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IES Grant

Title: Collaborative, Technology-Enhanced Lesson Planning as an Organizational Routine for Continuous, School-Wide Instructional Improvement
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Stein, Mary Awardee: University of Pittsburgh
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,393,584
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A090252

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop a suite of electronic tools for creating lesson plans that promote known characteristics of effective instruction, as well as the social practices that support collaborative creation of and reflection on lesson plans. To accompany the tools, researchers will develop a systemic, integrated set of routines rooted in lesson planning aimed at improving

  1. school organization;
  2. quality of professional conversations in teacher professional communities; and
  3. rigor, coherence, and evidence base of instructional practice.

These routines are intended to replace dysfunctional work routines with productive routines that use locally generated evidence to improve instruction and learning. Teacher conversations will change as new, evidence-based routines of interaction around lesson planning, observation, and reflection are introduced. The team anticipates that these new routines will deprivatize, deepen, and systematize the ways in which teachers prepare for and deliver lessons.  The ultimate goal of the tools and routines is to improve student performance on cognitively demanding tasks by improving the rigor and coherence of lessons.

Project Activities: Researchers will complete iterative design cycles comprised of development, implementation, evaluation and refinement.  Project activities include three distinct phases. The goal of Phase 1 is to design and test version 1.0 of the suite of lesson and database tools. In Phase 2, ongoing revision and testing of the suite will occur. At the conclusion of Phase 2, version 2.0 will be ready for testing in Phase 3. In Phase 3, researchers will simultaneously launch and test version 2.0 at University Prep, where initial development and testing occurred, and a new pilot school.

Products:  Products include a fully developed suite of lesson tools, the database tool, and narrative cases describing social practices that guided the utilization of tools for structuring instructional improving efforts. A detailed report will accompany the tools and cases including guidelines and resources necessary for replication.  Peer-reviewed publications will also be produced.


Setting: This study will take place at the University Preparatory School, a new 6-12 grade school primarily serving African-American students from Pittsburgh’s predominately low-income Hill district. University Prep is a joint venture between Pittsburgh Public Schools and the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education.

Sample:  Participants include teachers from the Pittsburgh Public Schools and the University Prep administrators.

Intervention: The proposed intervention is comprised of three components: (a) a suite of electronic lesson tools anchored around known characteristics of effective instruction that will structure teachers’ planning, observations, and reflections and leaders’ school-wide improvement efforts; (b) an intranet-based database tool for storing, searching, and analyzing the artifacts produced by the suite of lesson tools; and (c) social practices that use these tools to support improved functioning at the school, teacher community, and individual teacher levels. Together, these components represent a new “organizational routine” aimed at orienting an entire school around deliberate planning for excellent instruction and improved student learning.

Research Design and Methods: The research design entails an iterative design process for developing the lesson and database tools and associated social practices. Throughout the development process, researchers will collect extensive documentation of teachers’ lesson plans and their enactment of plans during classroom instruction, records of teachers’ interactions during collaborative lesson planning activities, and measures of school culture such as collective responsibility for all students and the use of evidence to guide instructional improvement. Project activities include three distinct phases.  The goal of Phase 1 is to design and test version 1.0 of the suite of lesson and database tools, and the social practices that support use of the tools by individuals, professional learning communities and leadership teams.  The project team will work together to analyze the corpus of data collected throughout Phase 1 and make revisions to the tools and interaction protocols in response to the analysis. In Phase 2, researchers will launch a revised version 1.1 of the tools and introduce greater complexity into the planning routine by adding a systematic approach to peer observation (among members of professional learning communities). Phase 2 will conclude when the whole team will engage in another cycle of intensive analysis and revision of the tools and interaction protocols resulting in version 2.0. In Phase 3, researchers will simultaneously launch version 2.0 at University Prep, where initial development and testing occurred, and the pilot school. At the new school, the implementation team will provide professional development for teachers, professional learning community members, and school leaders on the use of tools anchored by the narrative.  The evaluation team will engage in ongoing data collection and analysis, in collaboration with the design team. At University Prep, the implementation team will provide professional development to review the updates associated with version 2.0, as well as the narrative cases which serve as a resource for continued implementation. The evaluation team will engage in ongoing data collection and analysis and the design team will continue to monitor data collected by the evaluation team and plan for final refinements of tools.  The project concludes with site and cross-site analysis of the Phase 3 data.

Key Measures: Researchers will employ a range of existing and new measurement tools to assess the following key constructs: curricular rigor and coherence; effectiveness of classroom instruction; professional community; schoolwide data use; and collective commitment to student learning.  Researchers will use a modified version of a coding scheme used in the Scaling Up Mathematics study  in order to analyze the content of discussion in teacher professional communities and field notes from classroom observations.  Researchers will develop a survey (administered baseline and annually) to assess key dimensions of school culture and climate (e.g., collaboration, instructional leadership), as well as staff experiences with tools and social practices. School culture items will draw on validated scales such as from the Chicago Consortium for School Research.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative data will be analyzed thematically through a process which includes affixing codes to observation notes and/or transcripts, sorting coded material to identify patterns and relationships, identifying confirming and/or disconfirming evidence during subsequent data collection, and gradually elaborating a set of generalizations that are consistent with the patterns discerned from the data. Analytic strategies for quantitative data (e.g., survey data, ratings lesson plan) include descriptive and correlational analyses and multivariate modeling.

Publications from this project:

Stein, M.K., Russell, J., and Smith, M.S. (2011). The Role Of Tools In Bridging Research and Practice In An Instructional Improvement Effort. In W. Tate, K. King and C. Anderson (Eds.), Disrupting Tradition: Research and Practice Pathways In Mathematics Education (pp. 33–44). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Smith, M.S., Cartier, J.L., Eskelson, S.L., and Tekkumru-Kisa, M. (in press). Building A School-University Collaboration: A Search For Common Ground. To Appear In J. Bay- Williams and B. Speer (Eds.), Professional Collaborations In Mathematics Teaching and Learning: Seeking Success For All. The Seventy-Fourth Yearbook Of The National Council Of Teachers Of Mathematics (2012). Reston, Va: National Council Of Teachers Of Mathematics.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Education Policy, Finance, and Systems in FY 2009.