Faculty Collaborative Study

Engaging the Faculty in Collaborative Study of the IPI Data

The significance of collaborative learning among faculty is well documented.  Whether noted in repeated research studies or defined in the National Standards for Professional Learning (see the website of Learning Forward, formerly the National Staff Development Council at Learning Forward.org or NSDC.org for details about the Standards), the opportunity for teachers to meet and study together is fundamental in today's knowledge of professional growth.  When teachers periodically meet to discuss and set common goals, to build knowledge and professional skills, and to discuss professional values and beliefs together,  the level of quality learning across the school and the academic success of students are positively impacted.  Quality professional development makes a difference in student learning...and a key ingredient in quality professional development is collaborative learning. 

The IPI Process for studying the IPI Data Profiles, learning from the profiles, and developing instructional strategies to improve the profiles are grounded in the fundamental knowledge for professional growth.  As noted in other sections of this website, once the IPI Team has collected the IPI data and organized it for faculty study, the next step is for the faculty to meet and learn from the data in a timely manner.  During the IPI Workshop, participants are provided with a set of strategies to support the faculty's study and learning experience.  The strategies are organized around five themes.  Those themes are listed and briefly explained below.

Theme One: Typicality

Each time a the faculty study their IPI Data Profiles, they should begin the session with small and large group discussions about the degree to which the day the data were collected was a "typical school day."  That discussion helps to mentally frame the day and the events and experiences that might have shifted the day from typical to atypical. 

The IPI Team should also engage the faculty in a discussion of the question: "Were my lessons and learning experiences for my students that day typical of how I would normally engage my students, or did I 'Jazz-up' my lessons because I knew my colleagues would be visiting my classes and looking at how my students were engaged?"  The discussion of this question must occur each time a faculty meets to study their data as a reminder of the importance that we (teachers) should do what we would normally do on data collection days, because if we don't our picture of engagement on the days we collect data will not be representative of engagement the other 175 days of the year. 

These discussions about typicality can and should be completed in about 10 minutes the first two or three times they occur and then in about 5 minutes or less thereafter.

Theme Two: Data Analysis

Each time a faculty meets to study their data, the faculty, working in small discussion groups of 4-6 teachers, should list on chart paper the findings in the data that they "can feel good about--things we can celebrate."  And in a like manner, the faculty should discuss and list "issues or concerns" that they should discuss and study in greater detail.  The analyses and discussions will take about 15-20 minutes each work session and evolve after two or three data collections to comparisons of the latest data profiles with the previous profiles and with the school's longitudinal and composite/average profiles.

Theme Three: Build New Knowledge, Understanding, and Competence

Once the faculty has developed the capacity to openly study their data, they are ready for purposeful professional development learning experiences designed to address the issues or concerns evident in the data.  The IPI Team is the group responsible for organizing, creating, and leading those learning experiences.  Once the faculty moves into this phase of "new learning," it becomes the primary focus of the faculty's IPI work sessions.  It should comprise about half of the session time (usually about 20-30 minutes). 

From our analyses of the varied practices used by schools to study their data, this "new learning" segment is the portion of the discussion that has the greatest impact on professional change.  Merely looking at profiles and studying the profiles may build awareness, but fosters minimal change in practice.  The issues need to be identified in the Data Analysis section of the work session and the ability to address those issues with new understandings and skills is the result of this portion of the session. That makes this portion of the study session the most important and the most difficulty to organize and implement for the IPI Team.  Teachers are seldom comfortable creating and leading learning experiences for their colleagues.  Therefore, the IPI Team must be knowledgeable in best professional development practices and use those practices to create new competencies about the nature of instructional experiences.  The data on engagement provide clear evidence about how students are cognitively engaged during class time...now at this juncture, the faculty must ratchet up the goodness of that engagement to improve the learning experience for their students. 

Theme Four: External Learning Time

What can the faculty do outside the collaborative study session that will support continued growth in the design and delivery of quality learning experiences.  This is another challenge for the IPI Team...how to create learning for the faculty after the IPI data study session.  This may take the form of professional reading, collaborative discussions by content area or grade level, action research in the classroom, peer observations and/or mentoring, etc., all designed to deepen knowledge and enhance teacher skill. 

Theme Five: The Value of the IPI Collaborative Faculty Work Session

At the conclusion of each faculty study session, the IPI Team is encouraged to ask the faculty to break into small groups to discuss two basic questions: Was this session of value to us as a school?  Was this session of value to me as an individual?  Reflective discussions of this nature empower faculty to provide feedback to the IPI Team, increase the likelihood the faculty will build comfort and commitment to the process because they are being empowered, allow the faculty to review and consider the issues discussed, and help the faculty place the current discussion in the context of the big picture of overall school direction and long term goals. 


Final Thoughts about School-Wide Collaborative Learning

In recent years educators have been encouraged to establish professional learning communities.  In so doing, it is easy to create pockets of knowledge on varied issues for small numbers of faculty.  However, when the faculty need to study school-wide data that represent all classes and all students, it is best for the faculty to meet collectively in the same location and then divide up randomly into small work groups to study the data.  In so doing, the small groups can share out their discussions and the IPI Team can generate for the faculty a big-picture summary of the discussions.  

However, there is an appropriate time for small groups to meet and discuss IPI data in isolation.  By the end of the first year of data study, the faculty should be asking questions such as, "Can we disaggregate the data by content area or grade level?"  That is a logical and appropriate question to address once the faculty has a high level of comfort with the IPI process and the skills to study their data independently in smaller groups.  Therefore, the faculty can discuss collectively the whole-school data and at a different time discuss in small groups their appropriate disaggregated data.  There is much to be learned when the three fourth grade teachers meet to study the engagement data for all fourth graders and when the math teachers meet to study engagement across math classes. Those discussions are appropriate, but are clearly different than the faculty meeting in various locations across the building to study the whole-school data, without the benefit of sharing out their small group discussions with the whole faculty.  The "collective, collaborative" learning experience as a whole faculty fosters broader understandings and commitment to the school's goals for student engagement.