Collet's Research Shows Hope for Sanctioned Schools
June 21, 2017
A report in this month's Teachers College Record shows hope for schools under sanction from state and federal regulations, according to an article by a University of Arkansas faculty member.
Vicki S. Collet, an assistant professor of childhood education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education and Health Professions, is primary investigator for the study and article, "Lesson Study in a Turnaround School: Local Knowledge as a Pressure-Balanced Valve for Improved Instruction."
Federal and state accountability policies attempt to improve educational outcomes but have been blamed for a breadth of ills, including minimizing local knowledge and reducing teachers' ability to respond to contextual needs. Teachers in high-needs schools, especially, feel the effects of constrained curricula and increased testing, resulting in increased workload and anxiety. Collet's study, however, shows that teachers can be empowered through professional learning experiences that not only impact their own efficacy but also significantly impact student achievement.
Collet used a process called lesson study to support teachers in improving the writing achievement of fifth-grade students. During lesson study, teachers meet regularly to collaborate and plan lessons that become the focus of inquiry for effective teaching practices. As part of the lesson study process, a lesson is crafted and then one teacher teaches the lesson while other members of the group observe. The lesson is then collaboratively revised and taught by other members of the group. Teachers have the opportunity to try out new instructional routines and refine their teaching as effective practices are identified within specific lessons and become generalized.
Teachers in the study went through six Stages of Transformation as they worked through pressures associated with being labeled a "turnaround" school. Teachers' initial feelings of anger and attempts to shift blame to others gave way to reflective consideration, acceptance of responsibility, and redesigned practice as teachers' expertise was acknowledged and built upon and as they had the opportunity to observe and reflect on one another's instruction.
Although limited by the specific context of the study, Collet said the research suggests that both teachers' and students' learning improves when sanctioned schools are supported by creating local solutions rather than implementing imposed requirements.
Christian Goering, associate professor of English education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, studies the impact of educational policy.
"Collet's study demonstrates a promising and affirming practice in working with schools that receive labels from outside entities," Goering said. "Of course, these labels are always tied directly to the income levels of the schools, so to suggest and provide these schools with additional help is appropriate while blaming poor (and often) high-minority schools for shortcomings is sick. It is my sincere wish that state and national entities that deal with education take note of Dr. Collet's work and move forward in a way that actually works to help schools, teachers, and students."
The Teachers College Record is a journal of research, analysis and commentary in the field of education. It has been published continuously since 1900 by Teachers College, Columbia University.