1. Jennifer Stevens
  2. President & CEO
  3. Rural Math Innovation Network
  4. https://www.vaadvstudies.org/rmin
  5. Virginia Advanced Study Strategies
  1. Amanda Adams
  2. Director of Public Affairs
  3. Rural Math Innovation Network
  4. https://www.vaadvstudies.org/rmin
  5. Virginia Advanced Study Strategies
  1. Darla Edwards
  2. Director of Special Projects
  3. Rural Math Innovation Network
  4. https://www.vaadvstudies.org/rmin
  5. Virginia Advanced Study Strategies
  1. Sandy Wilborn
  2. Director of Programs
  3. Rural Math Innovation Network
  4. https://www.vaadvstudies.org/rmin
  5. Virginia Advanced Study Strategies
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 05:40 p.m.

    As President/CEO of Virginia Advanced Study Strategies, Inc., I would like to welcome you to the 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase and thank you for watching our video about the Rural Math Innovation Network (RMIN). Our nonprofit organization has a broad mission of assisting K12 schools in preparing students for college and careers, and we were awarded a USED Investing in Innovation (i3) research grant to develop a model that enables teachers in rural areas to collaborate and solve their own problems of practice, thereby improving student outcomes.  In our third year of the RMIN project, we have learned a great deal about what it takes to successfully create and support a virtual networked improvement community, and we believe our work will inform best practices for empowering teachers across the US to grow professionally.
     
    We hope you enjoy the creative way we chose to highlight RMIN, and as you consider feedback for our research team and partners, we invite you to reflect on the following questions:


    1. What other challenges, aside from the ones noted in the video, do teachers face, regardless of where they are located?

    2. In what ways do you feel the virtual networked improvement community described in the video can help with those challenges?

    3. How could this model be adapted to enable other groups to collaborate and solve their own problems of practice?


  • Icon for: Amy Hutchison

    Amy Hutchison

    Researcher
    May 13, 2019 | 12:42 p.m.

    It's great to learn about your work! I didn't know this existed in Virginia. When did this project start and when will you have results to share?

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 04:24 p.m.

    Thanks, Amy! This i3 project began in January 2017, and the external evaluation is ongoing.  The implementation study was completed last year, so we have those results, and the impact study will conclude next spring/summer 2020.  We are presenting often at regional and national conferences to disseminate what we are learning as we go along - our last presentation was at the Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education in April. I would be happy to discuss at your convenience!

  • Icon for: Kathe Kanim

    Kathe Kanim

    Program Manager
    May 13, 2019 | 04:57 p.m.

    In NM we are facing a challenge of hiring certified teachers in rural and even urban districts.  The challenges of completing alternative certification could be assisted with the collaboration and problem solving offered by an NIC.

     
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    Amanda Adams
  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:00 p.m.

    Hi, Kathe -

    We have the same challenges in Virginia, particularly in our rural areas, and I agree that a NIC could address some of the challenges related to alternative certification. What subject areas tend to be hit the hardest in NM?

    Jennifer

  • Icon for: Julie Amador

    Julie Amador

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 13, 2019 | 05:19 p.m.

    Thanks for the video! We face many similar challenges in our work with rural teachers in Idaho and upstate New York. One issue is internet connectivity--do you have any recommendations around this?

    I am also interested in the focus on a problem of practice in your work. How do you frame this for teachers? (e.g. Are you using a specific resource?)

    Julie

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:14 p.m.

    Hi, Julie!

    We do actually have some challenges related to internet connectivity - mostly for teachers who are uploading videos to the online platform or attending webinars that we hold regularly from home. Unfortunately, the only solution that has worked for us is to be sure to schedule our webinars at different times so some have the opportunity to attend later in the evening from home if they have broadband but others have the option of attending a session at school before leaving for the day. We find that connectivity is not much of an issue in most schools, but we do often have to work with the IT departments to unblock certain sites and activities for our teachers. 

    As for the problem of practice, we had to choose it in advance for this NIC due to the nature of our grant proposal and the priorities stated in the RFP. So our teachers in RMIN did not select the problem but have certainly had the opportunity to test and refine solutions along the way. We have been using Plan, Do, Study, Act cycles with small groups to test and refine the tools and processes that enable the teachers to create lesson plans, teach and video record their lessons, and then provide feedback to one another using specific rubrics. I am happy to share more details about this if you are interested. 

  • Icon for: Julie Amador

    Julie Amador

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 14, 2019 | 03:11 p.m.

    Jennifer,

    Thanks for the details about the internet issues--sounds very similar to our project, so we are not alone!

    I appreciate you sharing about the problem of practice as well, and your use of Plan, Do, Study, Act cycles. This is helpful to think about in relation to our project. Thanks so much!
    Julie

  • Icon for: Mac Cannady

    Mac Cannady

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 12:32 a.m.

    What a fun video, thanks for sharing this work in such a great way.

    I am curious about how teachers join the network. Are they invited or do they apply? What requirements exist for participation? Are their norms of behavior or expectations for amount of contribution? 

    Also, can you say more about the challenge of giving feedback? Is it that teachers are struggling to give each other feedback? or something else? 

    Thanks so much. 

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 05:42 a.m.

    Hi, Mac - 

    Thanks for watching and for responding!  For this network, we started by inviting school divisions to be partners on the i3 grant application, and when we were awarded, we had MOUs signed by superintendents.  When we were ready to have teachers join, we communicated the project goals and expectations via email, website, webinars, and social media and had teachers complete an online application that helped us understand their desire to collaborate with peers and be innovative in their classroom practices, and we wanted teachers who were already pretty adept with technology due to the video recording and use of a new online platform.  We still had school administrators who did their best to hand-pick the teachers who would be involved, but we reserved the right to turn down applicants.  The main requirements for RMIN were that the teacher had to be from a partner rural school division, teaching Algebra I and/or Pre-Algebra (for the entire project period), willing/able to implement the project activities and attend all virtual and in-person meetings, and overall engaged in the network.  Since year 1, we have lost a few teachers due to changes in teaching assignments and personal issues that prevented them from implementing with fidelity.

    As for norms of behavior or expectations for amount of contribution, yes, we have had to define this a bit to ensure implementation fidelity.  This usually centers around attendance in activities and numbers of lesson plans created, video recordings of instruction uploaded, and formal feedback given to peers in a given project year.  We use these deliverables/milestones to determine the stipend amount for each person as well.

    Peer feedback has been a challenge for the majority of teachers because they are really not used to providing constructive criticism to other adults.  They are used to getting feedback from their administrators in the form of evaluations, but most of them have never had the opportunity to formally give the feedback to peers.  They tend to err on the side of being "nice" or giving pats on the back for a job well done rather than making suggestions for possible improvements, but we are continuing to work on this aspect of the network and will make this a focus of our two-day summer institute this year.

    Again, thanks for the response and the questions! Let me know if you would like to discuss further.

    Jennifer  

     
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    Rachel Garrett
  • Icon for: Susan McKenney

    Susan McKenney

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 09:49 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing this very interesting and important work! Picking up on the above response by Jennifer, and the challenges of providing peer feedback I am wondering: Based on your data/experience so far, in a subsequent project, would you lean toward having a 'coach' or facilitator in the group, or would you stick with the peer feedback model?

    All the best, 
    Susan

     
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    Rachel Garrett
  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 10:40 a.m.

    That's a great question, Susan.  We believe that teachers can become comfortable and competent in providing feedback to one another, and we very much want to empower teachers  to collaborate and solve their own problems of practice without the need for someone facilitating or leading them.  With that being said, I don't think we would lean towards having a coach or facilitators in the group.  Rather, we would do our best to use the lessons learned from this project to provide more training and support in the earlier stages of the project in order to meet the challenge of peer feedback.

    Jennifer

     
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    Rachel Garrett
    Susan McKenney
  • Icon for: Hilary Kreisberg

    Hilary Kreisberg

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 14, 2019 | 08:07 p.m.

    Hi,

    I loved the humor in this video and the artistic build off of the "If you give a mouse a cookie..." theme. Very creative! The platform itself really intrigued me, as I run a Coaching Institute for Mathematics Coaches and Administrators and in the graduate-credit portion, they are asked to upload videos of themselves coaching for peer feedback. Wondering if this platform is freely accessible and/or if others can use it? If not, are there apps similar to that platform that would be useful for me to check out?

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 09:37 a.m.

    Hilary,

    Thank you for your kind words! We really wanted to do something creative and different with our video, and our staff member, Amanda Adams, was the creative genius as well as the writer, videographer, and editor.  

    The platform we are using in our network is an application made and run by Torsh Talent. It has many critical features, but the main purpose of it is for sharing, viewing, and commenting on videos. We love the fact that it allows you to time stamp your comment so that it is attached to the place in the video that you are commenting on.  The platform is not free - rather, we pay a license fee based on the number of users we have.  But it is definitely worth exploring if you are giving feedback based on videos of instruction.  I would be happy to schedule a time with you to get on a video conference and show you around the platform if you are interested.  Just let me know!

    Thanks again!

    Jennifer

  • Icon for: K. Renae Pullen

    K. Renae Pullen

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 09:46 a.m.

    Such a fun and informative video. As a former rural teacher who taught "in the middle of a corn field" with an operating oil pump on the playground, I wish I had access to a network like this. 

    How do you and the online community support those rural math teachers who are very likely to teach multiple if not all disciplines of mathematics for their school? How could this project be extended to include elementary teachers? 

     

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 10:42 a.m.

    Thank you for your feedback and questions! Having been a rural teacher myself, I am very passionate about our project!

    The teachers in our network all teach multiple math courses, and many of them do not have a planning period because their schools are so short-staffed in the math departments.  Although our content focus is on Algebra I and Pre-Algebra, the strategies that teachers have learned and are using to promote growth mindset and self-efficacy as well as value of math in careers are definitely applicable in every course they teach.  And, because these teachers are having the opportunity to collaborate with peers from all over rural Virginia, they have developed relationships and trust with one another in a way that allows them to truly learn from each other's successes and failures.  

    As for extending the project to elementary teachers - we are already considering how this model of a virtual networked improvement community can be utilized with a variety of different groups because the main point of a NIC is for a group of like-minded people with common challenges to come together to work on those challenges together.  

    Jennifer

     
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    K. Renae Pullen
  • Icon for: Julie Yu

    Julie Yu

    Senior Scientist
    May 16, 2019 | 11:15 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing your project. Is there any aspect of the program that happens in person? We're trying to expand our work online and have found an initial face-to-face experience very valuable in establishing the network. I'm hoping to learn about how other distance models have thought about this.

  • Icon for: Amanda Adams

    Amanda Adams

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 12:53 p.m.

    Hi Julie, 

    Thanks for watching our video!  During the first year of the project we hosted a 4-day summer training institute for teachers and principals. Teachers unable to attend the 4-day summer institute received special training via webinars, reviewed videos of key sessions from the summer institute, and communicated frequently with RMIN network facilitators. We host a summer institute each year to touch base with teachers and allow them to collaborate in person with each other. We also continually host Academic Concepts Connected to Employable Skills (ACCESS) sessions. These sessions allow teachers to hear directly from technicians in high demand STEM-H occupations about the math used daily in the workplace. We strive to hold these sessions regionally to reduce travel distance for teachers. We have found initial face-to-face interactions supplemented with opportunities for in-person interactions throughout the project increases teacher engagement while providing clarity about project expectations.

  • Icon for: Erin Kraal

    Erin Kraal

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2019 | 08:21 a.m.

     Thanks for sharing your project.  I am in the geosciences as the university level, but thanks to your video, I see that we share some characteristics with rural math teachers.  Geoscience teachers are often 'lone wolfs' in their institutions (the only geoscientist) and have a lot of isolation with regard to collaboration.  Our project was looking at a pedagogical innovation (student produced audio narratives) focused on students and increasing diversity, but are finding that an important outcome of our project has been the professional learning community of the faculty.  Similar to what you've shown here.  I'm curious to know about your software platform for sharing the videos and commenting.  Also, is it in a secure location so that teachers can post with out student privacy concerns (ie a student is in the video).

  • Icon for: Sandy Wilborn

    Sandy Wilborn

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 01:04 p.m.

    Hi Erin,

    Thank you for your interest and your questions!

    The platform we use in our project is Torsh Talent. It allows teachers to upload documents and videos that they then share with peers. Teachers use rubrics to provide constructive feedback to one another. There is also a community section in which teachers can create forums for collaboration.

    As far as the privacy issue, Torsh is a secure, password protected site. Teachers select particular peers to share lesson plans and videos with and to ask for feedback. We do have parental consent to record and share videos of students. 

    Sandy

  • Icon for: Rachel Garrett

    Rachel Garrett

    Researcher
    May 17, 2019 | 11:13 a.m.

    This is really interesting to learn about! Your comments about providing feedback are very insightful. I was wondering how many teachers are in your network? Is there a particular length of time that teachers are expected to be a network member (for a year, a certain number of PDSA cycles, etc.?) I hope to hear more about your evaluation results when they become available! 

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 09:02 a.m.

    Hi, Rachel - 

    We currently have 30 teachers from 16 different school divisions in Virginia.  When teachers agreed to participate in this i3 project, we asked them to commit to the full project period of 4 years.  We have had some attrition due to changes in teaching assignments and health issues, unfortunately, but that is to be expected.  Next year, we will expand the network and invite additional teachers to participate (after the initial evaluation period is over), and we hope that the work will be sustained beyond the USED grant period to allow rural teachers the opportunity to collaborate on other problems of practice.

    Thanks!

    Jennifer

  • Icon for: Darla Edwards

    Darla Edwards

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 12:58 p.m.

    Rachel,

    Thank you for watching our video.  We have approximately 30 teachers in our network.  We expect teachers to be network members for the duration of our project (4 years).  We are pleased that we have had such dedicated and passionate teachers participating in our network. Teacher retirements and grade level reassignments have impacted a few teachers from yearly participation in the network.  We will keep you posted on our final evaluation results.  Thanks again for your post.  

  • Icon for: Karin Lohwasser

    Karin Lohwasser

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 18, 2019 | 08:56 p.m.

    Hello Jennifer and team: I truly enjoyed watching your video. We know about the challenges of creating a NIC within a large urban school district, and I can imagine the challenges of a virtual NIC over considerable distances are not any smaller ;) Do you know how many teachers are actively collaborating at times? And are you conducting a "social/professional network analysis" - I guess so.... Would love to see the development of connections.

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 09:14 a.m.

    Hi, Karin - 

    Thank you for watching our video! Because this virtual NIC has been developed as a model of innovation in a USED grant project, we had to limit the number of teachers participating to 40 to stay within budget.  We are currently down to 30 teachers in the network due to changes in teaching assignments and health issues, but we will expand to add additional teachers next year after the external evaluation is completed.  All of the teachers are actively collaborating because we have a structure in place to ensure that they complete certain milestones related to creating lesson plans, teaching and video-recording those lessons, and sharing the videos with peers to give and receive feedback for improvement.  We are in constant communication with them to provide encouragement and support, and when we learn of challenges the teachers are experiencing, we work with them to find solutions.  

    Our external evaluation team has conducted an implementation study to research whether or not the project plan was implemented with fidelity, and this year, they began the impact study to ascertain whether the network will have positive impact on student and teacher outcomes.  Please follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter or reach out to us via our website to stay in touch with us!

    Jennifer

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 20, 2019 | 01:19 p.m.

    Hi, 

       This is a great thing to do, and it looks like it's off to a hopeful start.  There have been such networks since the 1980s — each with its own strengths and weaknesses, of course  -- and I'm wondering what similar projects you've learned from (things definitely to do, things definitely NOT to do!)?  

       

  • Icon for: Jennifer Stevens

    Jennifer Stevens

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 03:16 p.m.

    Brian,

    Thank you for viewing our video and for taking the time to comment.  Certainly there have been all kinds of support networks and professional learning communities in place for quite some time, but we believe that our virtual networked improvement community is a new, innovative model because it draws upon the latest improvement science and helps meet some of the challenges faced by rural educators. We've learned some valuable lessons so far:  

    • Building trust and developing relationships among the network participants is critical - we accomplished this through a combination of a few face-to-face meetings and having the teachers connect weekly through phone or video conference.
    • Ongoing communication with the teachers to learn about their challenges/barriers and then working with them to find solutions has been key to progress.  We have provided training and consistent communication to their principals as well in an effort to ensure that they have support in their buildings.
    • Quick technical assistance on the technology aspects of the project is very important - if participants do not feel that they can use the technology, they will disengage pretty fast.

    Thanks again for your interest!

    Jennifer

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.