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S2 Ep11: Supporting Leaders, Teachers & Students with Dr. Shelly LeDoux and Jacqueline LeJeune

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

The Charles A. Dana Center is a research-based professional organization of educators that work to dismantle barriers in the education system to ensure all students have equitable access to an excellent education, with emphasis in mathematics and science education. They develop and deliver innovative curriculum and professional learning to help change and support educational systems, structures, and policies. Their purpose is to evolve education systems and curriculum to impact student’s experiences while also nurturing students’ intellectual passions to achieve new levels of success.

Dr. Shelly LeDoux currently serves as the Interim Manager of the K-12 services team at the Dana Center and Jaqueline LeJeune is a Professional Learning Facilitator on the Leadership Team at the Dana Center. Both women share a passion for the major goal of the center, which is to make sure all students, particularly those that are in marginalized or underserved groups, have equitable access to excellent math and science education. They discuss the many ways the Dana Center and their team of educators approach this idea of equitable access, including working with educators, administrators, policy makers and other partners to dismantle barriers in systems. They then create and scale types of mathematics and science innovations that support student success.

Shelly and Jackie share their interpretation of equitable and excellent math and science education, where students are making sense and taking responsibility for their own learning, and teachers are facilitating that learning. This means being able to use the skills and knowledge that they are learning as they learn it and, more importantly, as they move forward in their life. This is often NOT what is happening in schools, and this is what the Dana Center and Shelly and Jackie do as part of their work - help schools, school leaders, and teachers create that change.

They both talk about some of the barriers to creating equitable and excellent math and science learning experiences. This includes the traditional, more teacher-centered, instruction versus student-centered instruction, and a lack of access to rigorous classes (such as AP classes or IB classes). This lack can often be traced back to structures that are in place which prevent many students from experiencing high levels of rigor, particularly those who belong to groups prone to biases and false preconceptions, such as those surrounding Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students' math and science abilities.

Shelly shares the reasoning behind why educational leaders (principals, administrators, etc.) also need to be included in instructional changes, since teachers need their support to implement and sustain the changes. Letting leaders see and experience what good instruction looks like, feels like, and sounds like, helps them know what to look for in their teachers' classrooms. They also need tools to support those teachers who are struggling. Encouraging leaders to sit in on the teachers professional learning experiences is a great way to fully show the support for the initiatives. Jackie discusses how important it is for leaders to hear directly from the teachers about what the teachers feel are barriers for implementation, because leadership then realizes how important the administration's support is to success and moving forward.

There are interesting discussions around the communication barriers and differences in goals that exist between the different levels of education - i.e. teachers, principals, school district administration and state-level administrators. Dealing with the time constraints and assessment expectations and how these often conflicts with the time needed to create sustained change is a big issue. Jackie talks about how important it is to think big-picture, instead of a band-aid approach to change, e.g. systemic change versus quick-fix approaches, that have been shown over and over NOT to work.

The episode goes into different types of professional learning approaches, from train-the-trainer to asynchronous professional learning. They both discuss the importance of practicing strategies with students and reflecting on practices and how important a combination of synchronous and asynchronous is to truly changing practice. There is a lot more discussed throughout the episode, including suggestions for teachers, and leadership qualities that support implementation and sustained change, so be sure to listen and hopefully gain some insight!

Themes/topics explored in the episode:

  • What is the Dana Center?

  • What is equitable access to education?

  • What does ‘excellent education’ look like?

  • What does it mean to dismantle barriers and systems in education?

  • Why is it important to provide education leaders with professional learning when changing curriculum and teaching strategies?

  • What does leadership professional learning look like?

  • What barriers to initiatives and educational change does leadership perceive? Are these different from those that teachers perceive?

  • Do standardized assessments conflict with student-centered learning strategies?

  • How do you change education systems when time for change is not provided?

  • How does ‘train-the-trainer approach compare to asynchronous, web-based professional learning.

  • How did Covid impact the professional learning services of the Dana Center?

  • Why is experiential learning of math/science so important for educational leaders?

  • What qualities make a good teacher-leader or education-leader?

  • How do you ‘sell’ educational change to teachers and leaders?

  • Why is modeling what you are ‘teaching’ others so important?

  • How do you support teachers/leaders resisting change?

  • How is supporting students of color or marginalized students ‘different’, and what does it look like?

  • What teaching practices support learning, despite standards that might not?

  • What role does curriculum play in systemic change?

  • Misconception vs. alternate-conception - (different types of ‘wrong’ answers vs. different levels of understanding) - how do we change our language?

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:

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