Protocols & Strategies: Conversations About Learning

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the roles protocols and strategies play in our work. They are the closely linked hand and glove of learning. We introduce content literacy strategies to help students learn, and we use protocols to have conversations about the  learning that is taking place for our students and for ourselves.

Protocols have been around for a long time. Protocols provide us with standard procedures for doing things.  There are protocols for addressing heads of state, for example, addressing the Queen as, “Her Majesty,” and protocols for military codes of conduct, among others.  It is only recently that protocols have taken hold in the field of education. Now there are a variety of protocols being used in schools, protocols for analyzing student work,  protocols for making sense of text, and protocols for helping us address the challenges we face in our work, allowing us to solve problems  together.

Because so much of our practice takes place in private, the use of protocols allows us to work with others, providing fresh perspectives on the work we are doing in our classrooms. Not only do protocols provide us with an opportunity to reflect on and analyze the instructional decisions we make in our own classrooms, they invite us to listen and respond to the teaching and learning experiences of our colleagues.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work in two different settings, using the Sorting Protocol (CTL, 2009), a protocol designed for looking at student work, and the Success Analysis Protocol (Larner, 2007), a protocol for analyzing and celebrating successes in practice, so the attributes of the success can be replicated.

The Sorting Protocol was introduced to middle school grade level teams. The Success Analysis Protocol was used by community college instructors.  In both cases the faculty had been using content literacy strategies for some time, and the protocols were intentionally introduced to encourage teachers to go deeper about their choice of strategy, the purpose it played in their instructional practice, and most importantly, what it caused to happen for their students and what happened for them.

The protocols were powerful tools for conversation and action among the participants involved.  I have attached a video in which a college accounting teacher shares the success story from her Introduction to Accounting classroom with two of her colleagues.

Literacy strategies are critical tools in our work with students, and protocols can play an important role in helping us discuss, analyze and think critically about the content we are addressing through the use of strategies.

The marriage of literacy strategies and protocols is critical.  Protocols standardize essential processes for conversations about the work we are doing in our classrooms as we discover new strategies to help students learn and make meaning about content.

How are you using protocols and strategies in your work? What questions and ideas has this topic raised for you?

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