Monday, September 21, 2015

Paradigms for every educator: Microscope and Telescope

For those of us who are involved in improving student learning for every student in our schools every day, we have a myriad of research available to us, whether we are teachers, administrators, educational staff, or consultants.

Having served as a high school principal for the last nine years, I have not only read widely and deeply in educational research such as Professional Learning Community principles, Marzano, Hattie, Stiggins and other educational researchers but helped facilitate its implementation with our staff since Dublin Jerome's inception in 2004.  Now an educational consultant working with a variety of educators in diverse districts, I know that educators are working hard to digest research and implement effective instructional strategies to positively impact student learning.

This summer I read Training Camp by Jon Gordon, and one of the life lessons a football coach teaches the protagonist discusses the advantages of looking at life through both a microscope and a telescope.

I couldn't help but think how we, as educators and educational leaders, would also benefit from looking at our work through both paradigms.

Why? As educators, whether it be as a classroom teacher, building principal, central office administrator, or consultant, we benefit from looking at our practices and data both with a microscope and with a telescope.

Photo by Photokanok

Our data analysis often needs a microscope, making sure we "put the faces on the data," as Stiggins exhorts us to do, and digging deep to ask those "I wonder why" questions to give meaning to the data.  But we would also benefit from using a telescope, a longer range and bigger picture of our data.  This big picture gives us the opportunity to look at data longitudinally as well as conduct comparison analysis with same-subject team members and alignment with building and district data goals.

School districts often find classrooms teachers or individual building principals constantly using microscopes as they are laser-focused on their immediate student needs, with all of the daily stress, pressure and emotions associated with it.  Conversely, we associate telescopes with district administrators who must often analyze mounds of data from multiple buildings while always keeping a big picture in mind.

Photo by Idea.go

The most effective way to truly impact student learning, however, is for every educator-- classroom, building or district, to analyze data utilizing the paradigms of both the microscope and the telescope. A balance of paradigms in data analysis truly leads to more effective and aligned instructional strategies and a positive effect on student learning.