Kumu Nancy DeRego
Kumu Nancy lets us in on her experience serving as Department Head and some of the outcomes from her team's efforts.
Setting the Context
As inclusion of Hawaiian and Pasifika literature has grown on our campus, and with more professional development on ʻŌiwi Edge teaching and learning, methodologies are changing, along with the openness to change in our course progression. My kuleana during the 2022-2023 school year was the English Language Arts (ELA) Content Team Leader (CLT), a position that also saw a new description for role and duties. Given the department alignment with campus direction and initiatives, I brought an informed lens to the position and dived into the work with eyes wide open.
The past several years Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi (KSH) rolled out a number of novel programs and directives which included new Kumu Competencies. One kula-wide Kumu Competency asked for “the use of assessment and data as tools for learning and to ensure that haumāna are progressing at rates which result in equity of outcomes.” I decided to attack the issue of data analysis in our content team meetings, as this was a school-wide requirement and the Competency for which we all shared kuleana.
This writeup briefly describes our ELA department efforts of redesign amid macro- and micro- level transformations while acknowledging the importance of perceived “power” at every level of the work. I offer a list of building blocks that any department experiencing change may consult.
An Implicit Framework
Having experienced past and current staff turnover as well as responding to a strong call for redesign from administration provided the motivation and conditions for strategic adjustment in our department. Thus, in my CLT role, I saw the opportunity to consider how Hoʻomana a Mana as an implicit framework, might ground the way I approached our department. Specifically, I interpreted Hoʻomana a Mana as a way for Kumu to both realize and cede power in curricular and pedagogical redesign efforts.
Using Data to Collaborate
To introduce the work and set group expectations, our team read and discussed “3 Tips to Use Data Effectively” (Mulliken). From there, we completed a protocol to gather data on perceptions of student and classroom needs, which we called “pet peeves,” to search for commonalities, and identify persisting issues vs those that evolve or resolve as students move through the progression of ninth to 12th grades in ELA. Although this deviated from my usual “strength-based model,” it mirrored the techniques of error-based analysis, permitted Kumu to equitably participate, and was inherently interesting to my ELA team.
Through two 45-minute meetings, we determined areas of need in our classrooms, and found that while there were some commonalities in work habits, misunderstandings, and pitfalls in all grade-levels, students improved in some areas (such as citation of evidence) as they grew older, but became somewhat more passive as learners. In other words, it seemed that as students progressed from each grade level, interest or engagement in the subject area waned. To reframe the data collected into goals, I categorized kumu comments for revision that informed our next meeting. This initial foundation of looking at data in the classroom and working together to define the direction we wanted our department to steer helped us to radically revise our ELA content team vision. Table 1 compares our department’s former version with the newest edition that we developed as a team.
To increase comfort with sharing and using classroom data, I provided NWEA MAP scores and IXL data from my own students and the team engaged in the School Reform Initiative’s “Data Mining Protocol.” The use of these protocols, sharing kuleana through chapter readings, and modeling vulnerability; as a department, our efforts reflected autonomy, agency, and voice in what we believed to be best for haumāna learning. This activity increased our team’s comfort using protocols, which helped us prepare for the January visit from Administration members in preparation for the April 2023 K-12 articulation. We used an adaptation of the Success Analysis Protocol (School Reform Initiative) to share successful inclusion of ‘Ōiwi Edge teaching and/or texts.
A Focus on Kula-Wide Goals
As the school-wide work shifted toward redesign, we sharpened our focus from individual classroom data collection and analysis to looking at our ELA progression of courses with an eye toward meeting the revised Content Vision and goals of our kula. This had been raised casually earlier in the year to great enthusiasm, but as we addressed it in February, the prospect of the work raised a bit more trepidation and resistance. The process of moving toward redefining our ELA progression mirrored our work with exploring the use of classroom data—initial focus on “what’s wrong/what won’t work,” classifying and categorizing, examining data, and revision of work. Several meetings were devoted to questions and potential problems with altering our course progression. We examined other Hawaiʻi private school course offerings and the KSH Social Studies proposed course progression, using the skills and processes experienced in earlier protocols. As whole group discussions proved to be unwieldy, we moved to grade-level groups to develop proposals.
The Course Progression Proposal
In order to minimize the difficulties “singleton” electives produced in the past, and keep the change process manageable, we kept the model that was successful in 11th grade of having two choices for classes that fulfilled English 11 requirements. Over the last three years, Pacific Lit has gone from one section to next year’s fully half of the students. Ninth grade will be the exception, with staff turnovers anticipated. Ninth grade will continue to be a foundation course, but from grades 10-12, each grade level will have two course offerings.
In 10th and 11th grades, courses will be full year courses from which students can choose. In 12th grade, we will be offering two semester courses—one focusing on writing, and the other focusing on critical reading—which all students will have to take, but with the idea that the core focus of these more general descriptions will be chosen by the teacher and offer choice for students. For example, a section of critical reading could focus on “Hip Hop as Literature,” or “Kuapapa Nui.”
As I reflect on the 2022-2023 school year, what I perceived as being patchworked and confused due to shifts in expectations, engaging with new Kumu Competencies, and responding to various priorities of the organization, really was not as shifty and disjointed as I thought. The shared Kumu Competency on data use may not yet have been fully realized at the classroom level, however, by looking at articles and engaging in discussion protocols, we strengthened our ability to collectively overcome discomfort with change and built collegial and collaborative discussions. What felt like a roadblock on using data in our classrooms, actually provided a structure for discussions that were successful and really moved our department toward fruitful redesign. Our enjoyment of the Success Analysis Protocol may have reminded us of the successful things that were occurring daily in our classrooms, and a change in how we deliver ELA content will necessarily mean some successful and accustomed things will be lost or changed. However, our initial data collection and the subsequent goal creations required some shifts.
Steps to Redesign
Considering large changes required that our content group needed to take stock of where we are, where we wanted to be, and where the organization as a whole was moving. Although our process as a department was our own, driven by our own needs and our own personalities, there are generalizable and usable steps that other Kumu teams can take to effect change. Redesign offers Kumu the opportunity to simultaneously have more power over the blueprint of an overarching curriculum while also ceding power and choice back to students through careful choices in the curriculum. The Kuanaʻike Mindset of Hoʻomana a Mana in our process was reflected throughout the year and across the department. Although the work was challenging and asked us to consider what we do and how it reflected and supported the overall goals of the institution, it was also an opportunity to exercise our own authority in our discipline that extended beyond our individual courses.
The following are a few suggestions that might help any department experiencing change, transition, redesign or shifts in curriculum, instruction, content, or even personnel.
Take stock of where you are, so that you can create a vision of future success. In our case, this meant doing a “Pet Peeves” exercise, but you can also do an asset model inventory by focusing on what is working well.
Create a vision of success, ask: “If we make changes, what would the best outcomes look like?”
Categorize and group your findings so that you can see patterns. Often you will find root causes or connections in those patterns that can determine which change to make first.
Use conversation protocols to guide discussions and keep them focused on the task. Your group will have patterns of conversation, and sometimes those aren’t the best patterns to think in new ways. A caveat here is that although we used published protocols, we had no compunction to revise them, sometimes quite a lot, to fit our time, our group personality, or our goals. However, having set times for each person to speak can be very helpful in giving the typically quieter group members the time to process and express their thoughts. The changes we made focused more on allowing response rather than disrupting the protocols that allowed for extended time for speakers, even if that meant times when no one was speaking.
Look at common texts and models of the work you want to emulate—start with published pieces or work from outside your group and move to texts, data sets, or models from your own classrooms. It helps to build familiarity with the work to use materials that are not personal and are free of judgment before moving into data or work that can feel vulnerable or open to judgment.
Celebrate success! This is particularly important if you started with a deficit list, (Pet Peeves, or other needs assessment). You don’t want to lose what is working when making the big changes to improve what isn’t working as well.
Make a proposal and then revisit. No proposal is going to be perfect. This type of work is iterative, and you’ll most likely have to run through a similar cycle of check-in, protocol discussions, models, and new changes to your proposal several times.
As we look to a new school year and continuing redesign work in the ELA Course Progression grades 9-12, we will refine our course proposals and submit them early in the coming school year. We need to make sure that our offerings at each grade level are articulated enabling our students to grow as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners as they progress through their ELA classes. The work we started with deciding what data was important for our goals, looking at models, holding structured conversations that allowed time for all voices, and using these experiences to make decisions will continue.