Mr. Rodriguez is a principal at Cedar Ridge Middle School. Test scores in language arts and math have not improved in the past two years. Fearing that his school might be placed on the district's list of schools in need of improvement, he feels pressured to make some changes, so he visits several high-performing schools to learn more about their programs. He also spends hours applying for grants that would allow his school to adopt several of these programs. Wanting to provide his teachers with the best training possible, Mr. Rodriguez arranges for presenters from several companies to come to his school at the beginning of the year and introduce new ways of teaching reading, writing, and math. Because the district has placed a strong emphasis on curricular integration, all teachers are required to attend the workshops, regardless of what they teach.
Mr. Rodriguez enthusiastically greets his teachers as they arrive for the first workshop; however, many of these teachers do not share his enthusiasm. Comments such as "Here we go again!" and "Why do we have to do this?" are overheard as teachers shuffle to their seats (nontenured teachers up front and experienced teachers near the back where they can carry on quiet conversations throughout the training).
Over the next three days, one of two things happens. Some of the presenters share enormous amounts of information, requiring teachers to flip quickly through piles of resource materials. Other presenters offer little or no insight. Much to his dismay, Mr. Rodriguez notices that his teachers' morale seems to deteriorate with each passing day. However, he reassures himself that once the school year gets under way they will find time to read the materials provided by the training and incorporate these new programs.
Several months later, Mr. Rodriguez notices that most of the training resources sit unopened on teachers' shelves. Even those who were excited at the time of the training aren't implementing the programs. With constant threats and reminders, Mr. Rodriguez can get his teachers to use bits and pieces of the training, but once he stops pestering them, they continue with the same routines they have used for years.
Professional development must include three important components to be meaningful: (1) all training activities should incorporate principles of adult learning; (2) professional development ought to provide teachers with multiple, varied exposures to new information; and (3) staff development should encourage teachers to practice new skills until they can apply what they have learned.
Application of principles of adult learning increases the productivity of professional development. The theory of andragogy, popularized in the United States by Malcolm Knowles (1980), proposes several basic assumptions about adult learning:
- Adults need to be self-directing. Autonomy is fundamental to adult learning. Allowing teachers to choose professional development of personal interest increases the likelihood that they will transfer newfound knowledge into classroom instruction. However, the degree of teacher autonomy should equal their developmental needs as discussed in Chapter 3.
- Adults have accumulated a vast reservoir of life experiences that should be tapped throughout the learning process.
Teachers value the experience they have gained through years of teaching. Ignoring these experiences can lead to resistance, defensiveness, or withdrawal from the learning activity. Thus, the more effectively innovations are linked to teachers' previous experiences, the more likely they will accept new practices. Collaboration, when used appropriately, can help teachers make this connection. Because adults rely heavily on past experiences to learn new information, it is unrealistic to expect teachers to abandon everything they have previously used to fully and completely embrace new innovations. As a result, strategies implemented by teachers are seldom identical to the way strategies were originally presented.
- Adults learn when they feel a need to learn. Knowles (1972) explains, "The adult . . . comes into an educational activity largely because he is experiencing some inadequacy in coping with current life problems" (p. 36). Unless educators feel dissatisfied with some aspect of their teaching performance, chances are good they will not feel a need to learn something new. The secret to success is helping educators develop a strong desire or need to learn without discouraging them. Assessment and evaluation, when used appropriately, can create this need.
- Adults are performance centered. For this reason, they are interested in learning practical information that can be applied to help them solve real-life problems. When planning professional development, ensure that each training session provides meaningful strategies that can be applied immediately; otherwise, teachers are unlikely to transfer what they learn to the classroom.
- Adult learning is primarily intrinsically motivated
(Knowles, 1984). Teacher participation in learning activities is based on personal needs rather than externally imposed requirements to encourage teacher participation. According to Stephen Brookfield (1986), intimidation or coercion has no place in motivating adult participation.
In summary, the ideal learning environment for teachers is one that values individual professional expertise, allowing them to choose practical strategies of personal interest that can be immediately applied to solve problems in the classroom.
Individuals learn and retain information when the learning process involves multiple and varied exposures to content over a fairly short period of time (Nuthall, 1999; Nuthall & Alton-Lee, 1995; Rovee-Collier, 1995). Rather than presenting excessive information through one-shot workshops, professional development should be a daily, ongoing process in which teachers study small amounts of information in detail and then apply this information multiple times in a variety of circumstances.
Practice bridges the gap between knowledge and application. According to Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001b), individuals need to practice a new skill about 24 times before they reach 80 percent competency. Professional development must be presented in a manner that provides teachers with multiple opportunities to practice new strategies, in order to reach a level of competency where teachers feel comfortable applying what they have learned.
Step 1: Identify best practices.
The motivational system of Fusion is based on the pursuit of best practices. The use of effect size can be helpful to schools when determining the effectiveness of instructional techniques. "An effect size expresses the increase or decrease in achievement of the experimental group (the group of students who are exposed to a specific instructional technique) in standard deviation units" (Marzano et al., 2001b, p. 4). Researcher Jacob Cohen (1988) explains that an effect size of 0.20 can be considered small, an effect size of 0.50 can be considered medium, and an effect size of 0.80 can be considered large (pp. 25–26).
Although it is important to use research to identify best practices, many exceptional teachers use effective strategies that perhaps have not been researched to the extent that an effect size has been determined. Disregarding these practices for the lack of a formal research base would do a great disservice to education. Therefore, use common sense as well as formal research when identifying best practices.
Step 2: Provide teachers with a Menu of Alternatives.
As best practices are identified, place them in categories (see Figure 1.1). The Menu of Alternatives is meant to be versatile. Schools are encouraged to add or eliminate practices or categories based on methodologies schools value.
Figure 1.1. Menu of Alternatives
Level 1: $50
Level 2: 2 points
Level 1: $75
Level 2: 3 points
Rules and procedures
Carrying out discipline actions
Teacher and student relationships
Maintaining an appropriate mental set
Level 1: $100
Level 2: 4 points
Level 1: $300
Level 2: 12 points
Identifying similarities and differences
Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
Sustained Silent Reading
Level 1: $200
Level 2: 8 points
Pre- and post-test
Level 1: $400
Level 2: 16 points
Rebecca Sitton Spelling
Level 1: $500
Level 2: 20 points
Enhance personal knowledge
Deliver quality instruction
Measure student progress
Organize unit binder
Strategies are single instructional techniques that facilitate the learning process. They generally are simple and straightforward. For example, the Venn diagram is a strategy that enhances learning.
Mike has been teaching for 20 years. He would like to refine his skills by learning how to use metaphors to teach content. At the beginning of the school year, he chooses "Metaphors" from the Menu of Alternatives. Throughout the year, as teachers participate in Fusion, Mike learns how to incorporate metaphors into his instruction.
Any technique or mannerism used by teachers to maintain safe, comfortable, and orderly environments that preserve the dignity of students, promote high expectations, and maximize on-task behavior would be placed under classroom management.
Megan is a first-year teacher. Similar to other new teachers, she struggles with classroom management issues. Her principal has advised her to learn more about classroom procedures. Megan selects "Rules and Procedures" from the Menu of Alternatives and then studies How to Be an Effective Teacher the First Days of School
(Wong & Wong, 2005) to learn how to better manage her classroom.
Technology is divided into two subcategories, the first being teacher centered. A teacher-centered focus on technology encourages competency in the use of word processing, spreadsheets, computerized grading systems, and other sources of technology that facilitate or enhance teachers' ability to meet student needs.
Gwen would like to incorporate the use of technology into her instruction but doesn't know where to begin. Her principal recently purchased interactive whiteboards for every teacher in the school and has encouraged Gwen to learn how to use this technology. To accomplish this goal, she chooses Activstudio (Pearce, 2009) from the Menu of Alternatives and uses Fusion to help her learn the basics of this software.
The second technology focus is student centered, helping students use technology to facilitate learning. Teaching students how to develop multimedia presentations is an example of a student-centered focus on technology.
Stephen has been using Activstudio for two years now. He feels comfortable with his personal competence but would like his students to learn how to use the interactive whiteboard. Stephen sets a goal to teach his students how to use Activstudio to refine their thinking of important concepts presented in class.
Approaches are a combination of two or more strategies used to facilitate the learning process. For example, Identifying Similarities and Differences (Marzano et al., 2001b) is considered an approach to instruction because it contains four strategies: comparing, classifying, metaphors, and analogies. Expertise in each of these strategies is necessary for teachers to truly understand the Identifying Similarities and Differences approach to instruction.
Becky is an English teacher who wants to enhance her ability to teach students how to summarize information and take notes. For this reason, she decides to focus on mastering summarizing and note taking (Marzano et al., 2001b). Her goal is to learn combination note taking, rule-based summarizing, and reciprocal teaching—strategies that will improve her students' ability to summarize information.
Effective use of formative and summative assessment is a crucial part of education. Formative assessment encourages teachers to closely monitor student progress throughout the learning process, whereas summative assessment determines student competence at the conclusion of a learning experience. Chapter 5 suggests ways educators can increase the productivity of assessment.
Raul is a veteran teacher who wants to better prepare his students for state tests. He decides that aligning formative assessment with state standards will help him monitor student progress more effectively. Therefore, he selects "Assessment" from the Menu of Alternatives and uses Fusion to help him accomplish this goal.
Commercial programs, adopted by schools or districts to target a specific content area, are another category on the Menu of Alternatives. For example, Writing Workshop (Calkins & Martinelli, 2006) is a program that focuses on the specific content area of writing. Programs can be quite complex, requiring great amounts of effort on the teachers' part to learn and implement them.
Springville Elementary School has recently adopted the Rebecca Sitton Spelling program (Sitton, 2006). The principal has made it clear that he wants every teacher to use this program with fidelity. For this reason, the faculty makes Rebecca Sitton the focus of professional development and uses Fusion to learn this program.
Curriculum refers to the development of organized units of instruction that make education relevant to students. Chapter 7 provides guidelines on ways teachers can enhance their personal knowledge of their content area, develop curriculum that corresponds with state and district standards, deliver instruction that engages students in higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy (Bloom, 1956), measure student progress, and organize resources into unit binders that can be used throughout teachers' careers.
Peggy and Rita are 6th grade teachers and have been involved with Fusion for the past four years. They have reached a point where they would like to integrate the strategies they have learned into thematic units of instruction. Therefore, Peggy and Rita's focus for this year is to use time devoted to Fusion to collaboratively develop a unit that is aligned with state standards, incorporates the practices they have learned, and engages students in higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy. Much of their professional development time will be spent searching for high-quality resources and organizing this information into a format they can use from year to year.
Step 3: Encourage teachers to experiment with best practices.
The motivational system of Fusion is divided into two levels of mastery. Level 1 exposes teachers to new instructional practices in a nonthreatening manner.
Fear of failure prevents many individuals, especially adults, from trying new things. For example, adults who have never played basketball more than likely will not join a city basketball league simply because they do not want to embarrass themselves in front of their peers. A similar attitude prevails for teachers who believe attempting new instructional practices means possible failure. For this reason, the purpose of Level 1 is to encourage teachers to take risks by experimenting with new teaching methods in a nonthreatening environment. Teachers with absolutely no summative authority—that is, power to fire, give raises, and so forth—oversee Fusion. This approach takes much of the threat out of peer observation. Also, realistic expectations prevent teachers from experiencing failure. As long as teachers have practiced an instructional strategy several times and can demonstrate a basic level of proficiency, they have completed Level 1. Finally, after finishing Level 1, teachers are rewarded with a one-time stipend based on the category of the instructional practice.
Paying teachers a stipend on completion of Level 1 is important. Not all teachers are motivated by money, but many are. The stipend acts as an external motivator to encourage teachers, even hard-to-motivate ones, to experiment with new instructional practices they otherwise would not attempt to learn. Also, similar to how a long-distance runner feels when crossing the finish line at the end of a challenging race, the stipend helps teachers feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction after learning a new instructional practice. This sense of closure is rewarding and motivates teachers to repeat the learning process. Finally, what better way is there to upgrade education than to reward teachers for improving their teaching skills? Rewarding ambitious teachers who continue to develop professionally provides schools with an incentive to attract and retain excellent teachers. Figure 1.1 (p. 16) shows the Menu of Alternatives with stipends assigned to each category. The amounts listed are for illustrative purposes; the amount of the stipend for each category may vary from district to district as long as it motivates teachers to experiment with new instructional practices without becoming too much of a financial burden.
On completion of the mastery process (described in Chapter 2), Mike would earn $50 for learning how to use metaphors to teach content, Megan would earn $75 for establishing classroom procedures, Gwen and Stephen would each earn $100 for becoming proficient with different aspects of Activstudio, Raul would earn $200 for successfully integrating formative assessment into his daily instruction, Becky would earn $300 for learning how to use Summarizing and Note Taking, teachers at Springville Elementary would each earn $400 for proficient use of the spelling program, and Peggy and Rita would each earn $500 for developing and incorporating a thematic unit that differentiates instruction and engages students in higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy.
Step 4: Encourage teachers to master best practices.
The purpose of Level 2 is to encourage teachers to refine their skills by using an instructional practice multiple times across the curriculum. To complete Level 2, teachers provide samples of student work or lesson plans that demonstrate the effective use of an instructional practice three times in three content areas for a total of nine times. Teachers who teach only one subject collect nine different samples within their content area. Each sample must include a brief teacher reflection stating what went well with the lesson as well as what they will do differently next time to improve their performance.
On completing Level 2, teachers earn points that are added together to earn a permanent increase in pay. Teachers earn 20 points for developing a quality unit, 16 points for mastery of a program, 12 points for the mastery of an approach, 8 points for effective use of assessment, 4 points for mastery of district-approved technology, 3 points for the mastery of a classroom management technique, and 2 points for mastery of an instructional strategy. To qualify for a permanent increase in pay, teachers must earn 65 points by mastering an instructional practice from each category on the Menu of Alternatives, and then earn another 10 points by learning additional instructional practices of personal interest for a total of 75 points.
After finishing Level 2, the teacher meets individually with the building administrator and the teacher facilitator to share her work. The principal and facilitator evaluate the teacher's samples of proficiency that have been collected in binders. The principal or facilitator may also ask the teacher to demonstrate any one of the instructional practices she claims to have mastered to ensure that true mastery has been attained. Once the principal and teacher facilitator determine that the criteria for Level 2 have been met, as outlined in Appendix A, the teacher qualifies for a salary change, regardless of where he or she stands on the pay scale.
Allowing new teachers to increase their salary by improving their effectiveness, rather than looking for secondary employment, helps develop and retain great teachers. Permitting experienced teachers who have reached the top of the pay scale to advance financially and professionally rekindles a passion for teaching. This process also motivates tenured teachers to share their wealth of expertise with others. Furthermore, leaders can feel confident knowing that when teachers advance on the pay scale through Fusion, they are learning best practices, whereas teachers taking traditional courses may or may not improve their teaching ability. Figure 1.1 (p. 16) shows a sample Menu of Alternatives with points assigned to each category.
Step 5: Incorporate Fusion into the traditional pay scale.
Districts can integrate Fusion into an existing pay scale in several ways. The first option is to allow teachers to advance financially as they have traditionally, through years of experience or by earning advanced degrees. The second option is for teachers to earn 75 points through Fusion. The third option combines the traditional pay scale with Fusion. Five points earned through Fusion is equivalent to one college credit. For example, let's say a teacher has earned 10 college credits but needs 15 to advance on the pay scale. However, due to circumstances, this teacher is unable to take university courses to earn the remaining five credits. Rather than becoming stagnant, he could earn 25 points through Fusion, which would be equivalent to five credit hours. Combining points earned through Fusion with the existing 10 credits would qualify this teacher for a permanent increase in pay.
Connecting Fusion with Best Practices
Teachers enjoy Fusion because it applies principles of adult learning (Knowles, 1980). The element of choice built into Fusion makes it intrinsically motivating. Permitting teachers to choose strategies from the Menu of Alternatives allows them to be self-directing, individualizes learning, and allows them to solve real-life problems. The structure of study groups and the mastery process (see Chapter 2) is performance centered and taps teachers' reservoirs of experience.
Fusion provides teachers with multiple and varied exposures to new information (Nuthall, 1999; Nuthall & Alton-Lee, 1995; Rovee-Collier, 1995). When they complete the mastery process, teachers will have independently read research pertaining to an instructional practice, responded to writing prompts, discussed the strategy in study groups, observed a mentor using the strategy, and demonstrated proficient use of the practice.
Fusion also encourages teachers to practice what they are learning. By the time teachers complete Level 2, they will have practiced a strategy at least 10 times. At this point, teachers will understand the practice well enough to decide whether it matches their teaching style.
Fusion provides teachers with short-term successes that energize the improvement process (Schmoker, 1999). Teachers typically complete the mastery cycle for a strategy and are paid a stipend within three weeks. This time frame gives schools the energy needed for improvement efforts to succeed. Contrast this approach with most merit pay or performance-based pay systems that require teachers to wait at least one year before receiving financial incentives. What would happen if teachers waited a year to reinforce positive student behavior? There is power in distributing stipends throughout the year rather than paying one lump sum.
From Our School to Yours
How Teacher Autonomy Influenced Our School
The concept of choice caused much discussion in our district. Teachers felt strongly about choice. They appreciated the freedom to choose which strategies to study, and they enjoyed being able to progress through the mastery process at their own rate. Allowing teachers to choose whether to participate in Fusion ensured that those involved wanted to be there. It also helped avoid conflicts that often arise between teacher associations and administrators regarding the use of district funds.
Administrators viewed teacher autonomy differently. Those with a traditional leadership style didn't think it was necessary. Others felt uncomfortable allowing teachers to choose whether to participate in Fusion because they felt it would cause division within their faculty. It was also inconvenient for principals to take responsibility for teachers who chose not to get involved.
Fortunately, our principal felt comfortable with the concept of teacher autonomy. Over time his patience paid off because hard-to-motivate teachers eventually chose to get involved with Fusion, which actually freed up more time for him to participate in Fusion as well.
Adult Motivation: More Than Money
Most teachers in our district would tell you that the main reason they got involved with Fusion was for the money. However, these teachers would also tell you that after a couple of months, their motivation shifted from earning money to learning best practices. Some teachers would spend many hours, over two or three months, to earn just $50. Obviously, money was not the motivating factor; self-improvement and the influence these strategies had on students were the driving forces.
The financial aspect of Fusion is motivating to teachers because it strikes a delicate balance between external and internal motivators. Stipends and the opportunity to advance on the pay scale act as external motivators. Internal motivators include achievement, responsibility, recognition, advancement, and the possibility for growth (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959). Schools must be careful not to disturb this delicate balance between external and internal motivators. For example, eliminating financial incentives once Fusion is running smoothly would disrupt the balance. Paying teachers for completing menial tasks not associated with Fusion would also destroy the motivating factor. Schools must also be careful not to associate stipends with the amount of time teachers put into learning an instructional practice. Mastery of some strategies may come quickly, others require more time, but it all balances out in the end.
The Sometimes Overwhelming Menu of Alternatives
Similar to how it is difficult to choose a flavor of ice cream among 30 options, choosing an instructional practice from hundreds of alternatives can be overwhelming. For this reason, schools should be encouraged to study the same strategies the first year they incorporate Fusion. Then, after teachers have become familiar with the mastery process, they can diversify their learning by splitting into interest groups. As mentioned in the preface, we began our studies with a book called Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement
(Marzano et al., 2001b). The strategies offered by Marzano and colleagues can be applied in virtually every content area and with students of all ages.
Educators must be aware that if their school decides to study the same strategies, students will receive multiple exposures to them. For example, students may see the Venn diagram in reading, writing, math, and other content areas. We even had music teachers use it to help students compare instruments and vocational teachers use it to compare types of tools. Remember, the goal of Fusion is to improve teachers' skills. If students say, "Oh, no, not the Venn diagram again!" keep in mind that the way to promote independence is for students to learn how to use these strategies to a degree that they can incorporate them on their own. So, if students complain, pat yourself on the back for helping them recognize the strategy and when to use it.
Flexibility as the Key to Productivity
Implementing Fusion at the high school posed unique challenges. Classroom management, based on the Wongs' (2005) book How to Be an Effective Teacher the First Days of School, was the school improvement goal for the year. Because the principal felt strongly about this goal, teachers worked together to develop observation criteria (see Chapter 2) related to classroom management strategies in this book rather than focusing on instructional strategies. This proved to be a wise decision that satisfied the principal and teachers.
Including Fusion with the Salary Scale
It took four years to convince our board of trustees to include Fusion with the salary scale. One reason they approved it had to do with our superintendent going out of his way to inform the school board about Fusion. He organized a dinner at the end of each year for board members, teachers, and principals from one or two schools. Educators used this as an opportunity to share what they were learning through Fusion as well as to share samples of student work. School board members were also invited to visit schools to gain firsthand experience with Fusion. Over time, as student test scores increased, the board agreed to allow teachers to advance one step on the pay scale through Fusion.
Principal Rodriguez decided to change his approach to staff development. This year, he waited three weeks before starting any professional development activities, thus allowing teachers to use contract days prior to the arrival of students to make the preparations needed to get the year off to a good start. This change in schedule worked wonders as far as teachers' attitudes were concerned. Knowing that their principal understood their needs made teachers more receptive to professional development.
Mr. Rodriguez also allowed teachers to decide whether to participate in Fusion. Although he initially felt uncomfortable doing this, he noticed that it made a difference in the attitude of his faculty. Most of his teachers, after discovering they could choose what they wanted to learn and then get paid for learning it, were excited to participate. Obstinate teachers had no reason to complain. Either they could participate in Fusion with a positive attitude, or they could work with the principal to set goals and develop other plans to enhance their professional growth. The choice was theirs.
About the second week of September, the teacher facilitator handed out a Menu of Alternatives during a faculty meeting. After looking over the variety of strategies available, teachers chose several practices of personal interest and completed a goal-setting worksheet. Some teachers chose one or two strategies; others chose five or six, depending on their personal circumstances. Mr. Rodriguez noticed that English teachers naturally selected strategies that would help them enhance reading and writing instruction, and math teachers chose skills that would help them improve student performance in math. Mr. Rodriguez was shocked to find that in a matter of minutes his teachers had professional development activities planned for the year.
The teacher facilitator gathered the goal-setting worksheets and later organized teachers with common interests into study groups. Ensuring that teachers had at least one thing in common when they got together to collaborate was a natural way to promote collegiality. The membership of groups changed from time to time throughout the year, allowing teachers to get to know peers with whom they normally didn't associate. Teachers who chose not to participate in Fusion met with Mr. Rodriguez and as a group developed a plan of action regarding what they would do to develop professionally.
With all of this in place, Cedar Ridge Middle School began its first year with Fusion. At first, Mr. Rodriguez was a bit skeptical about paying teachers stipends for learning best practices. He thought they should be willing to improve without a financial incentive; however, as the year progressed, he noticed that the motivating factor gradually shifted from earning money to learning best practices. This was evident in the new strategies he observed when conducting formal and informal evaluations. Best yet, he didn't have to pester teachers to apply what they were studying. Because teachers had chosen practices of personal interest, they didn't need someone to push them. Mr. Rodriguez also noticed that skeptical teachers who had chosen not to participate in Fusion at the beginning of the year began to express an interest as the year progressed. Because he and the teacher facilitator had been careful not to ostracize these teachers, they felt comfortable changing their minds and joining study groups. Mr. Rodriguez realized that teacher stipends were a small price to pay for the benefits his school was now reaping. After all, these same resources could have been used to purchase programs that probably would have joined the previous year's programs on the shelf.