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Research & Reports

To Make Big Changes for Students, Teachers Should Think a Little Smaller

While districts and policymakers focus on sweeping changes to schools, teachers can get big results by making comparatively small changes to their daily practice. This companion piece to the McREL book Tilting Your Teaching introduces you to the seven Simple Shifts—adjustments that every teacher can make immediately to turn dodgy classroom situations into engaging learning opportunities. And the paper shows how the Simple Shifts can be adapted to online learning to help teachers thrive in the COVID-19 environment.

Pearsall, G. (2020). To make big changes for students, teachers should think a little smaller. McREL International.


Changing Digital Learning From the Inside Out

Online teaching and learning can be more engaging and effective for students and teachers alike if districts take into account several key considerations when formatting their digital plans and processes. Combining and building on ideas from change management, improvement science, and inside-out systems development, Dr. Kris Rouleau from McREL’s Learning Services team offers seven guiding principles for district leaders who are looking to refine their systemwide approach to digitally mediated learning.

Rouleau, K. (2020). Changing digital learning from the inside out: System-level considerations for shaping online experiences that engage learners and teachers. McREL International.


Student Engagement: Evidence-Based Strategies to Boost Academic and Social-Emotional Results (2019)

Researchers have been refining their thoughts on student engagement for decades, and teachers who familiarize themselves with this history have an advantage in identifying opportunities to make their own work resonate with students, according to McREL’s Cheryl Abla and Brittney R. Fraumeni. The authors present McREL’s definition of student engagement as “A condition of emotional, social, and intellectual readiness to learn characterized by curiosity, participation, and the drive to learn more.” Research shows engagement is correlated with academic success and reductions in antisocial behaviors and substance use. And thankfully for teachers, there are evidence-based tactics that can be used to assess and improve students’ engagement, several of which are detailed here.

Abla, C., & Fraumeni, B. R. (2019). Student engagement: Evidence-based strategies to boost academic and social-emotional
results. McREL International.


 

Instructional Models: Doing the Right Things Right (2019)

Adopting, adapting, or creating an instructional model for your school or district could be the key to boosting instructional consistency while also encouraging teacher creativity. That may sound like an easy sell, but the process is rife with opportunities for crossed signals and misaligned ambitions. Whether you’re a superintendent or a teacher who wants to see some things change, learning the basics of group dynamics will keep your project moving forward.

Hubbell, E. R., & Goodwin, B. (2019). Instructional models: Doing the right things right. Denver, CO: McREL International.

 

Personalizing Professional Development: How Empowered Teachers Can Take Charge of Professional Learning and Growth (2019)

McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin teams up with ASCD authors Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral in this white paper to tackle a question of urgent interest to teachers at all career stages: Can professional learning be better? It can, they argue, if the profession recognizes that large PD sessions—while an appropriate starting point to share foundational practices—should be followed up with a highly personalized plan of action. Reflection holds the key to identifying and addressing problems of practice as teachers advance in their skills. Also important to bear in mind: Teachers are most effective when they develop an understanding of why certain techniques work, not just what they are.

Goodwin, B., Hall, P., & Simeral, A. (2019) Personalizing professional development: How empowered teachers can take charge of professional learning and growth. Denver, CO: McREL International.


White Paper | Improving Teacher Practice: Debunking the Myth of the Performance Plateau (2018)

The CEOs of two of America’s leading education consultancies join forces to argue for school districts to play a more active role in teacher development. The “disheartening” but tenacious myth that new teachers improve for a few years and then coast is dangerous because it causes HR departments to focus on the wrong things, write Bryan Goodwin and William Slotnik. Newer studies have debunked the “performance plateau” and should lead districts in the direction of career-long development for career-long improvement. They propose a four-part plan for making it happen, and point out that a handful of districts have already started.

Goodwin, B., & Slotnik, W. (2018). Improving teacher practice: Debunking the myth of the performance plateau. Denver, CO and Boston, MA: McREL International and Community Training and Assistance Center.

White Paper | Student Learning That Works: How brain science informs a student learning model (2018)

Surgeons learn about the body before operating. So why don’t more teachers learn about the brain before educating? In this free white paper, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin makes the case for incorporating brain science into the practice of teaching. Knowing how memory works can suggest classroom tactics that aid the acquisition and recall of information. Furthermore, adopting a model for learning rather than relying solely on the increasingly common (and increasingly detailed) instructional framework can help teachers layer innovation upon tradition, in the much same way that models help screenwriters and composers to be creative within the audience’s expectations.

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White Paper | Curiosity Works: Moving your school from improvement to innovation (2018)

What if every student were curious, self-motivated, and passionate about their learning? Wouldn’t our classrooms be more joyful and dynamic and our schools be more innovative? In this white paper, Kristin Rouleau lays the groundwork for a powerful new model for school improvement—an inside-out, curiosity-driven approach—that looks for and builds on schools’ bright spots in ways that go beyond improvement and help unleash both student and educator curiosity. This innovative approach relies on a school’s readiness to commit to shared values within a purposeful community, a focus on teaching and learning, support for professional growth among teachers using a triad peer coaching model, and a consistent, deep practice that weathers the storms of change.

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White Paper | Peer Coaching That Works: The Power of Reflection and Feedback in Teacher Triad Teams (2017)

Teachers are surrounded by the greatest professional development resource ever created: other teachers. So, doesn’t it make sense to team up for mutual support and growth? In this white paper, we describe the research that supports peer coaching and lay out the components of an effective coaching triad, with participants taking turns coaching, being coached, and observing. While school leadership can promote an environment that values and encourages trusting working relationships, the real work of coaching needs to be planned and executed by teachers themselves, the authors say.

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White Paper | Finding Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity: A Strategic Planning Process Streamlines District Work and Improves the System for All (2017)

Managing a school district has become an increasingly complex endeavor. But one school district in Pinedale, Wyoming, has found that taking a systems approach to strategic planning not only simplifies district work but also increases the success of principals, teachers, and students.

In this white paper, Jay Harnack, the superintendent of Sublette County School District #1, and Matt Seebaum, senior director at McREL, show how a strategic planning process reduces redundancy and workload by integrating district goals, strategic planning, and school improvement into one streamlined process. By establishing conditions for success rather than reacting to problems, this process creates meaningful, sustainable change that results in the ultimate outcome: improved student achievement districtwide.

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