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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 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."

Judy Brunner, Clinical Faculty
Missouri State University, Springfield, MO

“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, Currently Adjunct Professor
Concordia University, Lincoln, NE

“Tonya Singer 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, Ammon, Idaho

"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, Estrella Foothills High School, Goodyear, AZ
Academic Associate, ASU

Our teachers’ experience engaging in this book with Tonya Ward Singer was transformational. Effective scaffolding and engagement strategies for Academic English Learners have now become a consistent part of their routine for our experienced teachers. 

Pamela Carpenter, Director
Mark West Charter School

"I'm rarely impressed with books that claim to be "practical guides" because most use that title without sufficient understanding of the nuts-and-bolts details of implementation that are required to justify such a label. Your book is a delightful exception. Congratulations on outlining a wonderful resource for educators."

Brad Ermeling, Principal Research Scientist
Pearson Research and Innovation Network
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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