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Opening Doors to Equity

Opening Doors to Equity
A Practical Guide to Observation-Based Professional Learning

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November 2014 | 248 pages | Corwin

The transformative professional learning design that advances equity in your school!

How do we make educational equity a reality, lesson by lesson? This compelling book is a call to action, focused on observation-based professional learning to elevate teaching practice.

Learn how to bring team observation into the classroom to test, refine and transform instruction so that students of all backgrounds achieve. Ideal for classroom teachers, grade-level team facilitators, department chairs, and all education leaders, this guide shows how to:

  • Create a culture of deep collaboration that closes opportunity gaps among students
  • Effectively redesign instruction to reach culturally and linguistically diverse learners, using observation data and shared best practices
  • Center instructional conversations on developing students’ skills for college and career success, including hard-to-assess skills

Including video clips of actual teams, Tonya Ward Singer’s powerful and practical book promises to become a catalyst that will inspire educators as leaders of positive change.

"This exceptionally valuable book provides a clear process I can use to engage with my colleagues around learning. I appreciated the ideas and practical information that will ensure that my professional learning group focuses on student learning as evidenced in real lessons.  The tools that Tonya Singer provides are useful and relevant, not to mention tried and true.”
Douglas Fisher, Professor
San Diego State University, CA


“I recommend this book without hesitation. . . Gone are the days for teachers to be working ‘behind closed doors’  . . . Go forth and TEACH like the world works––collaboratively with teams!”
Harriet Gould, Adjunct Professor
Concordia University, Lincoln, NE

About the Author
Chapter 1 A Call to Action
Reaching Every Child in 21st-Century Schools

A Rationale for Observing Together

Professional Learning for Equity

Beyond the Elephant

Chapter 2 Observation Inquiry
Observation Inquiry Overview

Collaborative Inquiry in Classrooms Together

Multiple Cycles to Plan-Teach-Observe-Reflect-Plan

Protocols to Foster Deep Collaboration

Getting Started

Chapter 3 Opening Doors: Building Buy-In and Trust
Inspire Action

Honor Fears

Establish Safety

Foster a Growth Mindset

Address Individual Needs

Chapter 4 Asking Questions That Matter
Identifying a Problem to Solve

Aligning With Local Initiatives

Writing a Problem of Practice

Asking Questions to Drive Inquiry

Facilitation Challenges and Solutions

Chapter 5 Planning for Inquiry
Goals for Student Learning

Assessment and Success Criteria

Planning Instruction

Facilitation Tips for Efficient, Effective Team Planning

Chapter 6 Observing Together
Focusing the Observation: The Prelesson Meeting

Taking Notes in a Lesson

Formative Evidence Examples

Using Video

Chapter 7 Describing and Analyzing What We Observed
Step 1: Describe Without Judgment

Step 2: Organize Data

Step 3: Make Generalizations

Teach and Practice the Protocol

Chapter 8 From Observation to Action
Step 4: Link Cause and Effect

Step 5: Apply Learning to Plan

Step 6: Set Individual and Team Goals

Chapter 9 Deepening Learning Across Multiple Lessons
Building From Lesson to Lesson

Kindergarten: Advancing Collaborative Conversations About Texts

Second Grade: Deepening Insights About Language

Middle School: Elevating Thinking Across the Content Areas

Strategies for Facilitating Deep Learning

Chapter 10 Evaluating and Expanding Our Impact
What Have Students Learned?

What Have Teachers Learned?

How Do We Expand Learning Beyond the Team?

How Do We Sustain Continuous Learning?

Appendix A Launching Observation Inquiry

Appendix B Easy Protocol Reference



"This exceptionally valuable book provides a clear process I can use to engage with my colleagues around learning.  I appreciated the ideas and practical information that will ensure that my professional learning group focuses on student learning as evidenced in real lessons. The tools that Tonya Singer provides are useful and relevant, not to mention tried and true.

To ramp up professional learning, this is the tool that will start your engine."

Douglas Fisher, Professor
San Diego State University

"Tonya Ward Singer skillfully provides educators with a powerful professional learning model that is based on the most recent work and relevant research in the field. This book is a practical guide for making the complexities of teaching diverse learners more visible—to others and to our selves—and for fostering rich professional conversations that are focused on improving the teaching of all students. "

Jeff Zwiers, Senior Researcher
Stanford University

Opening Doors to Equity is truly a facilitator’s dream.  I could take it and use it well with teachers to engage in professional learning.  The process is definitely tried and true – it speaks well of the author’s experiences in real schools with real educators. On the basis of the amount of yellow highlighting I did in each chapter, I would say this is an incredibly powerful book.”

Lois Brown Easton, Educational Consultant, Author

“The writing, the depth, the flow, examples are all exciting and well done.  Very appropriate for teachers.  I recommend the book because of the detailed information, clear step-by-step process.”

Margarita Calderón, Professor Emerita
Johns Hopkins University

"This book is a must read for principals, instructional coaches, teacher leaders and others charged with the task of providing meaningful professional development for teachers.  As a how-to guide, the practical suggestions within this book provide a relevant framework for implementing classroom-based inquiry. The online videos are icing on the cake!"

Judy Brunner, Clinical Faculty
Missouri State University

"The author is able to look at the challenges of learning for students and teachers in a way that is engaging so that everyone can feel accepted and encouraged. This book looks at literacy issues openly and realistically. All points of view can be valued if the suggestions are implemented as recommended. Learning for all is not only the goal but also can be the reality."

Barb Keating, Educational Consultant

"The author of has compiled a cornucopia of best practice and top research under one roof in the learning community. The text directs and explains a culture where teachers assist each other in collaboration assisting students in growth and readiness for an ever changing world."

Lyndon Oswald, Principal
Sandcreek Middle School

"With all the changes taking place in education, this process of teachers working collaboratively together can both improve our instructional practice and open doors for us to support each other in ways we have not in the past. Both the improvement and support are vital in education at this time."

Leslie Standerfer, Principal/Academic Associate
Estrella Foothills High School / ASU

"Tonya Ward Singer’s, Opening Doors to Equity – A Practical Guide to Observation-Based Professional Learning is a rich text for administrators and teacher leaders concerned with supporting the growth of others. It combines practical ideas to build a strong learning culture with ideas to take full advantage of ‘open doors’ to move a compelling equity agenda forward. "

Beate Planche, Educational Consultant/Researcher
Collaborative Learning Services

Opening Doors to Equity is extremely practical, clear, and easy to understand and implement.  Most importantly, the practice supports sustainable professional learning of any content area or strategy, especially relevant now as we are transitioning to Common Core State Standards and in need of examining the effectiveness of the many new practices we are implementing.” 

Katherine Strach, Language and Literacy Consultant
San Mateo, CA
Key features
(1) Provides a step-by-step guide to moving collaborative inquiry from the staff room to the classroom by engaging  teachers in a peer observation process. 

(2) Includes a number of ready-to-use activities to help teachers develop trust, observe and debrief live lessons, transfer their learning to practice, and measure the outcomes of their inquiry work.

(3) Includes tools and handouts for faciliators and teachers including writing a high-leverage challenge area, scheduling time for inquiry, leading the Pre-Lesson meeting, individual goal setting and team agreements. 

(4) Includes video clips of actual teams to illustrate and practice essentials of the process.

(5) Emphasizes the use of classroom-based instruction to support language and literacy goals for culturally and linguistically diverse students. 

(6) Approach lends itself to Common Core State Standards implementation efforts.

(7) Honors and respects teachers as professionals with a deep motivation for improving their instructional practices.

Sample Materials & Chapters

1. A Call to Action

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