The dream it Focus Group
The focus group was originally intended to include a session with students and another with teachers (peers). Since my assignment changed and I no longer have classes, my "students" are actually the teachers and my peers are other instructional leaders. There was an attempt made to reach out to other instructional leaders in my network with no success. The focus group described below and summarized in the link to the left is with a group of teachers from the school.
The focus group took place on November 13, roughly one week after I had presented a professional development session on the significance of creating units around teaching for understanding. I selected teachers to attend based on their previous cooperation in creating units, their content areas, and their interests. Prior to organizing the group I had done some research on focus groups and used a guide for setting up the questions and the environment. I began by explaining the purpose of the focus group and how the results would be used.
One of the first slides in my presentation included the following ground rules:
In order to reinforce the idea of confidentiality, I had the teachers sign a confidentiality agreement. I did this to promote open dialogue and honesty when the conversation steered toward sensitive areas. We began with some very general questions around what type of professional development they would like to see in their school. I heard a number of suggestions but I was encouraged to hear some say that unit development was needed. The discussion transitioned into the presentation of the actual plan for Dream It which included the following components:
Next came the questions:
The idea was well received mostly, I believe, because it represented a shift away from an administrator centered professional development that teachers had experienced up to the present. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive responses but there was no real critical suggestion. I was hoping for more suggestions as to how this can be more teacher friendly, especially for the online components of the plan. The school suffers from a level apathy when it comes to following through with responsibilities that are completed online, especially if a more sophisticated expectation exists. This was expressed by some of the focus group participants who were skeptical about this particular part of the plan.
The take away from the focus group is that the learning community must first undergo capacity building with basic use of technology for the purpose of communication and sharing of important documents. With the shift to creating units online teachers will have the ability to share their work and view examples of the work of others. Questions about specific components of a unit can be directed to teachers or general questions or comments can be posted through the online forum. A site must have the traffic to show effectiveness and that will only happen if it serves a need. My focus for the next several weeks will be to get the different components of the online community up and running through the google site. I will also work with teachers individually to build capacity for using the technology so it does not become a barrier. In all the focus group experience was useful. It lets you know if you should proceed on or stop and reflect. For me the message was clear and that is to keep on going.