Mindful Teacher Collaboration: Strategies to address the call for school reform
Spencer, Gary L.
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Over the past two decades public schools have faced an unrelenting demand for reform. In response to this call for change, researchers have identified two strategies that hold great promise – organizational mindfulness and teacher collaboration. Despite the volume of work that has focused on these areas, little has been done to investigate their overlap. This study discusses development of the Teacher Instructional Practice and Sentiments (TIPS), an 18-item survey to measure teacher practices and beliefs that reflect mindful collaboration for improving instruction. Teacher responses to the TIPS were gathered and analyzed from a representative statewide sample of elementary school teachers in Washington State. Findings examined survey items which were aligned to the five cognitive processes of HRO theory: preoccupation with failure, reluctance to simplify, sensitivity to operations, commitment to resilience, and deference to expertise. An exploratory factor analysis was complete using Principal Components Analysis with varimax rotation which revealed three factors underlying mindfulness in schools. The first factor, Mindful Focus on Students, includes items such as understanding a student’s home situation, as well as making accommodations for struggling learners. The second factor, Mindful Focus on Relationships, deals with interactions between teachers, students, parents, and the community. Finally, Mindful Focus on Instruction includes “checks for understanding" and brainstorming with colleagues on strategies to get students to standard. As an alternative to forcing the current labels of HRO theory on education, consideration should be given to application of these school-specific categories. They simplify the process of evaluating mindfulness in schools, and simplify the variables requiring investigation. Use of the TIPS survey to understand the extent to which mindfulness and teacher collaboration are evident in schools is recommended.