PLE 1: Module 2

PLE 1: Teacher Learning Interviews

Brief Overview:

Based upon themes identified from the literature, learners will generate questions and interview members of a school’s administration, staff, students, community members and families to evaluate and understand the nature and scope of teacher learning in the school.


Learning Goal for PLE #1 follows:

To enable aspiring and practicing educational leaders to inquire effectively into the professional learning environment of a school as it bears on the learning of students of color and those situated in poverty.

The learning activity through which learners pursue the learning goal is a series of interviews. The purpose of the interviews is to surface the understandings of teacher learning that are held and that operate in the school community.  The following questions are provided as “basic prompts” for each interview:

  • How do teachers at this school learn?
  • What do teachers learn at this school?
  • What problems of practice focus teacher learning at this school?
  • Do the obstacles faced by students of color and students situated in poverty inform the problems of practice that drive teacher learning?
  • What are the obstacles that interfere with efficient and effective teacher learning in this school?

The basic prompts are provided as guidelines or proscriptions.  The precise interview protocol for several different constituencies can be developed as a learning activity (see the section entitled “Learning Activities”).

Students may get at the above questions by first asking how the individuals in the building have come to understand poverty.  The questions below will assist in mining for that information.

  • How do you define poverty?
  • How do you define affluence/wealth?
  • How do you identify someone who is poor? What does poverty look like?
  • How do you identify someone who is wealthy? What does wealth look like?
  • Describe your professional experiences with poverty? Define your personal experiences with poverty?
  • Do you believe that living in poverty is a choice?  Why or why not?
  • How is poverty being addressed in your educational setting?
  • How could it be better addressed?
  • Anything you would like to add about poverty that you believe should have been asked?

Readings and Other Resources

Anderson, G.L. & Herr, K. (2011). Scaling up “evidence-based” practices for teachers is a profitable but discredited paradigm: Comments on Bausmith and Barry. Educational Researcher, 40(6), 287–289. (Available to members on the AERA website.)

Bomber, R. Dworin, J., May, L., Semingson, P. (2008). Miseducating teachers about the Poor: A critical analysis of Ruby Payne’s claims about poverty. Teachers College Record 110(12),  2497–2531.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). Education and the flat world: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). “From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools.” Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3-12.

Meyer, D. (2010, May). Math class needs a makeover [Video file]. Retrieved from

Shulman, L., & Shulman, J.  (2004). “How and what teachers learn: A shifting perspective.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 36(2), 257-271.

Snowman, J. & McCown, R. (2012). Psychology applied to teaching (13th ed.) (pp. 486-489).  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Possible Media Resources are in Appendix A

The readings and media options listed above represent a variety of perspectives that can inform inquiry into how teacher learning can be focused on the obstacles that face students of color and those situated in poverty. Learners can be assigned to small reading groups and the readings “jigsawed” in order to prepare learners to perform the learning activities listed below.

PLE 1 Learning Activities

  1. Each student will fill out a pretest prior to the start of activities to gather baseline data of perceived efficacy.  A sample is located in the Assessment section below.
  2. Jigsaw the pre-readings.
    • Each reading group should identify the major themes from its assigned reading
  3. Using the identified themes, each reading group generates three questions as possible options for inclusion in the interview protocol.  
  4. Together the class should generate (through discussions) one interview schedule for each stakeholder group listed below:
    • Administration and all central office staff
    • Teachers and other school personnel, not considered administration
    • Students
    • Parents
    • Other community members who are not parents
  5. Each student conducts and documents responses from at least one interview (depending on class size and schedule).
  6. Students will also be paired with a classmate to be interviewed using the same protocol.  The responses from the class members will be anonymously included with the data from other stakeholders.
  7. Each student will choose a product or performance to complete in order to demonstrate learning by the group.  Suggestions can be found in the section below entitled “Products and Performances.”
  8. Each student will assess the outcome of his or her product/performance by reflectively thinking about and answering the questions listed below under “Formative assessment.”

Products and Performances
Several products and/or performances demonstrating the learning by the group of aspiring and/or practicing school leaders might be pursued. Such products and/or performances can be used to expand the formative effects of what is learned from the interviews. Several examples are provided below:

  • Have learners write executive summaries (see definition below) of their learning.
  • Collect the executive summaries into a kind of “edited volume” that can be shared with the various constituencies who participated in the interviews.
  •  Have each learner create a proposal for professional development that will enhance teacher learning focused on enhancing the success of students of color and/or students situated in poverty.
  • Have each learner present her or his proposal for professional development that will enhance teacher learning focused on enhancing the success of students of color and/or students situated in poverty.*
  • Hold a panel discussion or discussions (depending on the number of learners) in which what was learned is summarized and then interrogated by a moderator (the instructor, another faculty member, a teacher, a community member, a practicing superintendent or principal, etc.)*
  • Have learners present the major findings of the interviews to a school staff and engage the participant teachers in a discussion of next steps. (Document the next steps for inclusion in the “edited volume”.)*
  • Hold a school-community meeting to present the major findings of the interviews and engage participants in a discussion of next steps.*

           *Arrange for video capture of such presentations and meetings for further dissemination and feedback.


This assessment is designed to bring awareness to students understandings of poverty at the beginning of the PLE.  We recommend videotaping students statements about their pre  and post assessments on poverty for each student.

•    Sample pretest:

Please rate each item as it best relates to you according to the following scale:

1-Strongly agree
5-Strongly agree

I am able to inquire into the problems in my school that affect students of color and students situated in poverty?

I am confident in my ability to fix those problems in my school that affect students of color and students situated in poverty.

I have the ability to organize the learning environment in my school so that it promotes the success of and better aids students of color and students situated in poverty.

I am aware of how teachers in my school learn.

I know what teachers in my school learn.

I am able to overcome individual and structural obstacles for the success of students of color and students situated in poverty

I am confident in my ability to engage the community in driving teacher learning that focuses on the success of students of color and student situated in poverty.

I am able to organize and support teacher learning that drives promoting success of and aiding students of color and students situated in poverty.

I am able to critically review problems with teacher learning in my school.

I am able to use feedback from the school and community to drive teacher learning that better organizes the environment for success of students.

Formative Assessment:

Does the information gathered from the product/performance situate the teacher interviews within the cultural and historical context of the school and community?

Does the information gathered from the product/performance reveal patterns of marginalization or exclusion for particular groups of students (especially for students of color and students situated in poverty) perpetuated through business, government, educational or non-profit interest?

Does the information gathered from the product/performance reveal cultural and/or historical obstacles to success for students of color and students situated in poverty?

In what ways does the information gathered from the product/performance reveal the intersections between teacher learning and understandings about students and color and/or students situated in poverty and the cultural and historical context?

Teaching Notes

“Learning is Central to Teaching”

In creating this PLE, we were conscious of the need for educational leaders to think intentionally about what they do and why they it.  In others words, to never stop learning about themselves, their profession, and the communities they serve.  Becoming an “authority” of your practice requires being able to reflect critically on one’s practice and change the practice as needed in order to better serve students in a poverty context and students of color.  In this sense, becoming an authority requires the constant effort of staying on top of innovative practice in the field, communicating and collaborating with stakeholders to come to a common understanding of the practice, and actually implementing this new practice in equitable ways.  Think of the process as gears in motion — constant motion, moving back and forth, as needed, changing the speed accordingly, but all the while, fitting in each groove perfectly as it moves.  When one is the author of his or her practice, the work in action looks like a well-run machine.

You will have to create a safe environment where future leaders are able to communicate their beliefs and actions without fear of judgment.  Set the stage for a learning environment where learning is central, not whether or not they get it right (at this point).  

Educational leaders are, by definition, the lead teacher in the building.  That means that they model the habits of minds and patterns of thinking needed in order for teachers to work best for the students they serve.  In the case of students in a poverty context and students of color, this means having a solid grasp and understanding of the historical ways in which marginalization has negatively impacted these students at the individual, institutional, and cultural levels.  This means being able to articulate why traditional practices need to be examined through an equity lens and also why educators must unlearn old habits at the same time that they are learning new ways ones.  One must know their context.  It also requires practicing humility because we all have lots to unlearn and learn.  In the end, modeling habits of mind that support historically marginalized students requires a willingness to be constantly molded.  Remember that such a stance is directly connected to stepping into ones authority as a learner, teacher, and leader.

Things to remember:

Set the stage for reading interviews as text and as a dialogue.  In other words, future leaders are to dialogue with the interviews, not debate whether or not they are “correct.”  

The activities are designed to surface assumptions and the things we take-for-granted about their practices, behaviors, and habits in education.

All products/performances are considered text that students will use as parts of their learning experiences.  In other words, students should be prepared to share not just what they know, but what they produce in the course as a step towards coming to new understandings.

PLE 1 uses interviews as a form of dialogue.  Consider conversations about the following ideas:

Discuss what leaders think of when we hear the word “authority?

What images emerge?  
What actions do they believe they must take?

How do these actions include or exclude other stakeholders as “authorities”?  

Why do we need to examine our understandings alongside other stakeholders?

What is reality?  How do we better communicate the reality of the educational world with the reality of our students’ lives?

Executive Summaries:

An executive summary is a brief overview of a report designed to give readers a quick preview of its contents. Its purpose is to consolidate the principal points of a document in one place. After reading the summary, your audience should understand the main points you are making and your evidence for those points without having to read every part of your report in full.  An executive summary should explain why you wrote the report, emphasize your conclusions or recommendation, and include only the essential or most significant information to support those conclusions Most executive summaries are 1-2 paragraphs, but less than one page. Make the summary concise, but be sure to show why you’ve arrived at your conclusions.