Teachers, principals, and superintendents from some of the Northwest’s most rural and isolated communities gathered in December for the Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (NW RISE) Network’s fifth in-person convening. Since forming in 2014, 20 rural communities—two in Alaska, five each in Idaho and Oregon, and eight in Washington—have joined NW RISE to connect with others who share similar experiences of educating students in remote places.
At each event, NW RISE participants explore a research-based strategy that moves them closer toward accomplishing the Network’s overarching goal of increasing student engagement.
Video study—a form of ongoing professional development conducted in small learning communities—was the strategy highlighted in December. The Northwest Comprehensive Center’s (NWCC's) Melinda Leong, coauthor of Leading Lesson Study, introduced the concept by sharing video clips of teacher-student interactions. She explained, “Viewing video of students at work in teachers’ own classrooms enables teacher teams to launch authentic professional discussions about real day-to-day experiences of teaching and learning in a school.” She pointed out that videos are not intended for evaluating teacher performance; rather, “they provide teachers with an opportunity to really study what their students are thinking.”
Over the past year, Leong has been helping NW RISE’s math job-alike group use video study to guide and deepen their collaboration. At the December event, the group described a project in which they chose a particular math task to study, planned the lesson, discussed the key mathematical ideas, and considered potential student misconceptions about the task. When they conducted the lesson, they videotaped students in their respective classrooms. They then observed the videos and discussed what they saw, using an online learning management system called Schoology.
“Video study enables colleagues from multiple rural schools across the Northwest to authentically collaborate on strategies to increase student engagement,” Leong says. “The teachers took risks and tried new things, reflected on implementation of the lesson, homed in on student understanding and misconceptions, and talked about lessons learned that could be applied to their own contexts and future planning. The Big Blue Button videoconferencing tool in Schoology is a convenient platform for team members to convene remotely.”
In addition to convenings for all NW RISE members each June and December, job-alike groups connect regularly throughout the year via webinars and other online channels. NWCC and Boston College coordinate and facilitate Network activities, while respective state education agencies support district/school participation.
Find out if your school or district could benefit from joining the NW RISE Network. Or learn more about Education Northwest’s professional development offerings on video study.