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Complex Learning around a Simple Tool: Improving Instructional Supervision by Improving Lesson Analysis



Complex Learning around a Simple Tool:

Improving Instructional Supervision by Improving Lesson Analysis


Pamela Coats VandeKamp

Doctor of Education

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Heinrich Mintrop, Ph.D., Chair

Classroom instruction is a complex interaction that takes place each day between the teacher and students. The teacher has the responsibility to ensure that students are engaged in learning new skills or content, while students are responsible for responding to the teaching in a way that contributes to their own learning. With this in mind, it is important to consider the role of the principal in regards to the effectiveness of the teacher as she or he fulfills this responsibility. Ideally, the principal is the person designated to visit classrooms, observe instruction and develop an analysis to be used by teachers to make necessary improvements.

Nonetheless, in many schools, the principal is not able to adequately provide teachers with effective feedback about classroom instruction. This can be attributed to multiple factors regarding the many roles of the principal as manager, facilitator, district representative and parent liaison. One of the most common factors in this dilemma is that principals do not always have the requisite skill or the experience needed to analyze a sequence of teaching for quality instruction. Only when principals have the knowledge to conduct an in depth analysis of the teaching that occurs in the classroom and provide an analysis of what they have observed are they able to create effective feedback for teachers.

Above all, feedback begins with a clear vision about what instruction should look like in the classroom, observations that describe the current practices that occur during teaching, and a mechanism to move from the current to the desired practices. Clearly, this failure to analyze high quality instruction contributes to insufficient student achievement and engagement in classrooms around the country.

This Design Development Study addresses the lack of skill among principals to analyze classroom instruction. Through a series of carefully designed professional development opportunities, a cohort of five elementary principals participated in reading professional literature, observed sequences of quality instruction, and engaged in facilitated discussions to deepen their understanding of the behaviors of teaching and learning. They also were introduced to a structured framework for elements of instruction that contributed to the development of a common language for use in their discussions about high quality instruction.

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