If you think of the concepts of beliefs and culture as answers to “why” and “what” in regard to direction, then the concept of our goal setting process would focus on answering the question “how.” The instructional core is a term used to reference the relationship between the teacher, student, and content used in learning. It’s not difficult to imagine a goal that focuses on any one of those pieces, but we believe true learning only results from a goal that includes the student, teacher, and the content in the process. Our conversations about goals have revealed the following insights:
· We prefer a process of targeting problems of practice when goal setting. The most effective means of determining a problem of practice is to ask what evidence will indicate student learning. The problem of practice asks teachers to consider what they need to change to see the targeted evidence in student learning.
· After determining what students need to learn, teachers consider what instruction (be it content or conditions) will facilitate the targeted learning. After determining what they want to change instructionally, teachers consider what they need to learn professionally to implement the needed changes. Through the process, all participants see a clear relationship between teacher learning, teacher practice, and student learning. Though all parts are essential, the only worthwhile measure of a problem of practice’s effectiveness is the evidence of student learning. It is both the first aspect considered when approaching the problem and the last aspect considered when measuring the effectiveness of the process.
· Problems of practice allow teachers to collectively focus on an aspect of instruction they want to improve. Our overall school improvement plan is a product of a consistent, fundamental theme noted throughout all problems of practice. Teacher teams may well focus on different content, but the school improvement plan is used to design professional learning opportunities applicable to all teachers. Ideally, a given teacher would have an individual goal, a collective problem of practice, and school improvement plan that are all synchronized.