After teachers had an understanding of the definition of and measures for Meaningful Work, they were then prepared to connect this new understanding to their instructional focus of differentiated instruction. The IST engaged teachers in the reading of a chapter in their text of focus, How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms, most closely connected to the condition of Meaningful Work and the team’s previous learning on culturally responsive teaching. Teams then connected this new learning to their previous learning around meaningful work by responding to the question of “How do these characteristics of an effective learning community create the conditions for students to see work as meaningful?”

Teachers then selected an additional chapter and chose a differentiation strategy they aspired to try in their own practice. In order to support the connections between differentiated instruction and meaningful the principles of meaningful work, teachers: 

  • Looked at the most recent Elevate data for the condition of Meaningful Work to understand growth and gaps in the data 
  • Revisited the principles of meaningful work 
  • Responded to the question “How does your strategy connect to one of the principles of meaningful work? If it does not, how would you adapt it to connect to one of the principles?”

Teachers will now have the opportunity to collaboratively plan for their practice shift and share this practice shift for feedback using a modified tuning protocol. Teachers will receive feedback around their practice shift both through peer observations and through another Elevate survey cycle, which will give teachers the opportunity to unpack whether their strategy for differentiation supported the condition of Meaningful Work in their classroom community. 

A Note on the Adaptive Work 

Alongside the work above, members of the Kelly Instructional Support Team engaged in: 

  • Reflections on their own identities and how these identities impact their classroom practice and instructional leadership 
  • Conversations to deepen their understanding of team norms and how to leverage these norms to create brave spaces to do the work of leading instructional improvement 
  • Discussion around their own data and buy-in to the work of student voice 
  • Practice rounds of facilitation during which members facilitated portions of the PLC agenda and received feedback around their practice 
  • Routine review and reflection on PLC facilitation, including naming patterns around race and identity 

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