Standard 2: Analyze learning to promote student growth

Before my studies in the Masters in Teacher Leadership Program, I had heard mention of Action Research but did not know what it entailed. EDU 6979 – Action Research in School Settings and EDU 6528 – Accomplished Teaching helped guide me through valuable learning experiences regarding the Research Action process itself, and also more specifically regarding my area of focus for my project. I now feel capable and confident enacting an Action Research Project on my own using 3-legs of data and presenting  my research professionally to colleagues.

For my first RAP Data Collection, I had two main goals:

GOAL 1: Increase student appreciation for the complexity of Spanish-speaking cultures

GOAL 2: Give students the tools to compare their own culture with that of Spanish-speaking peoples, and to do so in a respectful, sensitive way.

These goals came from:

  • Feeling like I’m teaching content and skills, but what I really want to do is teach deeper, more meaningful themes of inclusion, tolerance, kindness, acceptance and understanding, social justice.
  • A very interesting line of conversation about culture and misconceptions about what it meant to be “hispanic” vs. “Spanish” that arose in a Spanish 1 class. My mind was spinning after the class about where I should go with this theme from here. The students were clearly engaged. One student asked me on her way out the door if we could continue a similar conversation the next day.
  • As Spanish 2 students finished up their cultural presentations this week, I noticed they have a fairly superficial knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures and I’m thinking I will use them as my classes for my RAP.
  • I observed this week that I still have a lot of work to do with my students, as I had a student complain of comments made by another student in class that were generalizing all latinos in derogatory ways and making said student feel uncomfortable. I started direct and explicit lessons that will helped them first understand the many components that shape each of our own personal culture and make us so complex. I took some ideas from our Multicultural Education class.
  • I had a couple different conversations with one of our school counsellors and the ELL teacher about my RAP and got their input on strategies for raising awareness of cultural diversity in our community and deepening their cultural sensitivity. We started small group conversations with ELL students who are native Spanish speakers. As Clark and Minami (2015, p. 189) discuss, it is important that students “also engage in weekly interactions with native speakers” in order to deepen cultural understanding while negotiating language.

Specific interventions employed during the length of this project were:

  1. Explicit teaching of cultural factors that affect our lives. As was recognized by Charles and Stevens, “programs need to recognize the current, existing reality of the students, particularly with respect to diversity.” (Charles & Stevens, 2005, p.20)
  2. Integrating cultural and linguistic lessons: In order to analyze stereotypes and cultural generalizations, cultural media and text should be used to address the topics from a logical analysis perspective and not a personal analysis perspective. In this way,“students are less likely to perceive and therefore resent the unit as yet another accusation that they and their generation are bigots.” (Wilson, 2015, p. 56)
  3. Exposing students to native speakers by utilizing: Skype in the Classroom, El Café discussion hour, student generated questions for Señor Vasquez and native Spanish-speakers. To improve cultural sensitivity in conjunction with language acquisition, it is important for students to “engage in weekly interactions with native speakers” (Clark & Minami, 2015, p.189).
  4. Question Box cultural questions and topics: Gutiérrez suggests various strategies I applied to try to increase cultural knowledge and sensitivity and meet students where they are, including: creating a cultural questions box, using student research and presentations to “hear what students have to say,” (Gutiérrez, 2015, p. 274) exposing them to the spoken word, raps, and culturally responsive music, and creating journals or learning logs.

Data collection included:

  1. 2 open-ended questions regarding general cultural factors
  2. A personal letter in which students explained their understanding of their personal culture
  3. Teacher observation and tally of culturally insensitive comments or generalizing questions

I gave an assessment regarding students knowledge of personal culture and it opened up some interesting conversations around what is culture. I asked students to write questions they had about diverse cultures, Spanish-speaking cultures, questions for my husband who’s from Bolivia, or for our TA who’s from Honduras. They could also write a topic they want to learn more about. I was blown away by all the questions and topics they came up with! I have basically an entire Semester’s worth of topics and curriculum now!

As I went over Period 5’s baseline assessments (a letter they wrote to me explaining their personal culture)  I learned a lot about my students on multiple levels, including:

  • Writing ability in English
  • Got a really good feel for the depth or superficial nature of their understanding of culture
  • Realized A LOT of students have a very superficial understanding of what factors make up/influence our culture.
  • Students wrote questions they have about culture/topics for investigation. REALLY good ideas-I got a whole semester’s worth of curriculum from here.

See full Action Research Paper here: Raising Cultural Competence and Sensitivity.

I’ve decided to teach more explicitly now and then I will work to weave themes of multicultural education into my lessons for the rest of the year. However, I struggled to figure out how to balance staying in Spanish and engaging ALL students in meaningful conversation about deep-rooted cultural concepts that go below the superficial surface of food, festivals and clothing. I really like being able to discuss cultural concepts, stereotypes, etc., but I hate switching into English to do so. In a Spanish 3 or 4 class we could discuss deep concepts and discuss/debate them, but with Spanish 2 it is challenging at times.

However, to truly make a real impact and get meaningful results, I need to extend the interventions over a longer period of time. My greatest takeaways from this course are that I can intertwine meaningful and interesting cultural lessons with Spanish instruction, and that I must be intentional and explicit about teaching cultural themes, but culture and language teaching need to be taught in a delicately intertwined way, not taught in isolation as so often is the case. They are not mutually exclusive. Also, cultural sensitivity comes through explicitly teaching students first to recognize and understand their own culture in a deeper way, and then through learning about explicit and implicit practices of other diverse cultures. Strategies I have been using that I will continue to extend even after this course has ended are:

-give students space to generate cultural questions/topics they are interested in and organize projects/presentations where they have to investigate and find their own answers

-teach students explicitly about their own culture first

-role-play with scenarios: explicitly practice what cultural sensitivity sounds and looks like

-implement student dialogue journals (in Spanish)

-expose students to authentic resources that teach cultural themes and use the Spanish language to engage students in conversations about these topics

-expose students to as many native speakers as possible, through Skype-chats, guest speakers, and conversation hours with ELL students

I have also reflected upon the idea that my PLC could significantly benefit from implementing some of the structure and research that is built into the RAP. As of now, PLC meetings are loosely defined and fairly unproductive. There is usually a general goal that defines our topic of discussion, but data is never discussed nor shared. We have yet to implement common assessments across courses to compare results and best practices. Frustrations are shared but rarely are concrete techniques or strategies discussed. I would love to bring my learning from this course to my PLC and suggest we follow some of the steps to conduct an informal Research Action Project and compare results among students to explore best practices across many classrooms and teaching styles. It would also benefit us to establish clear student outcome goals and specific data collection strategies.

Sources/ Literature Referenced

Charles, J., Stevens, R. (2005). Preparing teachers to teach tolerance. Multicultural      Perspectives , 7(1), 17-25.

Clark, A., Minami, N. (2015). Communication skills, cultural sensitivity, and collaboration  in an experiential language village simulation. Foreign Language Annals, 48(2), 184-202.

Gutiérrez, R. (2015). HOLA: Hunt for Opportunities-Learn-Act. The Mathematics Teacher,  109(4), 270-277.

Howard, G. (2006). As diversity grows, so must we. Educational Leadership, March 2007, 16- 22.

Wilson, N. E. (2015). Cross-Examining Bigotry: Using Toulmin’s Argument Model and Huckin’s CDA to Interrogate Overt and Covert Racist Arguments. The CEA Forum, Winter/Spring. Retrieved from


Survey of Instructional Strategies MetaReflection

This course, Survey of Instructional Strategies, was essentially an overview of a variety of strategies that teachers apply in the classroom, with in-depth looks being given to a few choice strategies such as collaborative grouping, direct instruction, nonlinguistic representation, note taking strategies and advance schemas. We focused on two main texts for this course, Classroom Instruction that Works by Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone and Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie, but also learned from independent research articles.

At the beginning of this course I already had an awareness of a variety of strategies, and had used or attempted to use most of the strategies focused on in this course. The main learning I thus took away from this course was a deeper appreciation for more meaningful application of strategies. Reading John Hattie’s book Visible Learning gave me a deeper insight into the need for intentionality, specific learning targets, and creating a reflective classroom with students at the center. As Hattie says “ ‘Everything works’: if the criterion of success is ‘enhancing achievement’ , then 95 per cent of all effect sizes in education are positive…because virtually everything works.” (p. 2) We must then ask ourselves as educators if the strategies we are employing are effective enough to be worth our time and worth our students’ time. Are we making as significant an impact as we can? Could we be teaching a specific topic in a more effective way, with a more impactful strategy? From this class I learned to ask this question, and then how to look for an answer.

This course has helped reinforce the importance of utilizing specific learning targets and collaborative practices amongst my colleagues. I have made some direct changes in my practice due to this. I have been refocusing on using Learning Goals in class. Although I was using them to some degree last year, I did not carry this practice through to this year, due to my changing methodology. However, over the course of this class, I have practiced writing down the learning target for myself each day, and it has helped re-focus my lesson planning. This has been especially beneficial at a time of the year that often feels hectic and rushed. Also, I’ve been referring to the Learning Goals in class with students.

Another learning for me has been around the idea of “multiple intelligences.” On page 91 Hattie critiques the ideas as classifying students in one category or another, which I found interesting, as I have also read another article making a similar criticism. Angelina E. Castagno makes a similar criticism in her article “Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness.” She also argues that categorizing students by learning styles of intelligences should not be used and merely acts as an excuse to limit students. Despite the criticism, I would still use this as a guide to design choice activities and diversify choice, but not to prescribe what students should or must complete.

Finally, my one of my more important reflection was one I have already begun to put into action. After my readings, I could not shake the idea that in my World Language Department we could be serving students much better than we currently are. Hattie describes how “being clear about outcomes (success criteria) of the lesson or series o lessons” and deciding on how to best measure outcomes in a integral part of evaluating the impact of teaching on students (Know thy impact!). (p. 97) I kept reflecting on how our District Standards for World Language are general, non-specific and immeasurable. I thus have contacted my two colleagues and we have scheduled to begin a conversation about setting common expectations and course outcomes and agreeing on a common way to measure these outcomes. Although this is a basic first step, it is fundamental and most necessary for moving forward, and I am excited to see what comes from this collaboration. Finally, once we have a common foundation we all agree to, it will be easier to collaborate on effective strategies to employ in the classroom.

Overall, this course has helped to reinforce the impacts effective teaching can have on students. It has reminded me that we must look to our students to decide what the impact of our teaching really is, and to judge if a strategy is effective or not. It is no longer good enough to judge success merely by looking for any and all growth in students. More so, we must make sure that the strategies being employed are having the greatest impact possible on all students.




Accomplished Teaching: End of Course Reflection

The main learning I will take from this course is the importance of being a reflective practitioner, both individually and in a group setting, but also the challenges associated with this practice. I appreciated the explicit and simplistic nature of the text we read

York-Barr, J., Sommers, W. A., Ghere, G. S., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective Practice to Improve Schools (second ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

I also realized along the way that there are many areas of accomplished teaching that I am already practicing in my classroom. These include:

  • Criterion 2: Demonstrating effective teaching practices: Reflecting on my practice regularly on an individual basis and adjusting my instruction and practice based on this reflection.
  • Criterion 3: Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs: I am using national standards to assess students’ baseline proficiency level and then design engaging, interactive experiences based on the Organic World Language (OWL) model. I also am constantly using formative assessment in class daily and adapting immediately, in the moment to give corrective feedback and adapt the lesson’s trajectory to better address students’ needs.
  • Criterion 4: Providing clear and intentional focus on subject matter content and curriculum: Teaching to National Standards (ACTFL) and assessing students based on proficiency. This year implementing the OWL methodology has given me a more intentional focus and better understanding of my students than ever before. I also have access to a much wider variety of authentic resources in Spanish than ever before.
  • Using the Charlotte Danielson Framework to guide my reflection as an educator.

At the beginning of the Quarter, my goals for this program were:

  1. Standard 02: Analyze learning to promote student growth-Collaborating with peers to improve my selection, organization and use of data to improve student learning.
  2. Working to push students in their critical thinking skills and creative skills. For this I would like to learn from colleagues on questioning strategies and specific methodologies used to push students to the next level, while maintaining a student-centered environment.
  3. Building not only a student-centered environment, but one where students are responsible for and initiate learning. 
  4. Standard 11: Utilize formative and summative assessment in a standards based environment-Improving the quality and consistency of my use of sound formative assessments in my classroom.

Over the last 10 weeks, I have begun to touch on:

Goal #1- In accomplished teaching we practiced how to reflect in small groups and implemented a variety of protocols to aid the reflection process. We wrote a lesson plan for this and then filmed the lesson. With a partner we then reflected on the lesson, using a protocol to assist us. A few of the protocols I appreciated and would like to use in the future in my professional practice are




Utilizing this protocol helps keep all involved focused, as unbiased as possible, and allows us to work with a meaningful structure to our reflective session.

Goal #3- I conducted my final research paper on Formative Assessment and the use of student self-reflective practices.

Heading forward, as I focus on becoming a teacher-leader, I will focus on leading by example and continuing to share the new learning I gather in this program with colleagues. This may mean suggesting we use a new protocol in PLC meetings for example, or utilizing my new skills to help my PLC analyze student work and proceed afterwards to use the results of this reflection to improve instruction.

I would also like to look further into the work by Matthew Poehner on advanced linguistics and language acquisition. His research has direct implications for the reflective activities I design for my students, as well as the performance assessments I design and implement.

Lantolf, J.P., & Poehner, M.E. (2011). Dynamic assessment in the classroom: Vygotskian praxis for second language development. Language Teaching Research, 15(1), 11-33.

Poehner, M. E. (2012). The Zone of Proximal Development and the genesis of self-assessment. Modern Language Journal96(4), 610-622.

Accomplished Teaching: Initial Reflection

Over these next two years there are many things I am looking forward to improving in my professional practice. However, a few of my current priorities are:

  1. Standard 02: Analyze learning to promote student growth-Collaborating with peers to improve my selection, organization and use of data to improve student learning.
  2. Working to push students in their critical thinking skills and creative skills. For this I would like to learn from colleagues on questioning strategies and specific methodologies used to push students to the next level, while maintaining a student-centered environment.
  3. Building not only a student-centered environment, but one where students are responsible for and initiate learning. 
  4. Standard 11: Utilize formative and summative assessment in a standards based environment-Improving the quality and consistency of my use of sound formative assessments in my classroom.