Whole-Faculty Study Group
Studies and Research Chairperson Ann Cook
Carlene Murphy's Whole-Faculty Study Group Model
Finding Time for Study Groups to Meet
Finding time for study groups to meet is the number one issue for faculties considering and those that have adopted WFSGs. It is the one common obstacle schools face in the study group process. We want to say with conviction: There is time in the school day for teachers to collaborate, if the administration and faculty are willing to change other things! Schools have been most creative in how they have found time to make the whole-faculty study group process work in their schools, including the following twenty-four approaches.
1. Release students early one day a week. Many schools exceed the minimum
number of instructional minutes required by the state. For such schools, releasing students early one day a week would not require changing the dismissal time the other four days. For schools that do not exceed the minimum instructional minutes, adding minutes to one or more of the other four days would be necessary.
2. Have a "late start" day once a week when students report to school one hour later on that morning. This gives the teachers one hour for study groups to meet.
3. Have a "late start" day once a week that begins only 30 minutes later than the other four days. The teachers report 30 minutes earlier and two half-hour blocks are put together for one hour of study group time.
4. Use teaching assistants to release teachers for study group meetings. A team of five teaching assistants can release five teachers the first hour of the school day for the five teachers to have their study group meeting. For the last hour of the day, the team of teaching assistants could cover the classrooms of another five teachers. Each day, two study groups could meet. For schools that have ten or fewer study groups, this plan has worked.
5. Use teams of parents or business partners to release teachers for the hour their study groups meet.
6. Pair teachers. Teachers from one study group take students from teachers in another study group for the first or last 30 minutes of one day. The next day, the process is reversed. Because teachers arrive at least 30 minutes before students arrive and stay 30 minutes after students leave, an hour block is created for study group meetings at the end of a day or at the beginning of a day. In combined classes, students have individual study, reading, and journal writing time; students work one-on-one with each other; clubs meet; and other types of student planned activities are initiated.
7. Identify a team of five substitutes that spend a day every other week at the school. On that day, the team releases five teachers at 9:00 a.m. to meet as a study group and continues to do this each hour of the day. The team of substitutes moves from class to class. As many as six study groups meet on that one day. For schools that have more than six study groups. The team of substitute teachers returns for part of another day. On the weeks that the substitute teachers do not provide released time, study groups meet for one hour after school.
8. Limit faculty meetings to one afternoon, e.g., Wednesday, a month. On the other three Wednesdays of the month, study groups meet. Some districts expect teachers to reserve one afternoon a week for faculty or other types of meetings.
9. Use part or all of daily team planning period once a week. On one day a
week, the planning period is labeled "study group" time. During that hour, teachers meet in their study groups.
10. Permit teachers to use WFSGs to earn compensatory time for their after
school study groups. The one-hour weekly study group meetings equal two full days of staff development time. Therefore, on two days designed as staff development days on the school calendar, teachers do not report to school.
11. Dismiss students two hours early one day a month and have each study group submit a plan to the principal for another two hours during each month.
12. Dismiss students two hours early on one Wednesday a month. On another Wednesday of the month, teachers meet after school in study groups. On the other two Wednesdays, the principal has a faculty meeting.
13. Design an assembly model to give teachers time to collaborate during the school day. This option also provides enrichment opportunities for students. Special assemblies are scheduled every other week at the school. The assemblies are part of a cultural arts enrichment program that is funded by the school's PTA or the school's adopters. Various art groups, such as a theater group, the Opera, the Symphony, a Ballet group, storytellers, dancers, musical groups, drama clubs, and other performing groups present programs to the students. On assembly day, there are two assembly periods that are an hour and a half in length. Half of the classes in the school are scheduled for each assembly. Each period consists of two 45-minute performances that occur concurrently. Half of the students scheduled for an assembly period go to one of the 45-minute performances and the other half goes to the other performance; then, they switch. This creates a 1 1/2-hour block of time for the teachers, who attend study group meetings during the block of time their students are in the assembly. Administrators, paraprofessionals, and parents stay with the students during the two assembly periods. Classroom teachers have the responsibility of delivering and settling the students in the designated area (e.g., cafeteria or gym) and getting students when the two performances are over. Students know that teacher are meeting in study groups while they are in assemblies. When students return to their rooms, they share with their teacher what they have learned. Likewise, teachers share with students what they learned in study group meetings. A principal has reported that on assembly day, parents show up who are not scheduled to assist and ask, "May I help?" On alternating weeks, when assemblies are not scheduled, study groups meet for an hour after school.
14. Do an analysis of the number of instruction minutes in a regular school day. If it is determined that the school is "banking" time in terms of instructional minutes, specify the number of minutes. For example, a high school exceeds by 5 minutes daily the minimum number of minutes per day for instruction. To have time in the school day for study groups to meet, take the accumulated 5 minutes and combine it with the time from a staff development day. This means that the school had 26 days on which it could begin classes 45 minutes later. On one day a week, study groups meet from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., with classes starting at 8:20 a.m. and all periods were shortened. On the other 4 days, classes begin at 7:30. Students know that on study group day, the bell schedule is not the same as on the other 4 days.
15. Take the holistic approach to when all of study groups would meet. All of the
Times allocated on district and school calendars for staff development and staff meetings are viewed as one big block of time; this includes full days, half days, and after-school time. Instead of focusing on the exact weekly clock hours study groups meet, focus on tasks that must be completed over a period of time. For example, after looking at several databases, one faculty made the decision that all eight study groups would focus on reading instruction. Another understanding was that groups would cover the same material in the same block of time, but how they did it was up to each group. Blocks of time to cover the predetermined content were established. For instance, through a
whole-faculty consensus process, it was decided that from December 11 to February 12, study groups would cover teaching vocabulary with context clues, work identification and phonics, and comprehension questioning. The groups would look at the calendar and see all segments of time as a whole and decide how they would organize that amount of time to cover the research and shared practice on the predetermined content.
16. Allow teachers to select for themselves when their study group will meet once a week. At one school where this was done, not only did groups meet at different time; they met on different days. Several study groups met early in the morning; others met during lunchtime or during planning periods; still others met after school; and one met in the evening. Teachers accounted for their professional development time, and on designated staff development days, teachers were not expected to attend meetings.
17. Redesign a modified day plan that may have been in place prior to the initiation of the study group process. At one school, the modified day, Monday, was formed by having the school start five minutes early and end five minutes later on Tuesday through Friday, making the student's day 8:40 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. four days a week. On Mondays, the students leave at 1:45 p.m., and the teachers leave at 4:25. Prior to study groups, teachers spent that block of time doing individual teacher preparation, meeting in committees, and participating in faculty meetings. Now, one hour of that block of time is for study groups to meet.
18. Reconfigure a modified day. One district has one day per week that is modified so those students are dismissed 2 hours earlier than on the other 4 days. Generally, this time is for individual teacher preparation time, faculty meetings, and district meetings. When five elementary schools elected to initiate the study group process, those schools reconfigured the modified-day time. Four faculties decided to use 1 hour of the 2 hour time block for study groups. The faculty at the fifth school decided that study groups would meet every other week for 1 1/2 hours. On study group day after study group meetings, the whole staff meets together for half an hour to report on the progress of each group.
19. Schedule weekly common planning periods for teachers in the same study group.
20. Enlist college students who are willing to spend one day a week at the school. For example, college students participating in Eco Watch, an outward-bound environmental leadership program are expected to do classroom and school wide environmental activities with elementary students. This allows teachers to meet in study groups. The college students keep a record of the hours they spend in school, and at the end of the school year, the hours are converted into dollars for college tuition.
21. Make allowances for the time teachers spend after school in their study groups. If teachers are expected to stay 45 minutes after student are dismissed and a group of teachers in a study group stays an hour and a half beyond dismissal time, those teachers will be allowed to leave earlier than the 45 minutes on the other days of the week. A version of this idea would be for schools where teachers, by contract, are expected to stay 45 minutes after students are dismissed, the 45 minutes being shortened to 30 minutes on 4 days, carving out an hour for all study groups at the end of 1 day a week.
22. Release teachers from their teaching duties for an hour and a half each week. The students would remain at school, being dismissed at their regular times. Professionals are from universities, health care facilities, community agencies, business, and city
and county governmental agencies consider how volunteers can provide instruction in foreign languages, physical education, athletics, nutrition, civics, drama, music, art, environmental education, and other areas for the students during the hour and a half time. Students could be grouped differently than in the regular classes, forming larger and smaller classes across grade levels. PTAs consider budgeting funds for this purpose where funds are required.
23. Establish a silent reading time for the first 30 minutes one morning a week. Have volunteers in the classrooms. The teachers would begin meeting in their study groups 30 minutes before school starts and continue meeting until the silent reading period is over.