Instructional Support Teams (IST) Help Enhance Instructional Skills

In many school districts teacher improvement is measured by a traditional, outdated evaluation process conducted by building administrators.  Very little improvement occurs for teachers as a result of this archaic process.  Many of these observations are directed by individuals lacking background  knowledge in an area of the curriculum being observed and evaluated. For the master teacher it is an exercise that rarely provides growth producing feedback. For the marginal teacher, it turns into a dog and pony show. In other words a lesson that is special and unique  for the formal observation but rarely repeated throughout the year.  However, we are entering a positive period  with many changes to the evaluation process that are improving teaching and learning. The shift is to more of a self directed goal setting process that guide teachers in enhancing their own professional practice.  Among the current researchers encouraging this change are  Charlotte Danielson, Richard Elmore, and Robert Marzano. A strategy  that integrates well with this change is the Instructional Support Team (IST) experience.It is initiated  by supportive principals encouraging  teachers  to voluntarily form a three  to four person cohort team. The teams can be organized  by grade level, departmental, cross departmental, or cross district. The process begins with the cohort deciding on an area of focus. Examples could include the set of the lesson, pacing, student engagement, motivating the reluctant learner, or questioning strategies. Each member over a month will make drop in visits of cohort members observing the identified skill. After a few weeks the group meets to discuss what they gleaned from their observations. At the center of  the IST process is self reflection on how to improve their own skills. This is not an evaluative process. A positive enhancement  to assist the process would be  the addition of an independent facilitator to guide the cohort through their meetings. Participating in an  IST  provides opportunities beyond skill enhancement. Cohorts have shared improvement and growth in collegiality, collaboration, modeling learning for students, administrative support, and planning. When teachers are encouraged to observe one another , good things happen. Robert Marzano shares this about peer to peer work.” When teachers have an opportunity to observe and interact with their colleagues in a non-evaluative way regarding instruction, everyone wins.” Hickey Leadership Group encourages schools to begin implementing Instructional Support Teams. It will make a positive difference for staff and students. Get started.

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