Bringing people together to partner on a hot-button issue such as quality is tricky. And that, my friends, is an understatement, wouldn’t you agree?
When navigating these waters it’s important to chart where you’ve been and how you arrived where you are.
Over the past two years Big Thought, with the support of The Wallace Foundation, has digitally documented our community’s quality teaching and learning work at Creating Quality. We hope this site will serve as a place for community dialogue and sharing, both locally and nationally.
All of the material in the Tools and Resource Library (e.g., letters, reports, templates) that were created in Dallas can be downloaded and edited per your needs. This is because we don’t imagine that quality looks the same in any two places.
Ownership of quality is essential. And, ownership only comes when you, as a fully engaged partner, have defined quality in terms that you are prepared to support. Then, and only then, can you assess and make investments to advance quality.
This is how the Dallas arts community embraced and folded-in district and community educators from the other four disciplines: English/language arts, math, science, and social studies.
We asked as many people as we could to engage in a series of conversations about the elements of quality teaching and learning. Then, collectively we sought to define what worked across all eight disciplines and what points of contention or disagreement there might be.
We found cross-disciplinary agreement for the over-arching six dimensions of quality (already in use by the arts disciplines). However, there was disagreement about the examples given to illustrate the dimensions.
When the conversation got to this level of detail, we agreed to go into the field and use what we had to observe and assess quality during actual classes. This way we could test if we had the right dimensions, AND we could look for specific examples and evidence to support how these dimensions of quality manifest in different disciplines.
The field test proved helpful because it supported the consensus that the six dimensions could be observed and documented across all the disciplines. It also helped everyone realize no one document could possibly describe and list all the ways each dimension could be observed.
Instead, we created an overview document, Six Dimensions of Quality Teaching and Learning, which outlined a variety of examples for each dimension and ended with a note saying: “Bullets in each row illustrate examples of observable evidence for that dimension. Bullets are not meant as a checklist.”
As our community has sought to advance quality by using the findings from our observations, we have referred many times to this note and stated that there is no master “checklist.” This is how we have embraced our quality journey.
When we invite new colleagues to set sail with us (and we constantly do because people and positions are always changing), we say we sail under the flag of quality teaching and learning.
Then, we ask, “When you hear the phrase ‘quality teaching and learning’ what comes into your head?” Or, “How have you seen or observed quality?” If you are interested in some different ways this can work, check out Video Practice Opportunities. This page is part of our Train People to Observe resources (my favorite part of the website), but it is also a great way to engage people and get the conversation started.
I hope you take time now, before this week is over, to start talking about quality teaching and learning and what it means to you.
I believe we have much to learn and much to teach one another if we partner to unpack and discuss what quality means.