School District of Lancaster

Team Members: Michael Slechta, Barbara Rule, Linda Cummings, Chris Maiorino, Andrew Wulfkuhle, Burrowes
Community: IU-13 Year 1, 2010-2011

The purpose of our project is to use 21st Century Learning techniques to promote teacher growth and transformation based on inquiry, classroom application and critical reflection. Through the creation of a safe learning environment, we hope to enable teachers to break down the walls that isolate their classroom practice and develop a collaborative community dedicated to exploring professional development topics that they have identified as important to their professional practices and collaborate with others. By exploring topics of need/interest and through the use of 21st Century learning techniques, teachers are supported by their peers as they learn to implement new ideas and technology in their classrooms.

Our Strategic Plan sets a goal for on-going, job-embedded professional develompent to develop and retain excellent and diverse administrators, teachers and support staff and improve instruction and support for students. While we are aware of the need to have specific initiatives at the district and site levels, there are limited opportunities for teachers to participate in collaborative practices outside of the top-down PD structure. In addition, teachers are given few opportunities for self-selected learning outside of college or other coursework or a professional options plan election in the OSE process. These, too, are often done in relative isolation from colleagues. Our research projects centers on peer-driven, teacher collaboration to provide opportunities to collaborate on issues related to curriculum, education and professional development. In addition, we hope to promote student learning by developing the capacity of the teachers to function in a learning group and engage in 21st Century Learning techniques.
  1. Identify a collaborative tool for use in the online professional learning. We selected a mini-NING sponsored through Pearson Education.
  2. Define the purpose, membership, norms, terms of use, participation measurements and guidelines for inappropriate use. Purpose and Contract.
  3. Select a test group for the NING. The group was invited in a face-to-face meeting.
  4. Create a survey about collaboration and professional learning needs. We will use the survey as a pre- and post- survey to determine changes in attitudes and practices.
  5. Identify collaborative topics for the NING. Based on the survey results, we will see what content the group is interested in pursuing.
  6. Communicate the availability of the NING to a wider audience. This step is beyond the scope of this project. Revisions to the NING and the action research components will be undertaken after the test period. Once this takes place, we plan to add additional teachers and grow the project. The success of the project will be indicated by regular and productive participation by the members of the NING. Rubric of Participation.

We will also look for changes in the participants’ survey answers after the post-project survey is given.

December 2010 to March 2011 – Research review, idea formation, development of the NING, practice posting and admin features, beta group identification, presentation of ideas for feedback.

April, 2011 – Invitations to the group, first roundtable discussion regarding the project, survey creation, formation of the purpose, membership, norms, terms of use, participation measurements and guideliness for inappropriate use, establish profile questions for NING membership.

May, 2011 – intial content posts, admission of members to the NING

At this point in time, our project is just beginning with a small group of teachers. We will not have evaluation data and results for a few months. In the course of developing this action research project, we heard enthusiasm for the project from the teachers we talked with. However, this enthusiasm was tempered with concern about NING membership and how participation may impact their yearly evaluations. These concerns were discussed with our LEA President, Dave Calender. It was his recommendation to clearly define the purpose of the NING, membership requirements as well as overall terms of use. In addition, there are a variety of concerns, we as a group, have expressed. These issues will need to considered as the project moves along. Here is our list to date:

  1. Who will manage the NING beyond our PLP experience?
  2. How will District budgets impact this project?
  3. Creating content – How will we gradually release control of creating content to the NING members?
  4. How can we create an environment that is sensitive to the privacy concerns and professional needs of educators? This idea is partially addressed in our Purpose and Contract document. Others issues may arise that have not been considered yet.
  5. Who will control the membership of the community? Currently, the PLP team are administrators for the NING.
  6. Should the NING membership remain only SDoL?
  7. What role will the LEA need to play in the project beyond their current involvement?
  8. Were the results of the beta group what we wanted to see?
  9. What changes need to be made.
  10. What suggestions does the NING membership have for the project?
The team’s Action Research Prezi presentation.


About Action Research Projects

Action research is a process in which Powerful Learning Team members collaboratively examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully. Action research is:

  • Disciplined inquiry into a problem or possibility within the school or classroom
  • Collaborative and usually takes place in a community of practice
  • Meaningful, positive, and reflective
  • Data-driven, action-based, improvement-focused
  • Transformative

View all Action Research

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.

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