Accompaniment: Practice & Research

 


Aim of the project: Accompaniment for and by educators to foster collaborative professionalism


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What is Developmental Evaluation?

As noted in my first project update, DE is a highly dynamic and emergent process. For Michael Quinn Patton, “Developmental evaluation provides evaluative information and feedback to social innovators, and their funders and supporters, to inform adaptive development of change initiatives in complex dynamic environments” (p.499). DE is a useful means to track the methods and procedures involved in social innovation, processes that are often difficult to evaluate. Innovative initiatives in school systems are often in a state of continuous development and adaptation and unfold in a changing and unpredictable environment (Gamble, 2008). Adaptations are driven by new learning and by changes in participants, partners and context. The lack of a direct line from project initiation to product implementation can be unnerving, but research has shown that a richer outcome will be achieved through a collaborative approach that allows for meaningful, innovative and iterative exploration, research and development. 


Who is involved in this project?

The Accompaniment project uses an iterative and collaborative approach. There are four key groups involved in the developmental evaluation. As project manager, Trista Hollweck acts as a boundary-spanner who leads and coordinates the project and the research process.

  1. The project is overseen by the LCEEQ. The project manager presents regular updates on the project as a standing item on the LCEEQ membership agenda.  All project proposals are approved by the LCEEQ Steering Committee. 
  2. The proposed research plan for this project, including the guiding questions and methods (outlined below) were a collaborative effort between the nine members of the Developmental Evaluation Leadership Team (DELT), who represent the three English Universities (Bishop’s, Concordia and McGill). Three of the DELT representatives are also part of the LCEEQ membership and were instrumental in helping to recruit colleagues through their academic network. 
  3. The third group is called the Design Team. The Design Team is comprised of representatives from all School Boards, two Special-Status School Boards, QPAT, AAESQ, ACES, ISAT, PROCEDE, LEARN, and DSREA.  Many of the Design Team members are also part of the LCEEQ membership. The Design Team has met monthly since February to establish the project’s core values of support, collaboration, trust and growth, develop a mission statement for the project, contribute details about the current context of induction and mentorship across the province and finally review and test the needs analysis questionnaire from phase I. Moving forward, the Design Team will steer the project’s design and delivery and propose professional development offerings based on the findings from the research.
  4. Working alongside these collaborative groups is the Accompaniment Practice & Research Team made up of four research assistants who support the project through literature reviews, data collection and analysis, and developing content. 

 


What is the aim of the research component?

The aim of the research is to examine educator professional networks and experiences to better understand the structures and conditions that support educator flourishing. Specifically, we are interested in how accompaniment for and by educators fosters collaborative professionalism. The research study has one overarching question: What conditions and structures support educators’ flourishing? In particular, how does accompaniment support collective teacher efficacy? 


How will the research be used?

Findings from the research will be used to make recommendations on professional development opportunities that foster collaborative professionalism and strengthen collaborative networks across Quebec’s English Educational Network. A summary report will be made after each of the three phases of the research. Each report will be shared with all project members and posted to the LCEEQ website. The final report will be presented at the LCEEQ year-end meeting in June 2022 and made available on the LCEEQ website. Each of these reports will be used by the Design Team to guide the project’s professional development decisions.

Overall, the Accompaniment project is a model of collaborative professionalism. Through its design and delivery, it works to build and develop partnerships across the LCEEQ community, inspire Design Team members through engaging workshops with key thought leaders and ultimately, produce meaningful professional development initiatives for educators in the English Educational Network in Quebec. 

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Research Proposal

Based on the recommendations and guidance from the DELT team, there are three proposed phases for this research study.

  • Phase I: Accompaniment: Needs Assessment Questionnaire
  • Phase II: Accompaniment Through Social Network - Social Network Approach (SNA)
  • Phase III: Accompaniment Moments - Semi-structured interviews


Phase I

The first phase of the research is a needs assessment questionnaire, which aims to understand educators’ experience with mentoring, peer coaching, and other forms of collaborative-based professional development across all stages of their career. The questionnaire was developed and reviewed by the members of DELT. The questionnaire was then piloted with the Design Team and feedback was incorporated in a revised version. Members of the Design team facilitate the questionnaire’s distribution through their School Boards/Union/Association.

Participation in this questionnaire is voluntary and confidential. All responses will remain anonymous. Data from this questionnaire (qualitative and quantitative) will be analyzed by Dr. Julie Corrigan from Concordia University and a report will be prepared for the LCEEQ and posted to the LCEEQ website. Findings from this needs assessment questionnaire will be presented to the Design Team in order to guide the design, delivery and recommendations for future accompaniment initiatives and professional learning and development available for educators in 2021-2022.


Phase II

The second phase of the research is called Accompaniment through Social Networks. This phase will be led by Dr. Hannah Chestnutt from McGill University. It applies a social network approach (SNA) to examine two schools (elementary and secondary) from each of the nine English school boards (n=18) and one school from each of the Special-Status School Boards (n=3) in the province of Quebec. Recruitment of schools from each school board will be facilitated through the representative on the project’s Design Team. The project manager will meet with interested school staff to answer any questions and/or concerns. An explanatory video will also be produced to describe the SNA process and how data is collected, kept confidential and stored.

The purpose of the SNA is to obtain a picture of how educators in a school collaborate within and across their networks. The guiding questions for this phase of the study are:

  • To what extent do social network structures foster access to support for educators?
  • To what extent do social network structures constrain access to support for educators?
  • Over time, how do the support networks of educators vary?

Data will be collected through two online SNA questionnaires (one in October and another in May) that will examine the social networks in each participating school. These social networks will be compared to reveal patterns and gaps across the full sample. Recommendations on ways to align and strengthen accompaniment structures in the English Educational Network will be highlighted in the project’s final report. Throughout the process, preliminary data will be shared with the Design Team and LCEEQ steering committee in order to develop professional development opportunities.

The methods in SNA require that participants provide the names of those with whom they collaborate; therefore, the questionnaire data will include identifiable information. This is needed in order to link individuals and groups over time. This is a common methodological procedure used in social network studies (e.g., Daly 2010; Scott 2013, etc.). The identifiable data will enable the data set to be analyzed longitudinally providing answers about how the social networks evolve over time. Only the research team will have access to any identifying information. At the conclusion of the study, the results will be used only for professional and academic purposes, such as presentations to the LCEEQ, at educational conferences and/or publications in journals, professional magazines and/or books. For all publications, data will remain anonymized.


Phase III

The third phase of the study is called Accompaniment Moments. This phase will be led by Drs. Avril Aitken from Bishop’s University and Teresa Hernandez Gonzalez from Concordia University. The exploratory research aims to gather a deep understanding of educators' experiences of accompaniment through semi-structured interviews with at least one teacher from each of the participating English school boards (n=9-12). Using critical discourse analysis the study investigates the associations between an educator’s specific life events– or “Key Scenes” (McAdams, 2008)–and their understanding of these moments of accompaniment. The guiding questions for this phase of the study are:

  • What accompaniment moments (positive and/or negative) have shaped educators’ individual and collective efficacy?
  • What conditions have supported these accompaniment moments?
  • What conditions have hindered these accompaniment moments?

Findings from this phase of the study will offer insight into the conditions that support effective accompaniment. Recommendations on ways to foster collaborative professionalism in the English Educational Network will be highlighted in the project’s final report. All findings will be used by the Design Team to recommend, design and deliver professional development that will support and enhance accompaniment practices across the English Network.


Accompaniment Definition

Accompaniment is connected to the Spanish verb ‘acompañar’ and the French noun, ‘accompagnement.’ It designates an approach to collective mobilization. It is a process of change and transformation whereby educators work together to improve their practice day by day, become more confident, and competent in their professional life. Accompaniment is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of collaborative-based professional development and embodies the idea of someone who joins another to go where they are going, at the same time, neither too far ahead nor behind. Ultimately, accompaniment is a reciprocal learning journey; an excursion in which people from different backgrounds and experiences can work together respectfully as equals.(Cushing-Leubner, 2017; Delobre, 2012; Fals-Borda & Rahman, 1991; Fischlin et al., 2013; Freire, 2010; Uwamariya & Mukamurera, 2005).

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