From 2004—when The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Public School Initiatives provided professional development and technical assistance for the Texas Reading First Initiative—to the present day, Teaching and Learning has been our central focus. This includes providing high-quality professional learning opportunities and technical assistance to public school districts and charter schools primarily through two types of initiatives: (1) those that directly support students, and (2) those that equip and empower educators and leaders with the knowledge and tools needed to prepare diverse student populations for college and career success in the 21st century.
“Of all the work that occurs at every level of our education system, the interaction between teacher and student is the primary determinant of student success” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). IPSI team members are well-equipped and experienced to provide differentiated support for teachers and leaders to affect student learning. For teachers, this means building on the research of Joyce and Calhoun (2010) and creating a learning environment that includes
- a view of how people learn, acquire knowledge, and develop beliefs and attitudes;
- a viewpoint that is connected to specific objectives;
- an approach that is clear and concise;
- a measureable implementation plan; and
- a clear connection to student learning.
For leaders, we build on Hirsh’s (n.d.) meta-analysis of effective professional development that includes
- high expectations and supervision by leaders;
- collective responsibility for student success
- ongoing learning with colleagues
- measureable goals for teachers and students
- research-based content
- differentiated, sustained learning opportunities
- follow-up support and feedback
- ongoing mentorship
- external expertise when necessary
Teaching and Learning customized professional development includes the items below.
“All learning is social; vocabulary instruction should leverage interactions between teacher, student, and text such that students are continually growing in their ability to describe, explain, and query.”
(Fisher & Frey, 2014)
To deeply understand text, students must have the benefit of explicit vocabulary instruction. IPSI provides professional development and technical assistance aimed at exploring vocabulary instruction and oral language development and its relationship to comprehension. We introduce teachers and leaders to a vocabulary routine, provide guidance on how to select Tier 2 vocabulary words, and model techniques designed to lead to student ownership of vocabulary words.
“There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails.”
Technology use has increased exponentially in classrooms. Many students come to the classroom knowing how to use multiple electronic devices and want the immediate feedback or gratification that they receive when playing games, texting, engaging in other forms of social media, or finding information through online searches. IPSI’s team members specialize in standards-based technology instruction and integration in the classroom by providing professional development and technical assistance that incorporates statewide or district initiatives to support teachers and leaders. IPSI team members also assist teachers and leaders in learning about, selecting, and using learning management systems that, in turn, can enhance planned blended-learning activities.
Coaching and Facilitation
Coaching is “a cooperative, ideally collaborative, relationship with colleagues mutually engaged in efforts that support teacher development to enhance student learning.”
(Hasbrouck & Michel, 2016)
IPSI offers various approaches to supporting instructional coaches at the campus or district level. One approach is designed to support new or experienced individuals currently serving in instructional coaching roles and includes leading professional development sessions and effective meetings, as well as models effective communication, problem solving, and observation techniques. Another approach focuses on sustainability and builds capacity among grade- or department-level teachers through peer coaching. IPSI team members lead professional learning opportunities that include the exploration of the coaching role, modeling of strategies to support teacher development aimed at increasing student learning, and use of facilitation protocols to promote a culture of collaboration.
Community and Culture
“Strong school communities engender strong students.”
IPSI’s experience providing support at the local, regional, state, and national levels has allowed us to understand and see firsthand the many challenges schools or districts face with parent, family, and community partnerships due to language and cultural differences, lack of knowledge of the American education system, past experiences, negative school climate, or deficit perceptions. Because of these experiences, we have identified and developed collaborative tools aimed at supporting school or district personnel with capitalizing on existing practices and recommending alternative ways to improve communication to meet each challenge. A strong communication system, coupled with ongoing and supportive collaboration, will ensure that partnerships between the school and the parents, family, and community are established and sustained to avoid further obstacles in the academic success of all students.
“The only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction.”
(McKinsey & Co., 2007)
IPSI provides professional development and technical assistance for educators in understanding and applying explicit instruction evidence-based practices during instruction and intervention. Explicit instruction emphasizes a systematic approach to teaching in which students are actively and successfully engaged in learning. We provide guidance on how to establish a safe and nurturing learning environment and how to select, effectively plan, and deliver critical content that puts students at the center of the learning process and differentiates based on student need.
Instructional Depth and Rigor
“It is reasonable to expect that, as students proceed through the grades, more reasoning and analysis will be expected of them and less simple recall and recognition.”
Professional development modules about depth of instruction and academic rigor are important components of achieving student success. An overview of depth of knowledge characteristics and a common definition of rigor guide the learning of the participants. The purposes of the modules are to help prepare teachers and leaders to identify and develop questions at various levels of complexity and to plan instruction to the depth and rigor at which students will be expected to perform during assessments and life. Connections are made during the modules to assessment question stems (e.g., STAAR), and guidance is provided with identifying district resources to support the cognitive complexity levels (e.g., Bloom’s Taxonomy).
New or Experienced Teacher Academy
“Teaching is not just something you’re equipped to do because you like kids. It is a rigorously demanding profession and—like other professions—its successful practice rests on the mastery and implementation of a large and continually expanding body of knowledge, research, and documented practice.”
IPSI offers single- or multiple-day support packages for new or experienced teachers in face-to-face or virtual environments. The New or Experienced Teacher Academy introduces or extends knowledge of evidence-based instructional techniques, models of teaching, learning theory, standards-based planning, professional practices and responsibilities, cross-disciplinary reading and writing, cooperative learning, culturally responsive teaching, and data-driven practice.
Positive Behavior Management Support
“The number one problem in the classroom is not discipline; it is the lack of procedures and routines.”
IPSI provides professional development, coaching, and support in positive behavior management at the district, campus, and classroom levels. IPSI demonstrates various systems and processes to increase student motivation, engagement, and rigor in the classroom. Additionally, IPSI team members share and support the development of walk-through observation forms, including how to use data findings during feedback sessions.
“Ensuring that teachers are capable of improving student learning—and that school leaders are able to help them do so—is perhaps the most significant step they can take to raise student achievement.”
(Darling-Hammond & Rothman, 2011)
IPSI offers expertise in helping teachers and leaders understand the complexity of state standards and how to align and integrate these standards when planning. Most teachers have a favorite resource(s) to use when teaching or have been handed an alignment guide to follow; however, to build capacity, teachers and leaders need to know and be shown how to work through and internalize the meaning of the many grade-level state standards. We have outlined a process that includes the use of an IPSI-developed planning template to analyze standards and student expectations prior to planning for explicit instruction.
Writing Across Content Areas
“Writing today is not a frill for the few, but an essential skill for the many.”
(Graham et al., 2012)
IPSI provides professional development and technical assistance on writing across content areas and bases support on recommendations from Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively. IPSI supports teachers and leaders in (1) learning how to apply these recommendations to integrate “writing to learn” across all content areas, and (2) deepening and enhancing students’ content area knowledge and skills. Professional development includes modeling, practice and application, and reflection to increase participants’ confidence in implementing new writing practices in their content area classrooms.