Assignment 8

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DeWitt describes student engagement as, “how our students feel supported when they enter our doors, and how they feel challenged by what we teach. It means that we know their names when they attend our classes, and it means we encourage them to take a risk and try out for a team sport, band or chorus, or the drama club” (1). You developed a social-emotional learning plan or emotional intelligence approach for your selected school or school district in the Week 7 activity. In this assignment, you will expound on important factors that impact student engagement. 

Instructions

Use the SEL plan that you developed in Week 7 for this assignment. Use the textbook and other course materials to complete this assignment.

  1. Compare and contrast the social-emotional-learning plan or emotional intelligence approach that you developed in Week 7 with the current student engagement approach of another model of school organization. DeWitt explains that different terms have been used to describe “student engagement.” Before researching another school model, review the terms and components of this concept that are used on page 51 of the text.
  2. Identify which factors in your SEL plan mitigate for the potential impact of economic and social factors for your selected school.
  3. Use three sources (no more than five years old) to support your writing. One source must be from the textbook. Choose sources that are credible, relevant, and appropriate. Cite each source listed on your source page at least one time within your assignment. For help with research, writing, and citation, access the library or review library guides.

105

7
EVIDENCE

How Will You Evaluate Your Impact?
Im

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Student
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Evidence

Scan this QR code for a video introduction to the chapter.

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106 Instructional Leadership

How do we know that our instructional leadership practices have an impact? How do we go from an inspiring and satisfying conversation
around student learning to focusing on whether our words created actions
that ultimately had an impact on it? Just as with the program logic model,
we need to determine our needs, create activities that will help us meet our
needs, define outputs to put the improvements into action, and then collect
evidence to understand the impact of doing so. Instructional leadership is
not all about our own ideas of improvement—much of it is about the ideas
we inspire in others. However, we need to know that those ideas are result-
ing in improvements, and that is where evidence comes into our instructional
leadership story.

Evidence of impact is something that is always on my mind. We often
reflect on our days as leaders, but do we reflect with evidence? Without evi-
dence, aren’t we just remembering it the way we think it happened and not
necessarily the way it did happen?

The interesting issue is that when I train leaders in competency-based
collaborative leadership, the evidence part of the course is the most difficult
but also the most rewarding. I find that leaders are good at asking teachers to
collect evidence but not so good at collecting it themselves.

As a consultant and author, evidence of impact is something I often pur-
sue. It’s easy to give a keynote address or run an inspirational workshop, but
it’s less easy to see whether what those participants learned is actually being
used in their school. The question I pose to you here on evidence of impact is
the same one that I often ask myself: How do we know what we are doing is
having an impact on student learning? As leaders, we can use the reasoning
that we are too far removed from direct impact on students, but throughout
the book I have offered ways of having more direct impact. In my role, I can
use the excuse that I’m too far removed or that there are too many variables
that may prevent the work that I do to make its way to impacting students,
but if I don’t have impact, why I am doing what I do?

What does “evidence of impact” mean to you? In what ways have you collected evi-
dence of your impact? If you could become the instructional leader you dream of being,
where would be your greatest impact?

Mindful Moment

When looking at evidence of impact, it’s all about what we are measuring,
and we know we should be measuring those things we are trying to impact.
I do not believe there is one specific way to measure our impact. Rather, it’s
about the group driving the improvement engaging in dialogue around what

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Evidence 107

evidence they could collect that would show them the improvement was
working. Evidence collection should not involve sitting alone in our adminis-
trative office; it should involve working collaboratively with a group.

In the competency-based work that I do, participants are required
to bring evidence of impact around the six influences of collaborative
leadership, which are instructional leadership, collective efficacy,
professional learning and development, feedback, assessment-capable
learners and family engagement.

Student Voice Questions

Don’t forget about the students when collecting evidence. Many
participants bring in their notes or data but rarely bring in samples of
students’ work.

Additionally, when they meet to discuss their evidence, I remind them
that this is not a practice of judgment, meaning that we should not judge our-
selves based on the evidence we collect but look at it as a starting point. How
does the evidence we collect help us understand where we are in the learning
process, and what dialogue can we engage in to decide how to go further?
The following image is the slide that I use when diving into the conversation
regarding evidence and instructional leadership.

Collaborative dialogue is instrumental in the evidence collection process,
because it helps guide us to a deeper level of learning if we choose people to
collaborate with who have different ways of thinking than we do.

Figure 7.1 Evidence-Sharing Session

Evidence-Sharing Session

•• Instructional leadership—What evidence helps support your goal of being an
instructional leader?

•• Evidence sharing

— What evidence did you bring?

— How did you collect it?

— Whom did you engage in dialogue with around this evidence?

— What did you learn?

— What would you do differently next time?

Time: 30 minutes

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108 Instructional Leadership

evidence OF impacT

In the following pages, I will guide you through the process of collecting
evidence by using program logic and the implementation cycle. We will once
again focus on common language and common understanding.

As I stated earlier in the book, common language and understanding
are the cornerstones of a supportive and inclusive school climate. However,
common language and understanding can also help build an environment
around learning that I believe surpasses any discussion around content
expertise.

After the program logic model has been used to bring about a com-
mon understanding of the goal, it’s time to implement the cycle of learning
around the goal. The implementation cycle example in Figure 7.3 specifi-
cally looks at conceptual understanding around the most commonly used
words in education—words like “student engagement,” “growth mind-
set,” “differentiated instruction,” “cooperative learning” and “conceptual
understanding.”

When going through this process, we may want to choose activities with
the intent of facilitating the different levels of learning (surface, deep, and
transfer), in order. For example, we can use surface-level learning by provid-
ing staff members with one research-based article around conceptual under-
standing that they need to read prior to a staff meeting. At the staff meeting,
after discussing the research-based article, we dive into a deep level of learn-
ing by showing a video (from YouTube, from the Teaching Channel, or one
created by our own teachers), and then the teacher who is the expert at the
growth mindset or student engagement guides the teachers through a lesson.
This is often part of what is referred to as the “flipped faculty meeting” pro-
cess. Transfer-level learning comes in when teachers in the staff meeting feel
inspired to try one new instructional strategy to build student engagement
in the classroom, and the instructional leader sees that practice when doing
walkthroughs. It is important to note that not all teachers will feel confident
enough to try a new instructional strategy so quickly. They may need the
additional support of an instructional coach, peer, teacher leader, or instruc-
tional leader to help them achieve the next level, that of implementing those
practices in the classroom.

The evidence of impact collected, in this example, are the videos of
the practice being implemented, walkthrough observation notes from the
instructional leader, and the work created by the students.

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Evidence 109

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110 Instructional Leadership

Figure 7.3 Implementation Strategy for Concepts of Learning

Stage 1: Common
language/common

understanding

What are those words?
“student engagement,”

“growth mindset,”
“differentiated instruction,”

“cooperative learning”
or “conceptual
understanding”

Stage 2: Begin
researching the common

definition around the
chosen common

language

Group decides to focus
on one or two

research studies

Stage 3: At faculty
meetings, begin modeling

examples of how to put
the common language

into action

Stage 4:
Have a pilot group

implement the strategies
in their classrooms; film
the strategies in action

Reflect on evidence
collected (video,

observation notes,
teacher reflections,

student responses, etc.)

Who will it help?
How is it better
than what we are
already doing?

How are
teachers
involved?

Who is
responsible for
finding the
research?
How will the
research
be provided
to staff?

E.g., provide
video around
high-quality
conceptual
questions to
use in the
classroom.

Instructional
leader observes
and takes notes.

How can we embed
this into the
collaborative culture?

Based on research by Odom et al. (2014) and Fixsen et al. (2005).

Student Voice Questions
When it comes to common language and common understanding,
don’t forget the students. Randomly select students from a few class-
rooms, and ask them for their definition of the common language and
common understanding your staff is working on. If they know it, then
it’s a good sign that the work you are doing with staff is having a posi-
tive impact.

sTudenT engagemenT pRacTices

Let’s move on to another example. This time we will specifically look at
social-emotional learning. Figure 7.4 is a program logic model focusing on
social-emotional learning, which you read about in Chapter 4, on student
engagement. When I was a school principal, Kids Club was our student advi-
sory group created by teachers, and you will notice it specifically mentioned

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Evidence 111

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112 Instructional Leadership

Advisory Groups: Helping to
Create a Positive School Climate

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009) recommends school cli-
mate reform as a data driven strategy that promotes healthy relationships, school
connectedness, and dropout prevention” (Thapa et al., 2012).

According to the latest National School Climate Study (2012), “A growing number of
State Departments of Education are focusing on school climate reform as an essential
component of school improvement and/or bully prevention” (p. 2). Schools are often
looking for quality ways to create a safe atmosphere for students. Using advisory
groups is one way to promote a healthier and more nurturing school climate.

Student advisory groups are not what you are probably thinking. This doesn’t just
mean that school social workers and school psychologists work with groups of students
who are in need. Advisory groups are small groups of students that span the grades
in the school system, and every staff member has a part in it. It can help make a large
school feel a little bit smaller.

Student advisory groups allow for a couple of students from each grade level to
get to know kids in other grade levels. It also encourages students from upper grades
to be role models for the younger students in the school. Older students need to learn
to be role models and understand the responsibility that comes with being the oldest
students in the school. Establishing advisory groups is one way that many schools are
creating a community of learners and showing students that they have an important
part in their own educational process.

Kids Club

In the school district where I am principal, we have advisory groups at all of the ele-
mentary schools. The one in our particular school has been in existence since the year
before I became principal, while the other schools have created their groups over the
past few years. We call our advisory group Kids Club, but one school calls their group
Peace Groups, and the last school calls their advisory time together Tiger Talk (their
school mascot is a tiger). Kids Club was based on an idea that our staff got from read-
ing the book The Big Picture: Education Is Everyone’s Business by Dennis Littky.

in the Outputs column. It is one of the greatest examples of student voice that
we had in our school.

For those of you at the secondary level, this was actually a method of stu-
dent voice that was created based on a high-school model. From the program
logic model, we take a deeper look at what can be created out of it, which is a
student advisory group. As I mentioned before, ours was called Kids Club, and
I wrote about it for Education Week in the following blog post (DeWitt, 2012).

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Evidence 113

Advisory groups are not simple to put together, but the time it takes is well worth
it when the kids meet with their advisory teacher. Typically, once or twice a month we
meet with our groups for 15 minutes and talk about what is going on in the school or
at home. Sometimes they complete surveys on how much they enjoy the school lunch or
other aspects of the school. When I first became principal the students had an opportu-
nity to choose which playground equipment we could get for our new playground.

The advisory group that the principal has is not all the students who frequently get
into trouble. They are an evenly balanced group of students just like every other staff
member has. I have about 10 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. One of
the great things that happens is when a child transfers from our school to one of the
other elementary schools, they understand the concept of advisory groups already and
feel comfortable contributing to the group because they know the process.

Character Education

“There is extensive research that shows school climate having a profound impact
on students’ mental and physical health” (Thapa et al., 2012).

I have not always been a promoter of character education programs. It’s not that I
don’t believe in character education, because I do. I just believe that if the program
doesn’t become a part of the culture of a school, it is harder to see if it is effective.
Advisory groups offer schools the opportunity to really delve into the topic of character
education because the groups are the venue that help build the culture. In the words
of Todd Whitaker, “It’s people, not programs.” Advisory groups will be successful if the
people in the school believe in them.

In New York State we have the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). All schools in
New York State are required to “include classroom instruction that supports the devel-
opment of a school environment free of discrimination and harassment, including but
not limited to, instruction that raises awareness and sensitivity to discrimination and
harassment based on a person’s actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin,
ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, and gender” (N.Y.
State Commissioner Regulation 100.2 (c)). Our schools are using our advisory groups
as one way to meet this very important mandate.

In the End

Advisory groups can be beneficial to creating a safe and nurturing school climate. In
addition, they offer all students, even those who are new to the school, an opportunity
to feel like a valued member of the educational community. Many students feel a spe-
cial connection to their advisory teacher, because they may be in the same group with
them for up to six years.

(Continued)

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114 Instructional Leadership

School culture is so important to the educational process. It’s through a positive
school culture that we meet the social and emotional needs of our students so they will
feel safe and learn. We want our students to leave us feeling that we listened to their
needs, and advisory groups are just one of the ways that schools can meet that need.

Creating an Advisory Group:

•• Three or four teachers work together with a list of all staff members.
•• Add one or two students (depending on size of school) from each grade level into a

group.
•• Each group stays with the same staff member year after year. (This is clearly harder

to do with schools that have high teacher turnover or in schools that have experi-
enced many budget cuts.)

•• Put together monthly topics that each staff member should discuss. Remember that
not every staff member knows what to talk to kids about.

•• Use character education words. For example, every staff member in the district is
talking about “Respect” with their advisory groups.

•• Each staff member should get a plastic organizer that has crayons, pencils, scissors
and other supplies.

•• Organization is key. School days are busy, and the more the planning group can do
some of the thinking for each teacher, the better. Teachers need to be prepared on
the morning or afternoon of the advisory group meeting, in the event that some-
thing comes up that morning that prevents them from having everything they need
for the group.

Advisory Groups:

•• Advisory groups should last no more than 20 minutes.
•• The principal or secretary uses the loudspeaker to announce the beginning and end.
•• All staff members stand in the hallway to welcome students and make sure they are

being polite in the hallway as they individually walk to their advisory group.
•• Grades 1 through 4 students walk on their own to their Kids Club.
•• Grade 5 students pick up their kindergarten Kids Club peers and walk them to their

destination.
•• Every Kids Club group has a plastic organizer that holds different ideas for meet-

ings, as well as crayons, scissors, and other items needed for crafts and projects.

References

Littky, D. (2004). The big picture: Education is everyone’s business. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Higgins-D’Alessandro, A., & Guffey, S. (2012). School climate

research summary: August 2012. New York, NY: National School Climate Center.

(Continued)

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Evidence 115

Now that you have viewed the program logic model and have a deeper
understanding of advisory groups, we will look at the implementation cycle
used to put it into practice. This implementation cycle should happen at the
very beginning of the advisory groups practice. Clearly, the cycle below will
keep going on and on to reflect the growth process that the school commu-
nity goes through during the advisory group process.

Something that is not reflected in the cycle or the program logic model
is what I cited from Fullan’s work earlier in the book around the topic of the
implementation dip. When looking at social-emotional learning, student
engagement, and an extra task put on teachers such as advisory groups, it’s
important to understand that not every staff member will be on board, and

Figure 7.5 Implementation Strategy for Student Advisory Groups (SEL)

Stage 1: The need for
school-based SEL

practices

Student advisory groups
is a research-based

practice to help connect
students with the

school community

Stage 2: Focus on
creation of advisory
groups with school
stakeholder group

Stage 6: Hold the first
advisory group meeting,
which includes students

Stage 3: Stakeholder
group defines/explains

the advisory group
process to all
teachers/staff

Stage 4: At faculty
meetings, begin modeling

examples of what is
discussed at advisory

group meetings

Stage 5: Students are
provided with an advisory
group teacher and given
an understanding of what

happens during the
group meetings

Reflect on evidence
collected (i.e, student
responses to surveys,

teacher reflections)

Usually happens
at the end of one
school year,
and involves a
summer planning
group

How do we
involve all
teachers?

Each member
of the school
community
will have a group
of students
representative
of each
grade level
in the school

School
community
decides on
frequency of
meetings (i.e.,
once a week,
twice a month, etc.)

How can we embed
this into the
collaborative
culture?

Based on research from Odom et al. (2014) and Fixsen et al. (2005).

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116 Instructional Leadership

that will result in an implementation dip. Another thing to notice is the sheer
amount of work that goes into planning something like advisory groups.
However, the ends justify the means, because in a school community where
this emotional connection to school is established among students and teach-
ers, fewer students will feel alienated.

Over time, the evidence that can be collected will be student surveys,
teacher/staff reflections, the number of discipline referrals on the days when
advisory groups took place, and anecdotes around student interactions.
From a surface-, deep- and transfer-level learning framework, we would look
at what lessons students were learning as far as behavior was concerned,
how additional lessons were incorporated into classrooms after the initial les-
sons learned in advisory group, and how that learning transferred to student
learning when it came to students’ behavior (discipline referrals, community
involvement practices, etc.).

insTRucTiOnal leadeRship

Now that we have looked at focus on learning, student engagement, and
instructional strategies (i.e., used in the focus on learning implementation
example—Figure 7.3), let’s end by looking at where we began, which is
instructional leadership. Instructional leadership is a highly important topic
and the basis of this book. Many leaders refer to themselves as instructional
leaders, but many of their teachers may not agree with that. As I mentioned
at the beginning of this book, in my survey of several hundred principals,
nearly one fourth of the respondents affirmed that they were “very confi-
dent” in their instructional leadership ability. Another 43% stated that they
were “confident” in their role as instructional leaders, and only 8% confided
that they did not feel like instructional leaders at all. According to the similar
survey I sent to teachers, their confidence in their principal’s instructional
leadership ability, on average, was much lower than the confidence the lead-
ers themselves felt.

Why was this the case—why might teachers rate the instructional leader-
ship ability at their school less highly than their leader does? Perhaps their
leader is engaging in instructional leadership practices, but not all teachers
are in close proximity of that, so they do not see the leader engaged in those
behaviors. Or, it may be that many leaders believe they are instructional lead-
ers when they really are not. So, let’s take that information and incorporate it
into our program logic model, as well as the implementation cycle that can be
used for instructional leadership practices. Figure 7.6 gives an example of pro-
gram logic where instructional leadership is concerned.

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Evidence 117

As you can see from the program logic model in Figure 7.6, the leader
engages in activities and exhibits behaviors that will help him or her reach
a comfortable level as far as instructional leadership is concerned. All of
this is dependent on how much of a burden the leader is already under
due to district office demands, accountability measures and mandates
they are responsible for carrying out. Sometimes there’s just too much to
juggle. I want instructional leaders to understand their current reality, and
use that to guide how much they can move into this instructional leader-
ship space.

Last but not least, let’s look at the implementation cycle to help show
us what implementing instructional leadership practices might look like.
Please remember, the implementation cycle is dependent on what you can
do given your stressors. For that reason, one instructional leadership action
may take only a week to complete, whereas others may take months or a
year. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how long improvement may take.
What we know is that it can take months or years depending on the culture
and climate of the building. Although you have seen similar illustrations,
the implementation cycle in Figure 7.7 focuses on walkthroughs. As men-
tioned in the Chapter 5 blog post on the myth of walkthroughs, it is a very
popular activity among principals but is often not implemented correctly.
This implementation cycle will help you make sure walkthroughs are done
correctly.

In this implementation cycle I added a few more questions, and those
were meant to provide an opportunity for teachers to have a voice. Walk-
throughs, and instructional leadership, are about collaboration and dia-
logue. How can a leader and the teachers they work with learn from one
another? How does the process add to the leader ’s level of instructional
leadership?

Evidence that can be collected to understand the impact of walkthroughs
includes reflection activities on the part of teachers and the leader, copies of
the feedback provided by both groups, surveys completed by teachers, and
evidence of how the teachers took the feedback given by the leader and used
it in their instructional practices.

When looking at surface-, deep- and transfer-level learning, we can see
that surface-level learning takes place when a leader and a staff member
discuss the definition of walkthroughs and decide what they want out of the
experience. Deep-level learning takes place when the leader begins doing the
walkthroughs and provides, as well as asks, for feedback on how the activity
went. Was it successful? How could it improve? Transfer-level learning hap-
pens when the leader takes that feedback and puts it into action the next time
he or she completes the walkthrough process.

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118 Instructional Leadership

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Evidence 119

in The end

As I stated before, there is no hard-and-fast rule for how long implementa-
tion takes. However, I can tell you it’s never as fast as we want it to be, and
we often have to spend more time on it than we expect to. That’s why it is so
important to take one area and focus on it. Any other way of approaching
improvement will probably fail because we didn’t take enough time to col-
laborate with staff and dive deep into what it looks like, as well as discuss
how to learn from those moments it does not go well.

It is my hope that in this chapter I have provided you with enough expla-
nation of how to understand our impact by engaging in activities and col-
lecting evidence to see what was successful and what was not. In order to be
instructional leaders, we have to put learning at the heart of what we do, and
we have to make ourselves vulnerable enough that it is okay for us to make
mistakes in front of our staff.

Figure 7.7 Implementation Strategy for Walkthroughs

Stage 1:
Walkthroughs

What is the purpose
of walkthroughs?

Why?

Stage 2: Implement
walkthroughs in two

grade levels

Discussion about
process with pilot

group

Stage 3: Implement
walkthroughs in
same two grade

levels

Reflection/evidence/
evaluation

Stage 4: Invite in
more grade levels

How are
teachers
involved?

Who will they help?
How are they better
than what we are
already doing?

Evaluate impact

Who will be
involved?

What does
successful
implementation
look like?

How will they be
implemented?
Who will do them?
Pilot? Whole staff?
Can teachers/staff
provide feedback
on how they are going?
Can teachers
be a part of a
team that
completes
walkthroughs
together?

What feedback did the leader
provide? What feedback did the
teachers provide? Did it transfer
into practice?

Is this an
embedded
part of the
collaborative
culture?

Based on research by Odom et al. (2014) and Fixsen et al. (2005).

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120 Instructional Leadership

Instructional leadership is when those in a leadership position focus their
efforts on the implementation of practices that will increase student learn-
ing. Throughout the book I have focused on six components that I believe
are central to instructional leadership: implementation, focus on learning,
student engagement, instructional strategies, collective efficacy and evidence
of impact. These are six practical ways that leaders can practice instructional
leadership and have a positive impact on student learning.

This information is based on my experience as a school principal
and on research I have engaged in for decades, particularly my deep
research of the topic over the last year. It is also based on what I
have learned by working with some of the leading educational
experts in the world, and the information has come from what I have
learned by working with thousands of leaders, teachers, specialists
and instructional coaches over the last five years as a consultant and
author. I would like to leave you with one last piece of information. It is an
instructional leadership framework that I created while writing this book.
It is not meant to be a judgment of your present abilities, but it is meant to
provide you with a starting point. Please reflect on, and decide where you
sit presently in, all of these parts of instructional leadership. Out of the many
different components, where would you start digging in first? Would you
choose an area where you already have confidence but want to go deeper, or
one that represents an area of growth for you?

Instructional leadership is the most researched form of leadership but the
most difficult to display. Researchers can tell us where we should focus our
time, but many of those researchers do not have a leadership background,
so please just keep that in mind as you move forward. Try to find a balance
between what they advise and what you can realistically do. That even goes
for what I wrote in this book. Find a place in all of these instructional leader-
ship practices, and begin with the one that makes the most sense for you.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this book. I hope you
enjoyed learning from it as much as I learned from writing it.

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