PLE 2: Module 2

PLE 2: Situating Teacher Learning in Context

Brief Overview:

Students will share collected data from the interviews with the school and larger school community in a town hall meeting to set teacher learning in context with the school and community, collect feedback from the meeting participants, and use collected materials to begin to develop a problem of practice.


The purpose of PLE #2 is to understand the impact of a school’s historical and cultural context in the service of students of color and students situated in poverty.  Candidates will use data collected during PLE #1 to construct a meaningful account of teacher learning within the cultural and historical context of the school and its community.   Students will validate their interpretations of the findings by holding a session with the school community where the findings are discussed.

Readings and Other Resources

Hirshburg, D. & Wells, A. (1994). “The Importance of Understanding the Social, Political and Historical Context of Education Reform: How Much Is Enough?” ERIC 381435D381435

Levine, T. & Marcus, A. (2007) “Closing the Achievement Gap Through Teacher Collaboration: Facilitating Multiple Trajectories of Teacher Learning,” Journal of Advanced Academics 19:116-138

McDonald, M. (2005) “The Integration of Social Justice in Teacher Education: Dimensions of Prospective Teachers’ Opportunities to Learn,” Journal of Teacher Education. 56: 418-435.

PLE 2 Learning Activities

  1. Create a resource commentary for each of the readings
    • Each student should briefly describe the content of the reading, why a reader would read each resource, and what the student learned from the reading.  Resource commentaries should be made available for the class.
  2. Share and debrief collected data from PLE #1 with the school and the larger school community during a town hall meeting organized by the students, with an emphasis on the following:
    • Do the responses–within each group of interviewees–center teacher learning?
    • Do the responses reveal patterns of assumptions regarding teacher learning and its relationship to student learning (especially for students of color and students situated in poverty)?
    • Do the responses–across groups of interviewees–reveal assumptions regarding individual or structural obstacles to success for students of color and students situated in poverty?
    • Do interview findings reveal structural or cultural dimensions of power and how those power dimensions impact students of color and/or students situated in poverty?
  3. Feedback from the participants of the town hall meeting should be collected and will be included in the amended and final version of the document. A sample of a feedback questionnaire is found in the Assessment section below.
  4. Students will choose from the following areas to inquire in greater depth about the cultural and historical impact of the following four entities: businesses, government, education, and non-profits, on teacher learning and schooling in that community.
  5. 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.”
  6. 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

Like PLE #1, 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 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.


  • Town hall Meeting feedback:

Was attending the meeting helpful?

What did you learn from the meeting?

What do you wish you would have learned from the meeting?

Would you attend a meeting like this again in the future?  Why or Why not?

Do you believe there is a need in the community to act upon the information gained from the meeting?

How might we use this knowledge to drive teacher learning that organizes the learning environment for the success of its students?

How can we organize the learning environment, specifically, to support students of color and students in poverty?

Are there ways other than a town hall meeting that may be effective in communicating these and other important topics to the community?

Other Comments?

  • 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

PLE 2 requires that educational leaders historically contextualize their work and articulate their understandings with the stakeholders in their community.  Students will use the information they collect as the beginning materials to state a problem of practice as defined in PLE 3.  Consider conversations about the following ideas:

How significant are historical events to current educational issues?

What can we learn from them?

How do community stakeholders know when they are being included? 

What barriers prevent educators from communicating with community stakeholders?  How might you navigate them?

What did you unlearn?  What did you learn that is new?

How might you continue the relationships created by the town hall meeting?


To help you get started on planning your town hall meeting, we’ve outlined some basic key steps for you to think about.

Form a Planning Committee

It is helpful to recruit your planning committee as early as possible. They will help plan, manage and promote the event. Sometimes, more than one committee or subcommittees may be appropriate, such as a logistics committee or media committee who can work independently and report back to the planning committee.

Understand the Unique Characteristics of Your Community

Before organizing your town hall meeting, it is important to understand your community’s unique issues, challenges, and opportunities for change. Review local data from a variety of sources and develop a community profile based on solid research. This information will help you know how to focus the discussion and give your program and presentations credibility.

Identify Objectives

No two town hall meetings are alike. Your meeting’s content, format, and objectives will depend on the particular concerns and needs that you and your partners have

 Determine Format

A popular format is a policy panel. At a policy panel, the public presents their opinions. The panel members are community leaders who receive testimony from residents. Speakers give their accounts and urge the panelists to adopt certain measures or recommendations. For this format, the policy panel can convene after the meeting and issue its findings or recommendations based on what they have learned from the public.

Selecting the Place and Date

Finding the appropriate location is an important step in the planning process and should be determined as early as possible. In some cases, the location can help set the tone for your meeting. It is important to select a place that is easy for residents and local media to get to. Some ideas are city hall, community centers, universities and colleges, and public libraries. The event date and time is equally important. When selecting a date, check out community calendars to avoid competing community events. When selecting a time, think about who you want to have attend, your target audience. If you want your friends and neighbors who work to attend, early evening is probably your best bet. If you need to know how many people will be coming, set up a way for people to RSVP. As long as you are able to get a satisfactory number of RSVPs the event should not be rescheduled.

Identify a Moderator or Facilitator

This person will be responsible for facilitating the panel discussion and fielding audience

Who to Invite? Some of the people who you can invite are key civic and political leaders, community leaders, parents, educators, school administrators, etc. It is also important to invite young people to attend.

Staff Your Event

A key step in your town hall meeting planning is to identify people who will help out on the day of the event. Someone should be assigned to handle requests from the media; to greet and seat members of the audience and panelists; to distribute materials; to record comments and questions from the audience; to manage equipment set-up or to handle any other important logistical matters. This person doesn’t need to be a paid staff member; it’s a great job for a volunteer!

Prepare Materials to Distribute On-Site

You should use the information that you research to develop localized materials that make the issue relevant for citizens of your community. It is a good idea to share this information with local reporters for them to use in articles about your town hall meeting.

Setting-Up Your Meeting

To ensure a successful event, assign volunteers and staff to different tasks.

✓ Room set up: Some people should arrive early to make sure the room is set up properly and to make any last-minute adjustments. Check on tables, chairs, podiums, equipment, or visual displays. For large meetings, you may need to have a sound system, including table microphones for the panelists, as well as a stage or elevated panel table in the front of the room.

✓ Small meetings, with 25 or fewer attendees, work well with a roundtable setup, with panelists on one side of the table and attendees around the remainder of the table. Extra chairs can circle the perimeter of the room to accommodate additional guests.

✓ Sign-in/registration table: You will need to set up a sign-in table, where you can collect names and contact information for everybody who comes and hand out materials.

✓ Hand-outs: At the sign-in table, you may want to have agendas and other information, as well as press kits for reporters. If you plan on discussing specific documents, have copies available.

Conducting Your Meeting

The meeting should begin with a welcome and introduction by the head. The welcome and introduction should last no more than five minutes and should explain the purpose of the meeting, welcome guests, and introduce the moderator. The moderator should then begin with a brief introduction of the issues that will be discussed, a review of the format, and introductions of relevant participants. The entire discussion shouldn’t last longer than 50 minutes. After the discussion, the moderator begins the question and answer period, taking questions from the audience. Depending on the size of the audience, it may be helpful to set up a microphone in the center of the room or to walk over to audience members and allow them to speak into the microphones. Leave time to wrap up the session, summarize major points, discuss next steps and thank guests. The Q&A should last about 30 minutes.  Don’t forget to distribute feedback assessments for participants to fill out at the end of your meeting!

Conduct a “Debrief”

No more than two weeks after your meeting, get together with key individuals, who were involved in your planning, to talk about how it went overall. It’s also a good idea to get feedback from the panelists. Discuss whether you achieved your goals and put together a report giving an overview of the event and summarizing the problems and solutions offered by people who attended and the panelists.

Develop an Action Plan

Think about what the next steps could be and develop an action plan. Some possible ideas are policy recommendations, an advocacy campaign, information dissemination, or media outreach.

Using Town Hall Meetings to Build Your Advocacy Work

One of the most useful resources that you can develop from your meeting is the names and contact information of everyone who attended. This database can become your mailing list for future events and a source of potential supporters and volunteers. The database can also serve as a resource to identify people who might be interested in appearing before city councils or speaking at legislative hearings.

Adapted from: Maximizing Outreach Through Town Hall Meetings: A Planning Guide.