Helping Teachers Take Ownership Over Their Own Practice | Mindsteps Inc.

Helping Teachers Take Ownership Over Their Own Practice

There is a difference between traditional accountability and TRUE accountability.

The best way I can explain it is that it’s kind of like the difference between a renter and an owner.

You see, a renter lives in a home they do not own. Thus, they cannot paint a wall, adjust a light fixture, or make major repairs without the owner’s explicit permission to do so.

An owner on the other had has complete freedom to do whatever she wants to her property because it is, after all, hers.

But when the toilet breaks, or there’s a leak in the roof, the renter simply has to call the landlord and then wait for the landlord to fix it. It isn’t his responsibility.

The owner on the other hand can’t wait for someone else to handle the broken toilet or the leaky roof. Because it’s her property, she is responsible for fixing it.

So let me ask you a question. Do your teachers act more like renters or owners?

In other words, do they dutifully go through the motions, put up a few quick strategies, but basically stay the same or do they roll up their sleeves, put in the work and make lasting improvement to their practice?

You see, if people don’t believe that they own their practice, they will treat their classroom like a rental property and blame you every time something goes wrong.

But if they believe that they own their own practice, when something isn’t working, they will see it as their responsibility to fix it.

That’s what true accountability does. Traditional accountability treats teachers like renters. True accountability treats teachers like owners.

Note: Want to learn how to help teachers own their own practice? Check out The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers.


​So how can you help teachers act more like owners?

It all has to do with the way you talk to them.

You see, most accountability conversations give very little opportunity for teachers to have a say. Instead, teachers are expected to “sit back and take it.”

That creates “renter” mentality.

Instead, you need structured conversations with teachers that help them take ownership of their problems and engage respectfully in solving them.

I call these conversations “Strategic Conversation,” and when used correctly, they can overcome excuse making, finger-pointing, and other “renter” behaviors, and help teachers take ownership over their own practice.

[Link] Note: Want to learn more about how to conduct Strategic Conversations? Check out The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers.

[Banner] Accountability starts with having the right conversation. Learn how in The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers.

There are Four Types of Strategic Conversations. Once you understand how each one works, you can strategically select the right conversation for each situation.

Reflective Conversations

Reflective Conversations help teachers think intentionally about their behavior and it’s impact. 

Like a mirror, reflective conversations show teachers themselves.  In the same way that we look in a mirror to see whether we have a hair out of place, or spinach in our teeth, reflective conversations provide teachers with a mirror that helps them critically examine their behavior and make adjustments.

Because the teacher is doing most of the talking during a reflective conversation and you are mostly listening, you may wonder how it qualifies as accountability at all – especially because you have the least control over the outcome. 

In the other approaches, you have a specific outcome in mind.  With reflective conversations, you are more concerned about the process.  You want the teacher to take ownership of their behavior and consistently engage in a process that will help them learn from themselves.  Thus the effectiveness of reflective conversations on accountability depends on the teacher’s willingness and ability to think about their behavior.

​Note: Want to learn more about how to conduct Strategic Conversations? Check out The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers.


Facilitative Conversations

Sometimes teachers need to make actual shifts in their behavior and would do so willingly if only they could clearly see the effect of what they are doing on students and could figure out what exactly they should do differently.  Facilitative conversations help teachers understand the how their behavior affects students and helps them figure out what steps they should take to render a different effect. 

The power of Facilitative conversations is that when done right, they help teachers make commitments to improve and give them some direction about what they need to do differently.  Your role is to help teachers look at their own data and figure out what it means and what, if anything, they should do about it. 

Facilitative conversations are very collaborative.  While you may have in mind a particular outcome, the teacher selects his own pathway to that outcome.  Or, the teacher may have his own goal and works with you to figure out the best process toward achieving that goal. 

Note: Want to learn more about how to conduct Strategic Conversations? Check out The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers.


Coaching Conversations

There are times when a teacher’s behavior is unacceptable, but they do not have the skill to change it on their own. That’s when Coaching Conversations can be really effective. The idea here is to help teachers make a correction to their behavior without taking over the teacher’s practice.

You’ll provide a little more direction during a coaching conversation, but be careful not to take over. You wan the teacher to own his behavior and the solution. If you push too hard here, you’ll get compliance.

But if you find the balance between coaching support and ____, you can help a teacher recognize that he has to do something differently and then take steps to correct his behavior without taking ownership away from the teacher.

​Note: Want to learn more about how to conduct Strategic Conversations? Check out The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers.


Directive Conversations

The purpose of directive conversations is to help teachers to make an immediate and definitive change in their behavior.  If a teacher is under-performing in a particular way and it is posing an immediate danger to students, directive conversations allow you to instantly and definitively intervene.  Of the various conversational approaches, directive conversations are the most supervisory in tone.  You are telling the teacher that a change needs to be made, how the change must be made, the conditions for success, and the consequences for inaction.

Thus, directive conversations should never be your default response. They tend to get immediate compliance (which may sometimes be necessary) but not long-term commitment. Directive conversations really should only be used if students are in immediate physical, academic, or psychological danger, or if you have tried the other approaches and the teacher is still not cooperating. 

The magic of strategic conversations is that once you understand their purpose, you can strategically choose which approach will work best based on the situation and the teacher involved.

If you want teachers to make connections, use reflective conversations.  Commitments?  Faciliative conversations will work best.  If you want them to make corrections to their behavior, it is usually best to use a coaching conversation.  And, if you need them to make immediate changes then a directive is the best approach most of the time. 

The final thing to remember is that no one conversation will make lasting change, the power of these conversational approaches is that they are ongoing. 

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