by Dale Lewis, Tameka Porter, and Katie Allen
Welcome to the final blog post in our series on teacher wellbeing. Part one introduced our series, part two provided strategies for teachers and leaders to navigate the Stages of Concern to support teacher wellbeing, and part three explored the Levels of Use to strengthen wellbeing through deepening professional practice.
If you’ve been keeping up with our calls to action that have concluded each blog post and have engaged in brief conversations with teachers about an instructional program or practice, you may have gained insights into not only how teachers are feeling about that program or practice, but also how they are going about using it. You also may have worked to respond to the thoughts and feelings teachers expressed in a manner aligned to the most pressing concerns they voiced. For example, you may have helped to alleviate concerns reflecting frustration with conducting a morning classroom routine such as circle time via Zoom by having an instructional coach share and model circle time in an online environment with one of your kindergarten teachers. In doing so, you have helped the teacher to better facilitate circle time through established routines so they can focus more on how students are responding and progressing and less on how to manage Zoom-based circle time.
This final blog post will leverage what you have learned to create a tool that will enable you to share and scale these better practices with other teachers on a team, in your school, or across schools in your district.
Wellbeing and Innovation Configuration Maps
Over the past several months, we’ve heard superintendents, principals, and others in leadership roles talk about what they and their staffs have learned during the pandemic. In sharing these bright spots, many add that they have been keeping lists of the innovative practices they have seen teachers use and plan to carry into the future, pandemic or not. Although helpful in jogging memories later, those lists may not clearly describe the innovation or provide insights into how they can be developed and supported among all teachers over time.
The Innovation Configuration (IC) Map is just that—a map that describes the core components of some program or practice and provides clear descriptions of how the components are implemented—i.e., how teachers are using them—along a continuum of practice beginning with what is considered ideal. Take for example, the five components of a traditional lesson cycle: anticipatory set, introduction of new material, guided practice, independent practice, and closure. An ideal description of anticipatory set would incorporate what we have learned from brain science research and may include descriptions of teacher actions such as, “Stimulates student background knowledge and uses essential questions connected to student experiences to help reveal gaps in this knowledge and build excitement about new learning.” At the other end of the continuum, a teacher might pose essential questions drawn from curriculum materials and ask students to predict what they will be learning about next. Between these two ends of the continuum, additional descriptions are crafted to create a progression of teacher actions toward an ideal that is grounded in research and includes terminology, resources, and supports reflective of local school and district contexts. For example, if your teachers refer to a “lesson hook” rather than an “anticipatory set,” use the term that is more familiar to your teachers.
Once descriptions of the remaining components of the lesson cycle, or configurations, are similarly developed, a complete IC Map describing how the five components may be implemented by classroom teachers is produced. The map is then ready to help teachers, and those who support them, strengthen instructional practice and improve student learning.
Innovation Configuration Maps
IC Maps capture the variety of implementation of an innovation across users. When drafted, the core components and variations in how those components can be implemented formulate a map for how one can move toward more ideal implementation and clarifies the focus for supports such as professional learning and coaching.
Again, take for example the use of circle time with young learners. This instructional routine often occurs at the beginning of a school day and often with each child seated on a square of carpet in a semi-circle in front of the teacher. The pandemic and resulting shift to online or hybrid learning arrangements for many students created a need to think about how one could effectively conduct circle time in an online environment. A basic IC Map for circle time via Zoom is depicted in Figure 1. The first thing you may notice is that this is a working draft. Because teachers (in the case of this example) are constantly learning about their practice and working to continuously improve its benefit for their students, IC Maps should be revisited periodically (annually is often the case) to reflect on and refine their content based on this learning. Looking more closely at the IC Map, you’ll see a set of four descriptions of teacher actions organized from what might be considered high-quality implementation in an online setting, to actions that reflect more traditional practice reproduced in Zoom. These descriptions, if well developed, provide word-picture illustrations of what teachers are doing with respect to, in this example, implementing a circle time routine in an online environment.
Figure 1. Innovation Configuration Map for Circle Time Via Zoom (Working Draft—12/15/2020)
|For Circle Time via Zoom, the teacher…|
|Supports access to circle time for all students (e.g., varies the length of circle time daily based on student needs, uses visual schedules, provides differentiated learning experiences, etc.). Follows-up with a recorded video message for absent students asking them and their caregivers to record one in response.||Establishes routines for circle time—for example, drawing popsicle sticks from a cup to select students for roles—and shares use of Zoom tools/features with students.||Breaks time allotted for circle time into smaller chunks (e.g., good morning song, days of the week, weather, vocabulary, etc.) and displays information to students only when needed.||Replicates in-person circle time in the Zoom environment by displaying and manipulating materials (e.g., calendar markers, weather symbols, vocabulary cards, hand pointer, etc.) based on individual student direction. For example, a student tells the teacher what to do or point to next.|
Two primary goals to keep in mind as you craft these descriptions are to make them action focused (note the verb that begins each description), and as clear and visual as possible (note the absence of ambiguous terms like “frequently” and “sometimes,” or percent targets that you might find in scoring rubrics). This last point also contains a principal caveat about these descriptions and IC Maps in general: They are not meant to be used to evaluate performance. The chief purpose is to strengthen professional practice. As such, nothing is inherently wrong with being on the right-hand side of the continuum at the start. We do, however, have a picture of some next steps that teachers could take, possibly with professional learning and coaching support, to move toward the vision of better practice.
Besides working to create word-picture descriptions, developing an IC Map should also draw upon the existing evidence base for the innovation being described and reflect local norms and practice. It’s fine to start with a thumbnail sketch similar to Figure 1, and then work to engage teachers and access research on the practice to refine the map. In doing so, you may find that other components of the practice can be added to or teased out of your current working draft. For instance, the most ideal description in our IC Map for circle time includes a caregiver engagement element: “Follows-up with a recorded video message for absent students asking them and their caregivers to record one in response.” Similar to the individual components of the lesson cycle we considered earlier, that engagement element could become a separate component—another row in our IC Map—with its own continuum of practices, focused on engaging parents and guardians.
A Final Call-to-Action
This blog series has focused on applying the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) to support teacher wellbeing while also remaining focused on our core responsibility as educators—to improve outcomes and opportunities for our students. Beginning with the concerns teachers have about some program or practice, we used quick, informal conversation to discern in which of four broad categories—Unrelated, Self, Task, and Impact—concerns expressed were most intense. Then, we identified actions that could be taken to help lessen those concerns and progress toward a stronger focus on the impact of teaching on student learning.
Next, we turned attention to how teachers are using a program or practice—how they describe that use and their focus in doing so. Again, following a short conversation with teachers and the Levels of Use framework in mind, we gained a sense of whether teachers are grappling with the mechanics of implementing a new practice, if they’re feeling comfortable in its use, and what refinements they may be making independently or in collaboration with others to both strengthen their practice and outcomes for students. Using this information, we again considered the supports teachers might need to deepen practice by reflecting and acting upon student learning.
Finally, we attempted to bring what we have learned about practice, particularly during the abrupt shifts in educational experiences for students and teachers caused by the global pandemic, to create a map describing a journey toward better practice. A map that can and should be refined as we learn more, reflect on that learning, and consider the effects on our students.
Let’s end where we began this series. Leadership practices are about relationships. If we want teachers to have caring relationships with each other and their students—fostering positive wellbeing for all—teachers must be supported by leaders (e.g., principals, coaches, and mentors) who work to build strong relationships with them. As a person-centered approach to facilitating change, CBAM offers three core components that can be used individually or collectively to nurture relationships, strengthen professional practice, and increase the confidence, skills, and successes of teachers in responding to the needs of their students. As leaders and facilitators of change and continuous improvement, it is our responsibility to support our teachers in these efforts. CBAM can help. Let’s get going!
 Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2020). Implementing change: Patterns, principles and potholes (5th edition). Pearson.
 Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2020). Implementing change: Patterns, principles and potholes (5th edition). Pearson.
Dale Lewis is the Director of the Region 12 Comprehensive Center. Following almost 20 years as a special education teacher and leader, Dale has spent the past 10 years supporting and leading federally funded technical assistance centers and research labs, and multiple projects focused on supporting and scaling implementation of effective programs and practices. His work to educate school leaders on managing change and use person-centered tools to support others in the change process, spans a variety of contexts including PK–12, community college, and correctional education system.
Tameka Porter serves as the Kansas State Co-Lead for the Region 12 Comprehensive Center. She leads and supports projects focused on establishing evidence-based practices and policies for measuring continuous school improvement, examining school redesign processes, and using data-driven approaches to improve student achievement outcomes.
Katie Allen is the Deputy Director of the Region 12 Comprehensive Center. She assists in the coordination of the Center’s work and supports technical assistance on key education opportunities to state education agencies.