Snapshot of TEAL: Strategy-Based Instruction
Seldom does a professional development project run more than a session or two. In a few cases, such as the Math Initiative, training could involve several sessions plus extended reflection and follow-up contact with the trainers. Among 11 other states, Texas was selected to participate in a two-year long "sustained professional development" project, the extent of which some of us had never seen. We, the Texas team, are wrapping up our second year in TEAL (Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy), and we have found it to be an incredibly detailed training experience, both deep and broad in concept.
Because research shows that adult students do not practice writing
to a great degree in adult classrooms, that they struggle with
writing tasks, and that good writing skills are increasingly becoming
a requirement of the world of work as well as higher education,
OVAE (Office of Vocational and Adult Education) asked AIR
(American Institutes for Research) to create TEAL to provide a
sustained professional development program that includes evidence-
based practices in writing instruction for ABE (Adult Basic
TEAL consists of six modules: Universal Design for Learning
- the practice of making learning accessible to all students, very
similar to Differentiated Instruction; Self-Regulated Learning - in
which students are encouraged and trained in a metacognitive
context to recognize their own learning strengths and challenges; Differentiated Instruction - presenting lessons in ways that are
adaptable for students with disabilities or differences; Effective
Lesson Planning - "beginning with the end in mind;" Formative
Assessment - discovering informal, often on-the-fly methods of
checking learners' understanding; and Strategy Instruction - using
research-based methods and specific, ordered steps to teach,
combining many of the methods outlined above.
Because of its broad, all-encompassing aspect, the Texas team
chose to focus on Strategy Instruction (SI) during our year of implementation.
Of course, knowledge of all of these areas through
professional development contributes to effective teaching in general
and helps define best practices. Incorporating and processing
all of this (a year of training in the six modules, a four-day institute,
and a year of classroom implementation with frequent checkins
and revisions) has been an exhilarating challenge. What does
this mean for Texas adult educators?
First, it means that teachers don't have to reinvent the wheel.
TEAL's concepts are already being used and taught in many of
our classrooms; primarily, we need to be aware and streamline.
The coursework was overwhelming at first, but through many
hours of reading, discussing, and implementing, we discovered
that many of TEAL's characteristics dovetail neatly with the Texas
writing standard "Convey Ideas in Writing for ABE / ASE" from
the Texas Content Standards and Benchmarks for ABE and ASE
(TAECSB). Specifically, TEAL and the TAECSB share an emphasis
on purpose, organization, presentation, mechanics ("Conventions
of English"), feedback and revision in writing instruction.
By implementing TEAL strategies and concepts and utilizing the
TAECSB, teachers can help students attain level gains and content
mastery faster and more efficiently than they currently are.
Second, the Texas team's emphasis on SI has enabled us to identify
successes and challenges in a completely different light. Attendance
problems hinder any instructional technique, but make
successful SI particularly challenging. In addition, SI lessons must
be at an appropriate level for each student. This is tricky in a multilevel
classroom. But at the national level, TEAL researchers and
analysts are very successful in translating theory and research
into practice for the classroom. Of particular note is the fact that
SI needs to begin early on in the semester.
It is much more than a "one-shot" lesson. Successful SI requires
consistency and the building of one piece upon another.
As we began to implement SI, we found a need to spend a bit
more time planning and organizing. We also had to maintain
consistent contact and collaboration among teachers using TEAL
(sustained professional development). Electronic sharing of materials
(i.e. favorite graphic organizers) is of great help, but this kind
of extended professional development can be time-consuming.
Another issue we found was that teachers must adjust their instructional
pace to the learning pace of the students. Teachers are
often anxious to move faster when students are just not ready. In
addition, an open enrollment classroom structure may not be the
most effective design for SI. The "revolving door" that is created
as students constantly enter and exit causes disruption and less
consistent instruction. Classroom design, seating configurations,
and classroom routines may require modifications in order for students
to experience optimum success, which can be disruptive at
the outset of implementation.
However, with more practice, experience and organizational
techniques in place, we were able to plan more quickly. The time
saved in class hours became invaluable - especially when a
teacher was responsible for all five content areas.
When used consistently, SI builds confidence and fosters cooperation
among students. As more reluctant writers observe the
successes of their classmates, they are encouraged to continue
SI, and the short time in which noticeable gains occur is very empowering.
SI allows for a gradual release ("I do it, we do it, you do
it") and soon the student is operating autonomously. Consistent
time devoted to student practice increases internalization of the
strategy and reduces student fear of writing.
For more information on the TEAL project, please visit https://teal.ed.gov/ or www.lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/readwrite/11teal. Hilary Gwilt and Michelle Glenn have been implementing aspects of TEAL training in the classroom since October of 2010. Sandra Schneider oversees training and communication and coordinates contact between the state and national TEAL levels. Sandra is also an Educational Consultant with Texas LEARNS.
About the Authors
Hilary Gwilt and Michelle Glenn have been implementing aspects of TEAL training in the classroom since October 2010.
Sandra Schneider oversees training and communication and coordinates contact between the state and national TEAL levels. Sandra is also an Educational Consultant with Texas LEARNS.