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Tool: Monitoring teacher commitment and abstraction

Purpose of this tool: The purpose is to heighten your awareness related to cognition and commitment in teachers and to be on the look-out for any troubling signs that beginning teachers exhibit.

How to use this tool: Spend a few minutes every week focusing on your interactions and observations with beginning teachers. Keep anecdotal records focusing on commitment and abstract thinking. At the first sign of an issue, dedicate more time and energy to the beginner! 

Background: Carl Glickman has created a developmental supervision model that recognizes stages in teacher development and stresses the need to develop sensitivity to the backgrounds, abilities, needs and characteristics of a heterogeneous faculty with a wide range of skills and abilities. He argues that teacher characteristics tend to be best understood as the product of two features: commitment and abstraction. 

High commitment suggests a high degree of concern for students, other colleagues, interest and willingness to spend more time and energy on job-related activities, etc., while low commitment focuses on keeping one’s job.

Abstraction refers to level of thinking. Teachers who possess high levels of abstraction have the ability to look at a problem from many different perspectives, and the net result is that they can generate many viable solutions to complex situations. At the other end of the continuum are those who are easily confused by professional problems and need specific instructions from others in order to solve them. 

The faculty and staff in your building might be characterized in one of the following ways:

  High commitment Low commitment
High abstraction Professionals Analytical observers
Low abstraction Unfocused workers Teacher drop-outs

 

With these ideas in mind, you could keep running anecdotal records of your observations of and interactions with beginning teachers, something like the following, and consider helpful action.

Teacher characteristics: Anecdotal records
Commitment Anecdotal Notes Abstraction Notes

Ex: Sept. 22. Martha is looking for outside resources. She stayed after school tonight to meet with museum curator.

Nov. 12. Martha has left right after school on five consecutive days.

In my walk-throughs before school, I’ve noticed Martha is not in her room or the lounge.

Demonstrates a high level of commitment for bolstering our social studies curriculum

Is Martha experiencing a health problem?

I need to arrange a coffee session with Martha in the next couple of days.

Is she overwhelmed?  Did something happen outside of school? 

Can I free up her mentor? Can I free Martha up so she can be with her mentor during planning?

Oct. 2nd

Martha demonstrated a high level of engagement in a conversation regarding multiple possibilities of incorporating more of her high-needs students in science and social studies.

Her animation and participation during faculty meetings suggests she’s ready to move “out of the box.” The questions she posed were provocative.

If the issue is commitment-oriented, ask questions such as:

  • Are his/her low-level (Maslow) needs satisfied? How can I find out?
  • Is there an instructional, curricular or behavioral issue that I can help with?
  • What’s my best “port of entry"? 

If the issue is low cognition:

  • Can I introduce him/her to some problem-finding/problem solving models?
  • Could we do a mini training session, complete with role playing, at the next faculty meeting?
  • Are we asking too much of the beginning teacher too fast? What can I provide to ensure that s/he can “regroup?”

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Reference:  Daresh, J.C. (1989). Supervision as a proactive process. White Plains, NY:  Longman, pp. 235-237.