One piece of collective efficacy we wanted to focus on within the Region was celebrating small wins. Talking about data walls meant talking about results. Often times, assessment results meant discussing what our areas for growth were. Intended or not, we created a pattern of thinking through our ongoing professional actions; talking about how students were doing meant being critical of our efforts to date.
This is not to say such conversation was unwarranted. Yes- there was room for growth. Yes – we needed to have ongoing discussions about it and take steps to address areas where growth was required. At the same time, constantly focusing on what could be improved did not always result in increased motivation. Collective efficacy is about building a shared belief in our capability to plan and follow through on actions required to improve student achievement and wellbeing. If we were constantly critiquing our work (with the best of intentions), one could argue it was not moving us towards a shared belief in our efficacy.
Using the data walls as a tracking tool to track growth over time offered us an opportunity to celebrate progress on a regular basis. Teachers could get together and move students along the data wall, celebrating measurable gains in reading levels at the elementary level. We stressed that celebration was key during collaborative learning team meetings because celebration could drive motivation. We felt strongly that when teachers could see that they were progressing at something, see results from their efforts, and sense progress, they would be much more likely and so much more motivated to keep working on it.
Though our previous efforts aimed at reflecting on current results and how they could be improved was important, it inadvertently created an absence of opportunities to celebrate. Focusing too much on what could be improved without finding opportunities to celebrate small wins made it easier to get discouraged. We knew it was essential to slow down, notice the progress being made, and using that as motivation for future progress.
To this end, using data walls addressed the need for celebrating small wins. When collaborative learning teams met, they could discuss students who have moved forward in their reading level and literally move them along the wall. These short, simple celebrations created momentum that helped teachers engage in the next part of the conversation; areas for growth and next steps.