A small group of principals (4-10) that are implementing a new science-technology curriculum meet with (a) teachers that use the new curriculum (b) students that have experienced the new curriculum and (c) policy makers that are familiar with the resource issues in implementing the new curriculum. Principals meet with each of these constituencies separately. During the meetings, principals ask these ‘experts’ questions about their experience with TELS in order to elicit and distinguish their own criteria for successful TELS implementation.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
Cohen & Ball suggest that curriculum reform is a property of interactions between educators, students and materials (Cohen & Ball, 1999, 7). Principals that have a coherent understanding of their leadership target more of these elements in their strategies rather than focusing on one element in isolation (Fishman et. al, 2002). Professional development from this perspective encourages leaders to draw upon ideas about the reform from different sources and generate strategies that target multiple elements.
Context of Use:
A feature for professional development for principals engaged in TELS curriculum reform
Questions principals raised in meetings with the three different constituent groups:
November 2005 TELS Principals Meeting (meeting with 2 experienced TELS teachers, Kathy and Jeff, Understanding the teachers perspective)
Principal Barbara (to Teacher Kathy after Kathy explained how she has prepared for using a TELS lesson): So will teachers just run a new unit or will they come to you (Kathy) for guidance on how to implement the curriculum in their classrooms? How long does it take for teachers to go through a whole TELS curriculum module before they feel comfortable to work with the TELS project, or to work with the students?
Principal Barbara (to other principals, after Kathy has explained how new TELS teachers often sit back and watch students work on their own on the computers, rather than walk around and guide their inquiry): I’m thinking as we are sitting and listening that the teachers who have signed up to go through TELS for the first time are going to need some introduction. If I can just get these new teachers to stay for an hour after school one day, so that Kathy can take them through one of the projects... (To kathy) Can we work this out?
Principal Gary (to other principals and teachers after the teachers explained the changes they have seen in students’ critical thinking when using TELS): Do we have data that shows how students perform in science using the TELS curriculum, and how these same students perform on the California Standardized English Language Arts Test? I think students’ critical thinking skills are going to be discovered on the language arts test because that is what is tested by the state. With that information, there would be hard documentation to say this is where we need to go with the TELS curriculum. We could at least start to expand the program to see if those results continued to show themselves.
December 2005 TELS Principals Meeting (meeting with 3 TELS high school students, Understanding the students’ perspective)
Principal Helena (to students): What did you notice about when watching your classmates doing TELS and when watching them do the regular curriculum - do you see a difference in how your classmates are acting, in how they are engaged with the material?
Principal Helena (to students): Did you find you needed to have any math skills in order to do the science? Could you see other subjects fitting into a technology enhanced system like TELS? Which subject?
Principal Bev (to students): What is the difference between a TELS project and an actual lab situation? I have been to some of the classes where are you setting up the labs. It seems that the teachers’ role is very much the same. What do you think?
Principal Rebecca (to other principals): You know what I heard from these students and what I heard from other students is that TELS is interesting and the hook is that it is different so to do it all the time is not the solution because then it wont be different anymore. It is to find the appropriate place where it can illustrate, like my students are doing one on cancer. Mitosis and all this and it was a good lesson and it was a topic that was hard to understand without some kind of visualization or interactiveness. So I think the key is to finding the appropriate topic and not using it too frequently, you know, I always tell my teachers, what technique is most appropriate to a particular lesson.
January 2006 TELS Principals Meeting (meeting with state policy maker; Understanding the policy perspective):
Principal Bev (to Delaine and other principals): I’d be interested in seeing another schools technology plan. I know we all have to do them individually, but I feel like it would be useeful to share information. It is one of those things that we worry about and talk about a lot, but it never really gets noticed or even completed.
Principal Bob (to Delaine): What at the state level is happening to support technology-science curriculum? Who’s carrying the ball in Sacramento around this technology curriculum piece? And can we do anything? Like I said, I think you have sensed our frustration now. We are moving as fast as we can, but is there something going on at the state level that’s rejecting this curriculum reform movement, or vice versa someone that is championing this thing, or some kind of policy that we can look forward to seeing that will support implementation of this? .
Principal Gary (to Delaine): Coming to this district, the budget cuts… basically, the newest machines that are available to kids are at least four years old, and there are not, because of the budget situation, any plans for new ones. I’ve gone to the parents and now we are putting something in place, the parents are going to have raise the money outside of the normal budget cycle…that’s part of the frustration…I did not really know all the politics within the district, but I know other districts were struggling with those same issues as funding was drying up, and they were cutting jobs to try to balance the budget. Buying new computers didn’t have the same priority as retaining some of these jobs necessary to keep the school clean, or to keep the teacher’s classroom full of kids…We can have all the plans we want, but if there isn’t a way to follow through on those plans…it’s just another anxious, frustrating moment