It Takes a Village

I am on Round 2 of edits for my Chapter 5 (findings from my intervention). While waiting on feedback from my advisor, I decided to begin putting together the presentation for my dissertation defense. I like to use quotes in my presentations (even in my classroom with middle schoolers). When reflecting on books, videos, etc. which have resonated with me as an educator, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros is a solid read. I find myself going back to his book time and time again for inspiration, so it comes as no surprise that I found a quote from his book that I plan to use in the opening for my dissertation defense.

“If we want people to take risks, they have to know we are there to catch them and support them” (Couros, 2015, p. 7)

This quote serves aptly sums up the reason for my intervention design: a peer-to-peer coaching model.

My intervention (conducted during the 2018-2019 school year) focused on peer-to-peer coaching supports in helping teachers to design lessons that reflected meaningful learning with technology for students (Jonassen, Marra, Howland, & Crismond, 2008). My passion for technology stems from my love of trying new things with my students. I am not afraid to jump in with both feet. However, I know that many of my colleagues are not at that point (yet or maybe ever, and that’s ok). While they understand the role that technology can plan in helping students to acquire important skills, the learning curve both on a personal and professional level can be quite daunting.

Cue the needs assessment I conducted in spring 2017. Although I knew that my colleagues relied on each other for support, what I didn’t realize was the extent to which they provided support for each other. When questioned about external versus internal support structures, all of the teachers interviewed mentioned that they relied on peers. Proximity (location) and real-time support were two crucial features that teachers mentioned which helped them feel more comfortable with trying to integrate technology into their instructional practices.

It wasn’t hard to make the jump from an informal network of support to a more formalized support structure (i.e., quarterly release days with afterschool follow-up sessions), which formed the basis of my 8-month research study.

The findings from my study showed that teachers appreciated having a group with whom they could rely on for help. Real-time support occurred in-between classes (during passing period), before school, at lunch, and even calls or texts during class time. Data from the focus group revealed that teachers were more open to trying something new because they (1) were given time to explore and plan during the release days, (2) knew they could receive real-time support, and (3) knew they weren’t alone.

Would the teachers at my school have tried to integrate technology to support student learning outcomes in their classes without my intervention? Sure. Many of us were already doing that. But by gathering an interdisciplinary group of teachers (i.e., English, history, mathematics, science, special and general education) and giving them time to learn about technology, they were exposed to different ways of using technology to support the acquisition of important skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. They took risks, built relationships, and forged bonds over shared successes and failures. Teachers were willing to go outside of their comfort zones…and I believe it’s because they knew that their village would be there every step of the way.

References

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Jonassen, D., Howland, J., Marra, R. M., & Crismond, D. (2008). Meaningful learning with technology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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