Interview | Rudy Azcuy: What You Can Do with Ci2

After working in the field of education for over twenty years there was always one question that persisted to elude Rudy Azcuy: Why is professional development not meeting the needs of teachers more effectively? Being logical and wanting to do something about it, Rudy then asked himself this follow-up question: How can we improve the inconsistency of instructional quality that exists from classroom to classroom? What he came up with, he termed Classroom Instruction Improvement, or Ci2 Protocol. “When we looked at our overall goal for the Ci2 Protocol,” says Rudy, “our main focus was to help educators at all levels improve instructional time in order to obtain greater gains in student achievement. As we developed this formal goal we looked for roadblocks in the traditional methods for obtaining the same results.” From there, they came up with seven problems to the traditional approach which led to seven solutions that the Ci2 protocol can provide. Here, Rudy shares more about that and his thoughts on education and technology.

Victor: Alright then. So first off, according to your investigations, what are The 7 Problems of (Traditional) Professional Development?  

Rudy:

Problem 1: Inconsistent Instructional Quality

Within any given school there are many different levels of instructional quality. How a teacher is teaching in one classroom can look very different from what the teacher in the next classroom is doing. If both are getting good results this isn’t a problem. However, in most cases, you will find that the results gained by each teacher will look very different as well. Each teacher has their own strengths and challenges. So the question becomes, why with all of the evaluations, professional development investments, etc. are we not getting consistent results at the classroom level?

Problem 2: Lack of Common Expectations

Thinking through problem 1 led us to uncover problem 2. There is a lack of common expectations on how to define instructional quality. Reasons for this include the understandings of the individual conducting the observation, the background of the observer (i.e. a former reading specialist conducting a classroom observation probably knows and understands what high quality instruction in reading looks like, however placed in a mathematics classroom they may try to transfer their knowledge to that instructional situation and may not be as successful), finally each person conducting observations has been put in that position because of their background and achievements, but, especially in situations where a teacher may have multiple observers (i.e. administrator, coach, department chair, etc.,) this group of observers may not have taken the time to talk together to develop a framework for determining instructional quality.

Problem 3: Lack of a Common Voice

Because there are no common expectations defined for instructional quality or expectations are generic or void of context, feedback provided  lacks a common voice. This is our third problem. Because of individual understandings, communication styles, etc. teachers often receive feedback on a wide range of strategies that may or may not be focused on the important elements of specific content instruction (i.e. what is important in teaching mathematics?) This lack of a common voice in the feedback leaves the teacher unsure of where to start in order to improve their instruction.

Problem 4: Cumbersome Paperwork

When thinking of how many schools and districts are not able to establish a common understanding/voice of instructional quality or provide comprehensive feedback a common voice for feedback, one thing that became apparent is that there is a cumbersome amount of paperwork involved in most current systems.

Most are using a paper-based model that they has to be expanded on and physically disseminated to the teacher being observed. Or, if a computer-based system is available the paper-based observation must be entered into the computer. Because of the time that this takes away from administrative duties and classroom instructional time, most will simply utilize a generic system that is in place so as not to add more paperwork to their day.

Problem 5: Lack of Time

As we just pointed out, conducting observations and providing feedback through traditional channels takes quite a bit of time out of the instructional day. Couple that with the time spent researching, scheduling, and implementing professional development you can then see how that time commitment grows exponentially.

Problem 6: One Size Fits All Professional Development

One of the reasons that professional development takes so much time to research, schedule, and implement is the fact that it is very difficult to find professional learning outlets that will meet the needs of the greatest number of teachers. The avenues for traditional professional learning are conducted in large groups and while provide several strategies, have a very narrow content focus. Often we purchase a program or an agenda for a day or two without really knowing if what is on paper is what teachers will need to transfer new ideas to their classroom and improve the areas that need it most to allow for instructional quality to come through.

Problem 7:  High Cost Low Yield

Traditionally improving instructional quality comes with a high price tag. There is a large monetary investment because several different professional development sessions must be purchased every year. There is a large personnel investment not only in conducting the observations, but in the carrying out of the professional learning. And, there is a very large time commitment on the part of everyone involved.

Victor: Excellent breakdown! Now, how does Ci2 address professional development? 

Rudy: In addressing the problems stated previously:

Problem 1: Inconsistent Instructional Quality

Solution: One solution to “Inconsistent Instructional Quality” is to first open up the classroom and breakdown the isolation that exists in our schools. That is why we included a process that is based on Observation and Feedback as the first step that is based on strong research and field tested indicators.

Each of the (Ci2) Protocol™ applications is:

  • organized around a set of instructional focus areas that research shows to be strengths in high-performing classrooms
  • designed to be used by administrators, coaches, mentors, department heads and peer teachers to provide valued and structured feedback to teachers regarding the best possible approaches to effective instruction
  • designed to support the related processes of lesson study, classroom observation, coaching and mentoring, and data-driven decision making
  • equipped to not only identify critical areas of need, but to also provide specific examples and feedback within the comprehensive reporting process

Problem 2: Lack of Common Expectations

Solution: Over the years when setting expectations or providing professional development for teachers we have been repeatedly asked for examples. I am sure you have heard it for yourself – show me what it should look like. In the Ci2 Protocol we have accomplished that in several ways.

How? By providing video examples of real instruction happening that supports the specific area being addressed. In addition we provide written descriptions of general and specific levels of performance, supporting research, access to additional resources, and specific areas to look for when conducting the observation. All of which when used leads to meaningful feedback for teachers to first understand which areas they are doing well or understand areas where they need to improve.

Problem 3: Lack of a Common Voice

Solution: In many cases when reviewing existing observation tool most were based on generic instructional best practices in the form of a checklist. These tools are useful in collecting data to help determine what is or is not being done in a classroom. However, when working with teachers and instructional leaders we found that what was needed to drive change was to provide meaningful feedback to teachers. So that is why we developed a leveling approach for each observable indicator. In this way comprehensive feedback could be provided easily and provide the ability for meaningful conversations between the observed and the observer.

Problem 4: Cumbersome Paperwork

Solution: When reviewing existing observation tools on the market we quickly realized that they were all dependent on the user to go to other sources whether it be scanning devices, standing computers for syncing, websites or printed reporting sources.

When developing the Ci2 Protocol we wanted to make it completely self contained. The Ci2 Protocol was developed specifically to leverage all of the functionality that exists within the Apple iPad. All of the resources and components of the protocol are intended to be used by your iPad device alone. There is no need to go to any other source. Reports are sent directly to the teacher. All content and video resources are contained and accessed through your iPad device.

NO PAPER – Unless you want to print it.

Problem 5: Lack of Time

Solution: We all know that if we can just focus and break things down we can great increase the amount of time that something takes to do.

By designing the Ci2 protocol as a coaching observation tool we have allowed observers to be selective of which areas that would like to observe and provide feedback on. This has greatly increased the ability of instructional leaders to use their time as effectively as possible when conducting observations.

In regard to follow-up… By providing teacher immediate and comprehensive feedback, as well as access to additional resources change can happen quickly. Remember if teachers have access to the Ci2 Protocol immediate connects to support is within their grasp.

Problem 6: One-Size Fits All PD

Solution: The reason that we design this professional development tool to include an observation component was to personalize the support that teachers receive. Teachers can review resource materials that correspond to identified areas of specific need.

Problem 7: High Cost. Low Yield

Solution: In our review of other tools that contain some similar components to the Ci2 Protocol.

We have found that most comparable tools have:

  • annual subscription fees,
  • server setup fees,
  • upfront training for the tool and/or establishing inter-rater reliability,
  • the need for a centralized/slave computer (laptop or tower) to sync data form hand-held devices,
  • access to separate website portals,
  • scanning of paper templates to a centralized office, etc.
Victor: What is it exactly, and who created it? 

Rudy: Imagine a tool that will allow you to:

  • Conduct focused observations of classroom instruction.
  • Provide immediate, targeted feedback to the teacher
  • Help educators prepare for common core standards.
  • Provide teachers immediate access to model videos and other rigorous professional development designed to help teachers refine the quality of their daily classroom instruction.

Now imagine providing this resource to your entire staff for less than the average cost of one day of typical professional development.

The Classroom Instructional Improvement (Ci2) Protocol™ application is the first suite of interactive instructional observation tools containing professional development content delivered through a handheld tablet device (i.e. Apple IPad) for ease of use. The Ci2 Protocol application was created to support teachers’ professional growth and instructional leadership practices. Teach N’ Kids Learn Inc. built and designed Ci2 Protocol, a classroom observation tool, to provide feedback to teachers regarding methods for refining instructional practice as well as professional development on-demand.

Some of the key features include:

  • Coaching and modeling – Through the use of the (Ci2) Protocol, teachers will see effective teaching and assessment methods in action. By viewing lesson based examples that are directly tied to proven best practices within their subject area, teachers can refine their own instructional practice.
  • Easy to use  – Built specifically with the handheld tablet device (i.e. Apple iPad) environment in mind, instructional leaders can have a user-friendly tool for performing classroom observations/walkthroughs and automatically send the data to the teacher upon completion of the visit.
  • Mile deep, not a mile wide - Teachers will have access to over 100 hours of focused, yet differentiated  professional development content and resources such as learning modules contained in the (Ci2) Protocol that will directly support their growth as teachers.
  • Promotes Professional Dialogue – When fully implemented within a school or district, Ci2 Protocol transforms grade level and department meetings into meaningful discussions centered around student learning rather than around administrative issues
  • 100% Portable and Comprehensive – The features and content of the Ci2 Protocol™ application for handheld tablet devices (Apple IPad) can be accessed from any location at any time day or night.
  • No Upfront Training Needed – Developed to be intuitive and streamlined for immediate use.
  • Relevant and Current – All content (videos and learning modules) within (Ci2) Protocol is constantly being updated and refreshed as new videos are produced and new content is developed. Additional content is developed based on user feedback and trend analysis data collected to determine areas where additional support is needed.
  • Cost-effective – Save time and money by eliminating ineffective large group professional development training.
  • Supplements Professional Growth – Direct access to content based classroom video segments, reporting, and learning modules.
Victor: What does it do and what are the benefits?

Rudy: The Classroom Instructional Improvement Protocol is designed to do two major operations within a school setting. First, it is designed to be a tool for conducting classroom observations around a set of research based indicators of instructional quality. The tool allows the observer to conduct, save, and immediately send observation results and feedback to the teacher being observed.

The Ci2 Protocol tool is more than an observation tool, because the second operation that it has been designed to handle is to provide professional development to each and every teacher being observed.

How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market? 

Rudy: When developing the Ci2 Protocol we wanted to make it completely self contained. The Ci2 Protocol was developed specifically to leverage all of the functionality that exists within the Apple iPad. All of the resources and components of the protocol are intended to be used by your iPad device alone. There is no need to go to any other source. Reports are sent directly to the teacher and retained within the application simutatiously. All content and video resources are accessed through your iPad device. There is absolutely no need to use any other device for syncing data, sending reports, viewing videos, or create a cumbersome paper trail.

In our review of other tools that contain some similar components to the Ci2 Protocol.

We have found that most comparable tools have

  • annual subscription fees,
  • server setup fees,
  • upfront training for the tool and/or establishing inter-rater reliability,
  • the need for a centralized/slave computer (laptop or tower) to sync data form hand-held devices,
  • access to separate website portals,
  • scanning of paper templates to a centralized office, etc.

Victor: Any competitors? 

Rudy:

Observation 360 by School Improvement Network

Wireless Generation – Teacher Quality Implementation in Hillsborough County Florida

Teacher Compass – by Pearson

OASYS – By MyLearningPlan

Power Walkthrough  – By McREL

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

Rudy:

  • $79.99 per application
  • No annual Renewals
  • No Setup Fees or Additional Equipment Required
  • No Upfront Training Required
  • All Future Updates are Included
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?

Rudy: The way that we recommend schools and districts to begin to using the Ci2 Protocol is as follows:

  1. Establish a Pilot Team: Select a core group which will includes representation of teachers, instructional coaches and department heads within a given school. Team size can be as few as 3-5 individuals.
  2. Determine Observation Frequency – As a coaching tool we recommend that observations using the Ci2 Protocol be performed using a rotation approach where different individuals are observed by the other team members on a monthly basis. The Ci2 Protocol makes for a great way to begin to develop a Lesson Study Process within a school.
  3. Feedback and Communication – We recommend that conversations regarding the observations and progress being made be included within Professional Learning Community (PLC) and/or department meetings that group members are able to share their own observations with other members of the faculty that may not be included in pilot group.
  4. If the pilot group find the tool to be useful in helping to improve their instructional strategies expand to include more members in the group with access to the Ci2 Protocol.

The way that we recommend schools and districts to begin to using the Ci2 Protocol is as follows:

  1. Establish a Pilot Team: Select a core group which will includes representation of teachers, instructional coaches and department heads within a given school. Team size can be as few as 3-5 individuals.
  2. Determine Observation Frequency – As a coaching tool we recommend that observations using the Ci2 Protocol be performed using a rotation approach where different individuals are observed by the other team members on a monthly basis. The Ci2 Protocol makes for a great way to begin to develop a Lesson Study Process within a school.
  3. Feedback and Communication – We recommend that conversations regarding the observations and progress being made be included within Professional Learning Community (PLC) and/or department meetings that group members are able to share their own observations with other members of the faculty that may not be included in pilot group.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for? 

Rudy: It is meant for use by Instructional Coaches, Administrators, and Teachers.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days? What is your outlook on the future of education? 

Rudy: For an in-depth view, I invite your readers to have a look at this article that I wrote:

The Never Ending Process of Learning and Growing as a Teacher – From Dinosaur to Avatar

Victor: Very nice! Thank you, Rudy! 

——-

Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com

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One Response to Interview | Rudy Azcuy: What You Can Do with Ci2

  1. Vicki Bigham says:

    Excellent interview and Rudy, excellent work – it is nice to see the focus of your work these days. Very meaningful!

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