The Instructional Target Process at Discovery Middle School
Jacquelyn (Jackie) Flowers is the Instructional Partner at Discovery Middle School in the Madison City School. She was a member of the first cohort of the Alabama Instructional Partners Pilot program.
by Jackie Flowers
In 2011-2012, my first year in the Instructional Partners Pilot, I was introduced to Jim Knight’s vision for a schoolwide One-Page Instructional Improvement Target, described in his book Unmistakable Impact. I knew that if I was going to facilitate the Discovery faculty in creating a one-page target that would make a difference for our middle school, we first had to sharpen our focus on best teaching practice and develop a sense of collective responsibility within our still-emerging professional learning community.
During the year we continued our emphasis on student friendly learning targets and formative assessment and began the stretch to becoming strategic teachers as well. All three of these are undeniably linked, and I used the gradual release of responsibility model to introduce these new practices and/or revisit them with our faculty. (If I had to do it over, I would truly begin with learning targets, then strategic teaching and finally formative assessment. But we had already started a focus with formative assessment and learning targets in our district during the 2010-2011 school year.)
Last year we also began peer partnering, along with participating in internal and external Instructional Rounds. All five of these professional learning experiences became interwoven with a very strong thread. Over the year, as we modeled the partnership approach to professional growth, more and more faculty members began to see they truly had voice and choice in what we are focusing on and that we had collectively created a safe and nurturing learning environment for ourselves.
Best of all, we had developed a sense of collective responsibility. I felt that we would be ready this school year to develop a schoolwide Instructional Target. Even so, my palms were sweaty!
Beginning our Instructional Target journey
Our principal, Dr. Robbie Smith, decided to take all the teachers and staff on a one-day retreat at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. We all went to Joe Wheeler State Park, and everyone arrived on a bus together. (I came early to set up the room and prepare for the learning that would occur that day.) I facilitated faculty, staff and administrators together in a morning of team building. The feeling in the room was that of warmth as we found out things about each other that we didn’t know before and truly began to appreciate and understand one another. It was a powerful beginning!
During the afternoon we separated, with the principal facilitating the office staff and the assistant principal facilitating the rest of the staff. I worked with the faculty, facilitating a celebration of our student data and then the first stage in the creation of the one page target.
To launch our creative process, I used a world café strategy (people move) with two tables for each of the Instructional Target's big four categories (Community Building, Content Planning, Instruction, Assessment for Learning). The teachers were separated by grade level (7 & 8). After the world café round, teachers combined what they had and removed any repeated statements for each of the big four categories (eight posters became four).
At the end of the day I had four posters (one of each of the big four categories) which I put in a word document. It became the first draft of our instructional improvement target -- completely teacher generated with everyone having a voice. Best day ever! Dr. Smith told about the retreat and shared the first draft of the target at a PTA meeting in early September.
The next time we revisited the target all the teachers and I were together again (sometimes I do embedded PD). This time the target was broken back down into the big four for any corrections, additions, subtractions, and/or combinations using a carousel strategy (the paper moves). Once again we separated by grade level then came together and combined any changes. I was again left with four pieces of paper containing all corrections made. After a quick edit, we had draft number two!
Next step: student involvement
In late fall, we revisited the target again as a faculty to consider any further changes and produced a third revised draft. An Instructional Target contains what teachers (T), students (S), and teacher/students (T/S) will do to improve each of the big four categories. In late November our teachers agreed that it was time to share the student and teacher/students statements with our school's Student Leadership Team (SLT).The SLT members really considered each statement carefully and were candid in their responses. My principal and I were so impressed with their thinking and reasoning.
I really knew we had changed things at Discovery when our children were willing to tell us what they were thinking and why. It was a true reflection of what had started happening with the faculty earlier. The new outlook of the faculty was being transferred into their classrooms and reaching the awareness of their students. It was such a meaningful morning with this group of student leaders. I shared their collective thoughts and changes with the faculty and we now had our fourth draft.
The Student Leadership Team had a copy of the target and the changes they had suggested. They were talking to other students and parents about it and there was a small buzz starting around the school concerning the target. The teachers agreed that we would now take it to the entire student body in late December.
the short video to their classes explaining the student and teacher/student statements. The teachers had a companion PowerPoint and/or they could replay and pause the video to have a discussion with students concerning any element of the target. The teachers asked their classes if they could agree to the statements or was there something they wanted to correct, add, subtract, and/or change.
To better understand what an Instructional Target looks like, see Draft 4 of our document here.
I am in the process of going through the student reflections and soon draft number 5 will be ready to present to the faculty. I think we may be very close to having it like we want it for now. We are considering how parents might be involved in the future and what they may be willing to do to help improve the big four areas.
The learning just keeps going
I truly do not believe that a school is ever completely done with the creation of a one-page learning target. I think of it as a fluid document and as Jim Knight has said, the process of creating the target and coming to agreement about what and how we want to learn together is more important than any "final product." When teachers and/or students have ideas for changes, their voices and choices will always matter and will be heard by all!
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Montgomery, AL 36103
Phone - 334-279-1886
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