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Curriculum team leaders: Individual perspectives toward instructional supervision of teachers

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Michael Keith Conley
Abstract:
Accountability demands on schools are increasingly difficult to meet at the local, state, and national levels. This study examined the perspectives of curriculum team leaders (CTLs) that are one middle school's response to increased accountability and changing student population. The CTLs provide instructional supervision to same-grade, same-subject curriculum teams. Four CTLs were chosen for this case study and data was gathered using focused interviews, observations, open-ended questionnaires, and artifact collection. A discussion of the CTLs' work, recommendations for schools seeking to use teacher leaders to provide instructional supervision, and suggestions for further research is included.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

Acknowledgments ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... iii

List of Tables ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... viii

List of Abbreviations ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... ix

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY ................................ ................

1

Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ....................

5

Purpose of the Study ................................ ................................ ............................

6

Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ .....................

7

Research Questions ................................ ................................ ..............................

7

Research Plan ................................ ................................ ................................ ......

8

Operational Definitions ................................ ................................ .......................

9

CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE ...............................

11

Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ........................

11

Learning Communities ................................ ................................ ........................

13

Teacher Leadership ................................ ................................ ..............................

22

Instructional Supervision ................................ ................................ .....................

34

Summary of Research ................................ ................................ ..........................

40

CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODS ................................ ..............................

43

Research Questions ................................ ................................ ..............................

43

Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ..

44

v

Page

Profile of Rosewood County Schools ................................ ................................ ..

45

Subjects ................................ ................................ ................................ ................

49

Procedures ................................ ................................ ................................ ...........

52

Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ....

52

The Researcher’s Role ................................ ................................ .........................

58

Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......

59

Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ .....................

63

Ethical Consideration ................................ ................................ ..........................

63

Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ...........

64

Research Schedule ................................ ................................ ............................... 64

CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ....................... 66

Profile of Rosewood County ................................ ................................ ............... 67

Context of the Research Site ................................ ................................ ............... 67

Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 70

Questionnaires ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 70

Observations ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 71

Artifact Collection ................................ ................................ ............................... 72

Individual Participants ................................ ................................ ......................... 72

Relating Research Questions to Themes ................................ ............................. 77

Themes ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 78

Collaboration: Working on the Work ................................ ................................ ..

79

vi

Page

Role of CTLs: Individually Developed ................................ ............................... 84

Collaboration: Collegial Cult ure with Teachers ................................ .................. 87

Autonomy: Freedom to Lead ................................ ................................ ............... 92

Shared Leadership: Fact or Fiction ................................ ................................ ...... 94

Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 97

CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................... 99

Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 99

Discussion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 102

Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 107

Suggestions for Future Research ................................ ................................ ......... 109

Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 111

REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 113

APPENDICES

A

STUDENT STAFF POPULATION DATA ................................ ........................ 121

B

KEY RESULTS FROM 2010 - 2011 LOCAL SCHOOL PLANS FOR

IMPROVEMENT ................................ ................................ ................................ 122

C

FACULTY AND STAFF SUPPORT ................................ ................................ .. 125

D

ROSEWOOD MIDDLE SCHOOL CURRICULUM TEAM LEADER

PROFILE ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 126

E

INTERVIEW TEMPLATE ................................ ................................ ................. 127

F

INITIAL QUESTIONS/REVIEWER COMMENTS ................................ .......... 129

vii

Page

G

MAIN STUDY INTERVIEWS ................................ ................................ ........... 131

H

CODING CATEGORIES ................................ ................................ .................... 268

I

TEAM MEMBER QUESTIONNAIRE RES PONSES ................................ ....... 269

J

PRINCIPAL/ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL QUESTIONNAIRE RESPONSES .... 278

K

CURRICULUM TEAM LEADER REFLECTIONS ................................ .......... 284

L

OBSERVATIONS ................................ ................................ ............................... 286

M

ARTIFACT COLLECTION ................................ ................................ ................ 302

N

PRINCIPAL CONSENT FORM ................................ ................................ ......... 303

O

CONSENT FORM ................................ ................................ .............................. 304

P

AUDIT TRAIL ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 306

Q

BUDGET ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 309

viii

LIST OF TABLES

Page

Table 1

Student Ethnicity ................................ ................................ ........................... 46

Table 2

Research Participant Profiles ................................ ................................ ......... 50

Table 3

Curriculum Team Totals ................................ ................................ ................ 51

Table 4

Order of Research ................................ ................................ .......................... 53

Table 5

Student Population ................................ ................................ ......................... 68

Table 6

Teacher Profiles ................................ ................................ ............................. 73

Table 7

Role Explanations ................................ ................................ .......................... 85

ix

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS)

Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT)

Curriculum Team Leaders (CTLs)

Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

Rosewood County Public Schools (RCPS)

Rosewood Middle School (RMS)

1

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY

The field of instructional supervision has been struggling to find its role in

contemporary leadership because the search for the understanding of w hat effective instructional leadership is has disregarded the fact that collegial supervision of instruction may be the key underlying factor in improved classroom instruction and student learning.

Glanz, Shulman, & Sullivan, 2007 , p. 21

A ccountability issues have driven the need for change in today’s schools. Georgia’s A Plus Education Reform Act o f 2000 , the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 , high stakes testing (state mandated standardized tests) , benchmark tests (implemented by the local school systems), and reporting of test results on school report cards have increased the pressure on teachers and administrators for students to achieve at high levels (Hol m es & Sielke, 2000) . These measures work together to create more accountability demands for

administrators and teachers.

The typical hierarchal structure of schools is “principals , assistant principals, teachers, and staff, with the principal expected to provide the great bulk of the leaders h ip” ( Lindahl, 2008) . Historically the principal’s role as instructional leader has emerged as the focus related to providing instruc tional su pervision to teac h ers ( Colantonio, 2005; Lindahl, 2008; Palandra, 2010 ; Shulman, Sullivan, & Glanz, 2008 ). In some cases, schools have utilized curriculum coaches to assist the principal (S h ulman et al., 2008) . In most settings, the principal has the resp onsibility of curriculum monitoring added to their duties as instructional leader (Br o oks, Solloway, & Allen, 2007) . As a result principals struggle to balance the evaluation of teachers, the desire to help teachers improve, and the overwhelming responsib ilities of school administration (Brooks e t

2

al. , 2 007; Colantonio, 2005; Williamson & Blac k burn, 2009) . The focus on instructional supervision of teachers is minimized by the number of demands school administrators have on their time.

In light of these in creased demands for time and accountability, proactive schools are searching for ways to meet the needs of diverse student populations . One way schools are meeting these needs is by refining t he organization and approach educators use to teach students . Part of the refining process has been to engage teachers as leaders in the school . More specifically, teachers are leading in the instructional supervision of teachers . Accordi n g to Lindahl (2008) it is “difficult to separate leadership from administrati on because the hierarchal administrative structure in school s use the same individuals to fulfill both roles.”

In light of this difficulty, schools are exploring ways to use these teacher leaders to impact teaching and learning in the classroom and not as

administrators.

The instructional supervision of teachers is one - way schools can use the expertise of teacher leaders.

Teacher leadership appears in different forms and models . Hobson and Moss (2010) describe three models of teacher leadership: (a) the lead teacher model ; (b) the multiple leadership roles

model ; and (c) the every - teacher - a - leader model . Each of these models emphasizes the instructional supervision of teachers by a teacher leader in some form . A teacher leadership role in these models “implies that teacher leadership involves the proactive involvement of teachers in impacting, enhancing, and preparing the greater community through the focus on education” (Hobson & Moss, 2010 , p. 30).

3

In order to utilize teachers as leaders, schools are changing the organization and approach educators use to teach students. The word community is repeatedly referenced in school reform literature (Dufour, 2004; Gates & Watkins, 2010; Graham, 2007; Hug h es & Krist s onis, 2006) . Ma ny schools have adopted some for m or model of community to better proved instructional supervision to teachers and to have a more positive impact in the areas of accountability and changing school demographics . When exploring the types of school communities being utilized several tit les are used, Learning Community, Learning Organization, Professional Learning Community, School Community, Community of Learners, and Professional Communi t ies ( An gelle , 2007; Dufour, 2004; Gates & Watkins, 2010; Hobson & Moss, 2010 ) . The varieties of mod els share the common characteristics of a shared vision, ongoing learning, shared practice, and collabora t ion ( Angelle, 2007; Dufour, 2004; Graham, 2007) . In response to the greater demands of accountability, schools utilize these community principles to m eet the challenges in schools.

In response to the demands of accountability, many schools have adopted the community principles of p rofessional learning communi t ies ( PLCs) . Professional learning communities have become one of the most talked about ideas in education today (Thompson, Gre g g, & Niska, 2004). School leaders implement t he basic principles that d e fine PLCs to meet the needs of students.

The basic characteristics of a PLC include supportive and shared leadership, collective learning and applicat ion of learning, shared values and vision, supportive condition s, and shared personal practice ( Dufour, 2004; Graham, 2007; Hord, 1998).

4

When, Rosewood Middle School (a pseudonym

for a large urban middle school in northeast Georgia ) , began searching for n ew ways to meet the needs of a changing student population and

demanding accountability measures, the school leadership turned to professional learning communities. The research surrounding professional learning communities “demonstrated that professional learning community activities had the potential to achieve significant improvements in teaching effectiveness” (Graham, 2007, p. 6). The PLC principles

became a driving force for changing the ability of the school to address the

needs of more student s from lower socioeconomic levels and a rise in the schools’ minority population.

In large schools like Rosewood, organization is a key element. For the past twelve years the school has been divided into five comm unities. Each community consisted of approximat ely 600 students, one assistant principal, one counselor, and one clerk. The school organiza tion concept used at Rosewood was referred to as a school within a school. Leadership in the school included the principal, six assistant principals, one

assistant principal exclusively for special education services , and one local school technology coordinator . The assistant principal s

supervised every duty, responsibility , and committee of the Rosewood Middle School program. Teachers in the school cho se areas in which to serve as part of individual committee assignments (see Appendix C for a list).

Rosewood has been serving students’ needs for t welve years. The school h as not been hindered by size and continually works to meet the needs of the student population.

Entering the 2009 - 2010 school year Rosewood Middle School reorganized its delivery

5

model. Due to new school openings in the district, Rosewood’s enrollment decreased by approximately 600 students. Reductions in local and state funding allotments resulted in changes in personnel and changes in the delivery of instruction necessary to meet student needs. The school now operates with grade level academies instead of communities. Three of the five wings of the school each contain one grade level. One additiona l wing houses both seventh grade and eighth grade students. Each grade level wing has approximately 760 students. The last wing contains connections teachers who teach a variety of courses across grade levels. The special education teachers are housed on t he grade level wing that contains their assigned student caseload. Each grade level retains one assistant principal, one counselor and one clerk. There are two additional assistant principals: one administrator of special education services and one adminis trator of testing and scheduling. Each of these administrators, as well as the principal, works with a curriculum team and curriculum team leader to plan instruction.

Statement of the Problem

Rosewood Middle School has spent the past years working to impl ement

professional learning community principles. Richard Dufour (2004), originat o r of PLCs, stated

that “to create a professional learning community, focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results” (p. 6). The adm inistrative team focused on the basics of developing a collaborative community model based on professional learning community principles .

These PLC basics formed the beginning of Rosewood Middle School ’s change to a learning community in an effort to meet the needs of students .

6

Rosewood Middle School created same grade level and same subject curriculum teams as part of using PLC principles . The purpose of th e collaborative academic team was to focus on planning instruction and h ow well stud ents are learning. C u rriculum Team Leaders (CTLs), who serve as teacher s in the same grade level and subject , lead the teams of teachers . The CTLs lead the weekly

curriculum team meetings. CTLs also work as part of the school leadership team (one principal, five assistant principals , and CTLs from each grade level and each subject.) An assistant principal is assigned to each curriculum team and works with each CTL to support teachers ’ wo rk implementing best practices. U sing a case study ap p roach ,

I examined the work of these CTLs as they provided instructional supervision to the curriculum teams.

Purpose of the Study

Th is

dissertation examine d the work of a school committed to becoming a learning community based on professional learning community

principles. Specifically, the study examine d a middle school’s collaborative model and the perspectives of

specific instructional leaders as they participate in the instructional supervision of teachers.

The instructional leaders, known as curriculum team leaders, lead teams of teachers to focus on planning and instruction. Collaboration occurs among teachers as well as, between the curriculum team leaders and school administrators. The collaborative model and the instructional leaders who provide instruct ional supervision to the team are this

school’s response

to a changing student population and g reater demands of accountability . This dissertation sought to determine the perspectives of the curriculum

7

team leaders as they provided instructional supervisio n to teachers. The curriculum team leaders fill a leadership role that principals are struggling to fulfill. The case study provided a view into the leadership activities of curriculum team leaders as they provide instructional supervision. Additionally, t he case study provided insights into the supportive structure needed to enable curriculum team leaders to provide instructional supervision to teachers.

Significance of the Study

The

dissertation examined the perspectives of the CTLs work in instructional

supervision . There have been studies assessing the models used in professional learning communities and their success (Graham, 2007 ; Hord, 1997, 1998; Thompson et al., 2004 ). Additionally, high school department chairs and their perspectives on instructio nal supervision ha ve been studied (Kruskamp, 2003; Zepeda & Kruskamp, 2007). Several researchers examined a varied number of learning community models and the roles of leaders in those mo d els ( Angelle , 2007; Gates & Watkins, 2010; Hobson & Moss, 2010 ). Thes e studies have not addressed the work of specific instructional leaders in learning community models at the middle school level. The case study

examining the perspectives of curriculum team leaders providing instructional supervision in a middle school learning community will add a new strand to instructional supervision and learning community research.

Research Questions

The dissertation focus ed on the work of CTLs as it pertained to instructional supervision of classroom teachers. The study examine d the perspectives of a group of

8

CTLs as they provide instructional supervision within a middle school using PLC principled practices. The following rese arch questions guid ed this study:

1.

To what extent are the perspectives of instructional leaders associated w i th

increase d accountability regarding a change in student population ?

2.

What are the most significant themes in instructional supervis ion desc r ibed by

curriculum team leaders?

3.

To what extent a re the curriculum team leaders able to supervise teachers within

learning communities for maximum effectiveness?

Research Plan

The research was conducted using a qualitative design approach. The

case study design was chosen because it provided an emphasis on “understanding why the individual does what he or she does” and “how behavior changes” in response to their environ m ent ( Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh, & Sorensen, 2006). The goal of the case study w as to examine

the individual perspectives of a group of CTLs as they provide instructional supervision within a middle school using PLC principles.

I

used the case study as a lens to explore the “whole individual in the totality of that individual’s enviro nm e nt” ( Ary et al., 2006, p. 457). The case study allows

research that provides insights to

an

“ in - depth description of a specific u n it”

( Ary et al., 2006, p. 456) that will enable others to apply supportive

data to their own professional learning community practices. School leaders that are searching for ways to improve teaching and learning can use the research to determine the role of the curriculum team leader

within their individual professional learning community model and other individual col laborative models .

9

Operational Definitions

Before discussing the specific details of the study, it is imp ortant to define some key terms that will be used frequently over the course of this disserta t ion :

Curriculum Team Leader s (CTL) - is a teacher that gui des specific curriculum teams in the collaborative practices of a professional learning comm unity . The CTL is par t of the leadership team of the middle school and uses professional learning community principles to meet student needs .

Collaborative Curricul um T eams - is

a group of teachers

interacting within a same - grade , same - subject curriculum team that implement professional learning community practices to improve instruction. The teams work in the curriculum areas of math, language arts, science, social st udies, and connections.

Instructional supervision - is a proactive, ongoing set of processes and procedures with the purpose of improving classroom instruction (Zepeda, 2005). It is formative, not evaluative. The aim of instructional supervision is “to prom ote growth, development, interaction, fault free problem solving, and a commitment to building capacity in teachers” ( Zepeda, 2007, p. 29).

These processes are designed to affect the approaches that allow teachers to learn from other teaching professionals by analyzing and reflecting on their classroom

practices ( Zep e da & Mayers, 2004 ).

Professional Learning Communities (PLC) - a work approach used by schools to

increase the effective prac tices of schooling. T he school staff is required to focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively on matters related to learning, and

10

hold itself accountable for the kind of results that fuel continual improvement (Dufour, 2004).

Sym b olic Interactionism - a methodological framework that examines how people attac h meaning to their interactions with other people.

11

CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE

The purpose of the case study was to understand the perspectives of curriculum team leaders (CTLs) as they provided instructional supervision to a team of same - subject, same - grade middle school teachers . The CTL’s work as leaders in instructional supervision is an effort by the school to meet the accountability demands in meeting student needs. The foundation for the study was based in three areas of rela ted literature encompassing learning communities, leadership, and instructional supervision. Using a qualitative approach, interviews of CTLs were conducted to determine their perspectives. The core research questions that guided the study were:

1.

To wha t extent are the perspectives of instructional leaders associated with

increase d accountability regarding a ch anging student population ?

2.

What are the most significant themes in instructional supervision described by curriculum team leaders?

3.

To what extent a re the curriculum team leaders able to supervise teachers within learning communities for maximum effectiveness?

Theoretical Framework

The methodological framework used to guide the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the case study is sy m b olic interactionism (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007 ; Silverman, 2000 ). The research focus ed on recording the perspectives of curriculum team leaders as they provided instructional supervision to middle school teachers. The

12

sym b olic interactionism framework, “whic h focuses on how we attach symbolic

meanings to interpersonal relations” (Silverman, 2000, p. 77), provide d a lens to use in obtaining the real - life experiences of the people being studied. Accordi n g to Bogdan and Biklen (2007), people in a given situation develop common definitions or share perspectives since they regularly interact. The interactions lead individuals to develop the self, which is the “definition people create (through interacting with others) of who they

are” (2007 , p. 29 ).

The development of self directly influences the role of individuals when interacting in an organization. The construct of role theory

aids the analysis of interpersonal behaviors of people in an organization. In the book

Organization al Behavior in Education: Adaptive Leadership and School Reform ,

the authors Owen s and Valesky

(2007) compare how real - life and a play on a stage are related. The analogy states that

People in organizations have definite roles to perform, and many interact ive factors help to determine precisely what kind of “performance” each role will receive. Each “actor” must interpret his or her role, and this interpretation depends to some extent on what the individual brings on the stage – is influenced to some extent by dynamic interplay with other people: other acto rs and the audience .

(Ow e ns & Valesky , 2007, p. 130)

The role performance analogy emphasizes the importance of expectations set forth by onlookers and by the person occupy ing the role ( Ow e ns & Valesky, 200 7). These influences work to shape an ind ividual’s interpretation of the role within the organization.

13

T he sym b olic interaction ism framework, including the construct of role theory, is applicable to the proposed study of CTL ’ s perspectives providing instr uctional supervision. The social interactions that CTLs experience, while providing instructional supe rvision to teams of teachers, has a direct relation to the roles and meanings CTLs have developed. The case study sought to determine the perspectives CTL s have toward their role in providing instructional supervision.

Learning Communities

The idea of improving schools by developing collaborative approaches is an approach schools use to meet the needs of stud e nts ( Angelle, 2007; Dufour, 2004; Hobson & Moss, 2010; Nelson, D e uel, Slavit, & Kennedy, 2010). Collaborative learning groups can be manifested under a variety of titles, such as professional learning community , learning community, communities of practice, or knowledge communi t ies ( Angelle, 2007; Dufour , 2004; Hobson et. al., 2010; G ates & Watkins , 20 1 0 ). Angelle (2007) suggests that given the scope of federal and district mandates that fall upon schools, school wide lear n ing and the development of lear ning communities are essential.

Research indicates p rofessional learning community approaches produce positive outcomes for both staff and students ( Duf o ur & Marzano, 2009; Graham, 2007; Hord, 1997 ; 1998 ). Many schools that desire to improve their effectiveness are using the learning community model s to improve teacher instruction and student achievement. Teacher leaders are important to schools using learning community principles and are the focus of the dissertation research . The review of literature include d studies related to varied learning commu nity models and their effect on schools an d instruction.

14

Richard Dufour is considered an expert o n the concept of Pr ofessional Learning Communities. S chools desiring to meet the needs of students use similar concepts of learning communities. As mentioned previously in this chapter, the learning community may have several names, but share the same va l ues.

Senge (1990) developed t he concept of a learning community in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Although a business focused book the learning organization model he espoused has been integrated into the education commu n ity. Senge (1990) identified five keys to develop in a learning organization. The five keys are:

1.

Personal Mastery – continual learning to expan d one’s personal capacity

2.

Mental Models – reflecting, clarifying, and improving personal beliefs and attitudes

3.

Shared Vision – building a shared vision with principles and guided practices

4.

Team Learning – transforming collective thinking skills so that peo ple can develop intellig ence and ability greater than their own.

5.

Systems Thinking – understanding the system as a wh o le . ( pp. 7 - 10)

Senge’s five attributes are similar to the basic Professional Learning Communities attributes (Dufour, 2004). In particular both learning communities espouse building a shared vision among the stakeholders involved. Secondly, an important habit is using the collective thinking skills and creativity in order to improve. When schools are focusing on the people in the organizatio n to improve outcomes, using the collective expertise of stakeholders can promote success in the learning community. A third item that the two

15

learning communities share is in the shared personal practice and mental models approach. Schools that desire to improve their instruction, thus the positive impact on the outcomes, must reflect on personal practice and seek ways to improve from others. Part of this involves continually learning to expand knowledge and thus one’s capacity to improve. Lastly, learning communities must focus on the organization as a whole. This requires less focus on individual parts and more focus on the end goal. In a school that is a focus on teaching and learning. Additionally, this requires supportive relationships among the leader s in the learning organization. When stakeholders share the same vision, focus on the outcomes, and share in the responsibility for the results, a learning organization can “promote teacher and student learning in scho o ls” ( Liebman, Maldonado, Lacey, & Tho mpson, 2005, p. 5) .

Full document contains 321 pages
Abstract: Accountability demands on schools are increasingly difficult to meet at the local, state, and national levels. This study examined the perspectives of curriculum team leaders (CTLs) that are one middle school's response to increased accountability and changing student population. The CTLs provide instructional supervision to same-grade, same-subject curriculum teams. Four CTLs were chosen for this case study and data was gathered using focused interviews, observations, open-ended questionnaires, and artifact collection. A discussion of the CTLs' work, recommendations for schools seeking to use teacher leaders to provide instructional supervision, and suggestions for further research is included.