Running Head: Stress and Change at Mountain View Union

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What Do We Know about Educational Change and Stress at Mountain View Union? Katie Bouchard and Marc Gilbertson Education Research EDU-6920 Johnson State College Fall 2010

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Abstract In this action research project, the authors examine the question: what do we know about educational change and stress at Mountain View Union? The authors provide a literature review including the monitoring of stress, the impact of educational change, and the implementation of Classroom Response Systems (CRS) in the classroom. The authors use the collaborative apprenticeship model to incorporate CRS into a novice teacher’s practice. They also provide their methods of collecting data, an analysis, their findings, and a discussion pertaining to the improvements that could be made to the research and to educational change at Mountain View Union. The authors found lack of time and lack of a clear process to be the dominant stressors when incorporating technology in the classroom.

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Author Biographies Marc Gilbertson has been a middle-level social studies teacher at Lamoille Union Middle School since 1991. For the past 17 years he has worked on Team Extreme, which uses an interdisciplinary approach to teach 7th and 8th grade. Katie Bouchard is the Language Arts Resource Room teacher at Lamoille Union High School and is in her first year teaching. She is pursuing her Masters of Arts in Education at Johnson State College.

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What Do We Know about Educational Change and Stress at Mountain View Union? Burnout and job related stress have impacted educators for decades. With pressure to implement educational change involving accountability, assessment, and technology, teachers are often asked to learn new skills and adapt to these forces. This pressure for constant change can lead to teacher stress and have an impact on job satisfaction and effectiveness. Mountain View Union High School has recently purchased a number of classroom response systems. Classroom Response Systems (CRS) or clickers are small hand-held devices that transmit student responses to a teacher’s computer using an infrared or radio frequency. Teachers can use these systems to collect and assess student understanding quickly and efficiently. Only three teachers at Mountain View have implemented these devices despite the fact that there are fifteen sets available. Why did teachers choose to ignore this new technology? Does the implementation of technology cause so much stress that teachers tend to avoid it? These questions led one novice teacher and one veteran teacher to ask; what do we know about implementing change and stress levels at Mountain View Union? The answers to this question can impact teachers, administrators, and the effectiveness of schools in general. School improvement cannot happen without some degree of change. To examine how stress and change impact teachers at Mountain View Union could help us learn how change can occur without causing teachers to feel unnecessary stress which can also impact a teacher’s effectiveness. In this paper, we report on interviews we conducted with a variety of teachers. We will also examine our own stress levels and reflections on change as we use a process known as collaborative apprenticeship to implement clickers into a novice teacher’s

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class. After collecting and analyzing data we will make recommendations for further study and methods to improve the change process at Mountain View Union. Review of Literature Teachers in today’s classrooms have many responsibilities. Classroom management, motivation of students, and providing emotional support are just a few of the jobs that teachers are expected to perform each day. Each of these factors can cause stress and can eventually lead to burnout. Some stress may be an inherent part of any teacher’s life. However, recently teachers have felt added pressure to change their practices. These stressors involve implementing new ideas including new technologies. The accountability movement’s demand for collection of data on student performance has also contributed to teacher stress (Davidson, 2009). Many schools have started using Classroom Response Systems (CRS) or clickers so that teachers can collect data more efficiently. However, the implementation of this technology is not always successful and, like many changes in a teacher’s practice, can increase stress levels. Why monitoring stress is important. Although several studies have shown that teaching, like many social service professions, is an inherently stressful job (Troman & Woods, 2000; Zhang & Hu, 2008) teachers who encounter too much stress can become less effective, damage school climate, and slow efforts to improve schools (Zhang & Hu, 2008). If stress becomes too unmanageable, teachers may even choose to leave the profession (Troman & Woods, 2000). The causes of teacher stress are widely varied and illustrate how complicated a teacher’s job can be. Issues concerning student discipline and motivation will continually be a part of a teacher’s life. Yet, the pressure to reform or improve teaching practice and the education system in general has gained momentum. Davidson

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describes this pressure to change and relates it to the pressure put on schools by the accountability movement (Davidson, 2009). Several other studies have shown a connection between education change and teacher stress (Ertmer, & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010; Klassen, 2010;Troman & Woods, 2000; and Zhang & Hu 2008). How does effective educational change work? Many authors have written about educational change. Tomal (2010) offers a five-step process for initiating and managing change in individual classrooms. Still, educational reformers are rarely satisfied with change in a single classroom. Luckacs (2009) noted that successful change within schools often begins with individual or small groups of teachers acting as change agents. Luckacs (2009) also notes that these teacher change agents often score high on tests that measure factors including collaborative expertise. Although change is initiated by change agents, to make it successful in schools, teachers must be able to collaborate with others. This collaboration can also help limit stress (Eckland, 2009). Clickers and educational change One specific change that teachers are being asked to adopt involves the implementation of technology. The implementation of technology is increasingly viewed as an essential part of effective reform (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). Classroom Response Systems (CRS) or clickers are one example of a technological innovation that has been used more and more widely in schools. Clickers are small hand-held devices that transmit student responses to a teacher’s computer using an infrared or radio frequency format. Teachers can use clickers to simply poll students about their opinions, but they can also be used to collect information about student understanding of concepts and content. Specific clicker software enables teachers to collect, sort,

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and organize this data. Many advocates claim that this technology can be an important instructional tool and that clickers should be used to collect data so that teachers can adjust and improve instruction (Koenig, 2010). Due to their ability to collect data quickly and efficiently, many schools have asked teachers to adopt this technology and use it to change instructional strategies. Several authors claim that clickers can be used to effectively trigger more wide-spread reform and change the way educators teach (Koenig, 2010; Kolikant, Drane, & Calkins, 2010). The current pressure to adopt clicker technology is a good example of how teachers are asked to implement new ideas and technologies. However, this pressure to change can make a teacher’s job more stressful. How might educational change including the use of clickers be implemented while keeping stress levels manageable? The question of how to implement change successfully without causing stress levels to affect teacher efficacy is important. One method to initiate change especially using technology is collaborative apprenticeship (Glazer, Hannafin, & Song, 2005). This method pairs experienced teachers with novice teachers to integrate technology and implement change. One of the interesting qualities of collaborative apprenticeship is that it directly addresses the social aspect of teacher learning (Zwart, Wubbels, Bergen, & Bolhuis, 2010). Glazer, Hannafin, and Song (2005) suggest that traditional teacher workshops and in-service presentations are not effective ways to implement change through technology. Glazer suggests these methods do not develop a collaborative environment and thus often leave teachers without the support they need. Interestingly, Eckland (2009) addresses the way that these collaborative social interactions between teachers can help reduce stress. Using the collaborative apprenticeship model to

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implement clickers in a novice teacher’s classroom could be an effective model of education change that allows both novice and experienced teachers to keep stress levels manageable. Data Collection The methods used to collect data were selected with the intention of being “relevant and valid information” (Tomal, 2010, p.35). We chose to interview purposefully selected interviewees, record journals from both perspectives--the expert teacher and novice teacher-- and we decided to rate our stress using a stress continuum after each of four clicker-tutorial-sessions. In order to plan our methods, we answered the basic questions of who, what, where, when and how. Who: We were studying ourselves, and interviewing other teachers, both novice and veteran. What: We were researching how we, a novice teacher and a veteran teacher, handle stress while learning new technologies. Where: We conducted our research in the schools we work at everyday because we wanted to be able to implement this new technology. We also wanted to interview others who teach in the same district that we teach in. Mountain View Union is a pseudonym we selected for the school in which we conducted our study. When: We interviewed other teachers during their free time before, during or after school hours. We held our own teaching sessions outside of class time: before school, after school and while school was in session. Our last session (the implementation of the clickers), was conducted during 8 th period (2:20 PM to 3:05 PM). We collected data over a three week process. How: We decided to perform the interviews separately to save time and chose to have three one-hour sessions to conduct the clicker lessons with a final 45 minute session to implement. Individual Interviews

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We purposefully selected teachers who had a various range of experience in the field. We will use pseudonyms for the purpose of this pilot study for the interviewees selected. We developed open-ended questions and used expanders to encourage the interviewee to continue the conversation. We took both hand-written and computer notes to record the responses. We interviewed Robert, with 40 years of experience; Jenny, with nine years of experience; Brigid, with 20 years of experience; Tom, with five years experience and Violet, who is in her first year of teaching. We selected these participants with the intentions of having a wide variety of years in teaching. The questions we asked focused on change in education, technology, stress and the use of clickers in the classroom. We asked them in the same order to remain consistent during each interview.        How long have you been teaching? What is an example of a successful educational change? What made it successful? What stops change from happening in education? Who is involved in changes in an educational setting? Do you find change in schools stressful? If so, how can this stress be reduced? How do you feel about new technology in the classroom? What has prevented you from using the CRS in your classroom?

Journals Journals are considered “a method of recording the behaviors, feelings, and incidents of subjects” (Tomal, 2010 p. 44). We both conducted journals after each session and used a similar structure to record our answers. We intended to record our own interpretations and observations

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on each session as well as the how well the other subject played their role during this research. We used the following five prompts in our journals:   What progress was made in today’s session? What caused stress while implementing the technology? (Threat to Security, Fear of the Unknown, Lack of Understanding, Desire for Status Quo or Potential Loss of Power)    What is stopping us from implementing the technology? Stress Level Continuum Commentary. Other comments you felt were relevant to today’s session.

Stress Level Continuum After each session, we each selected an amount of stress that we felt during the session using the Likert scale, that uses a five point scale: 1) No stress; 2) Slightly less stress than normal; 3) Neutral – normal school stress; 4) Slightly more stress; and 5) Very stressful. Analysis To begin our analysis, we reviewed our interviews, journals, and observations of fellow teachers. We looked for common themes within each piece of data especially stressors pertaining to change. At first, we used Tomal’s compilation of “common resistance to change” (Tomal, 2010, p. 125). These included threat to security, fear of the unknown, lack of understanding, desire for status quo, and potential loss of power. Although originally we saw these as an appropriate way to examine the data, after reviewing the data itself, this compilation no longer seemed appropriate. The data could be fit into the categories, but we were each struck by the dominance of two other themes. The themes that emerged were time and process. Throughout

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nearly all the interviews, lack of time continually arose as a stressor to education change. The other dominant theme was process. By this we mean that the lack of a clear process or plan for implementing change was also seen as a stressor. In order to identify these themes more fully, we coded them by highlighting instances when each were mentioned. After independently analyzing the data from our individual journals and interviews, we then combined all the data into one set. We then collaborated to re-analyze all the data. This process confirmed our initial findings. Time and process remained the dominant stressors involved in implementing change. Findings Our data showed 35 instances in which time was identified as a stressor or a factor in preventing successful implementation of the change. Sixteen instances mentioned the lack of clear process. Our analysis revealed several other stressors, but none of these appeared with the same frequency as time and process. We combined the remaining issues into a single category we defined as other. This category contained twelve different items that could be identified as stressors. These included items such as resistance from staff, lack of clear leadership, or technological issues. Time was the dominant factor in causing stress while implementing change. Our interviews and journals both presented evidence that time and time management is seen as the overwhelming cause of stress and prevents change. Our interviews and journals allowed us to collect data from teachers with a broad range of experience. This theme emerged across all sources. One teacher, Jenny, with nine years of experience said, “Time stops change from happening because you have five million other things to do.” Violet, a first-year teacher

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responded, “Change is just time consuming.” Brigid, a teacher with 18 years of experience stated that when implementing CRS “it takes time to set them up…it’s not second nature, so it is time consuming.” Even a teacher with 40 years of experience identified time as a priority by explaining that “implementing technology is a waste of time if it is poorly designed and halfheartedly implemented. I need plenty of time to learn and implement.” It is important to note that our interview question did not prompt the subjects to discuss time. Each interviewee raised this issue without prompting. Lack of time was also a considerable stressor present in our journals and observations. After the first session, Marc noted that “the big cause of stress was lack of time.” He also mentioned after the second session that “time was still an issue.” After the same session, Marc noted that “Katie had to leave class in order to conduct the meeting.” Katie wrote that, “Marc seemed very rushed during this session and was a little bummed out that we were not able to progress as far as we had hoped.” Throughout the sessions, lack of time remained a consistent stressor. Another factor that appeared throughout the data involved the process or planning of change. In the interviews, journals, and observations the teachers identified the lack of clear process or plan as another contributor to stress. This theme emerged sixteen times throughout the data. Teachers often expressed frustration with a lack of follow through from administrators. There has been a history of initiatives that are abandoned before they are fully implemented and the staff has invested significant amount of time and energy into. We asked Brigid, a veteran teacher, how stress can be reduced and she responded by stating, “One of the things that bugs teachers is that there is always a new way of doing things, then in a few years, we don’t use it.”

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Robert, a teacher with 40 years of experience replied, “very rarely do top down attempts to implement change work, they are often unprepared, and not thought out, they believe they have solutions to failing systems every year.” Even first-year teacher Violet commented, “We have too many huge initiatives---I like to do one thing well instead of a lot of things poorly. We never finish the job.” When asked about what would help, she responded, “Clearer goals would help. We should take baby steps, smaller chunks that we can jump in and actually do rather than just meeting.” Concerns about process were also present in the journals and observations. After the second meeting Marc commented, “Without a plan to push our timeframe, I’m not sure we would have as much done as we do. In this case time is still an issue, but it’s good to have a limited goal.” Marc rated himself as a 4 out of 5 on the stress continuum after this session and explained, “Just trying to coordinate a good plan for change is quite tough.” The lack of a clear process for change caused frustration and stress in nearly all the teachers we interviewed. Further, during our implementation of change, the clear and limited process we had created helped establish clear and achievable goals. The deadlines actually helped reduce stress and kept the project progressing. After each session we rated ourselves on the stress-level continuum. Marc’s stress level remained above normal for all, but the final session when the clickers were actually implemented. Katie’s stress level remained normal to just above normal in all, but the final session. During the final session, her stress level went up to the highest level-5. In reflecting on the final session, it was clear that time and process were still issues. Marc listed several changes to the process that would have helped lower the stress levels, including more modeling of the

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CRS and adding more time to each tutorial session. Katie’s stress peaked on the day of implementation. Her reflection included a both time and process issues. “I wish I had time to incorporate some more practice before using them.” As we began this study we were hoping to use Tomal’s list of “common resistance to change” (Tomal, 2010 p. 125) to analyze our data. After examining the data, it became clear that this list would not be appropriate for our study. Although this list was used to prompt reflection in our journals and observations, when we actually examined the data, the connections between what was recorded and Tomal’s list seemed inappropriate and ill-fitting. At one point, after the third session, Marc commented that Katie “might feel a threat to security by having a veteran teacher in her room.” Katie’s journal did not confirm that observation, in fact having a veteran teacher in the room was seen as helpful, and actually added to her feeling of security. One other theme that emerged from the interviews, journals, and observations was the idea that the teachers involved in the study were open to change. When asked about new technology, each of the teachers expressed excitement. Violet, the first-year teacher, explained that she “loves it [new technology] except it’s hard to find time to learn it enough to teach it.” Tom, a five-year veteran, responded, “I am generally open to change and new technology. Sometimes it’s pretty exciting. When a system doesn’t work for kids, technology can make it more effective and efficient…It makes teaching more immediate.” Robert, with forty-years of experience, and a teacher whose first example of successful education change came from 1972, explained that “change need not be stressful as long as it has clear goals and is well-designed.” He went on to cite a transition to a digital grade book as a positive well-implemented change. Tomal in explaining the process for managing change warns that “there are several natural

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resistances to change” (Tomal, 2010, p. 125). In implementing our change, clickers in the classroom, and in interviewing teachers about change, these natural resistances did not seem evident. Most teachers expressed excitement about change, but felt reservation about the time it takes to implement change effectively, and the lack of a clear process or plan to implement the change. Discussion Lack of time was the most prevalent theme we found in our research and from our analysis. We were startled that every interview we conducted consisted of time issues without any prompting. This seems to be a common issue for teachers in general. The main issue we struggled with during our sessions was the lack of time we had to conduct our research in an effective manner. We both agreed if we had more training sessions, we may have felt more comfortable in our roles. Marc was worried that Katie needed more time before going in front of a class and was concerned that the pressures of being a novice teacher would only add more stress for her. Katie, in her second month of teaching, is still adjusting her teaching styles and tightening her classroom management. The implementation of new technology just “added more to my [her] plate.” The concern from Marc was legitimate because Katie felt the most stressed right before she had to teach a lesson with the CRS. We both realized that the lack of time affected not only our research and stress levels, but it also impacted Katie’s feelings about continuing to use the clickers. In her last journal, Katie stated that “I felt like my lesson was a complete disaster and the students could not remain on task. I am not sure I will ever use these again.” These feelings might have been avoided if there was simply more time for preparation. We also question if learning new technology and

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implementing educational change is practical for novice teachers. Novice teachers are in the beginning stages of their career and this may only hinder their performance. This research has left a “bad taste in my [Katie’s] mouth and I am not sure I would attempt to learn anything else this year.” We were both concerned that it was the lack of flexibility in our schedules that had hindered the process because we did have a great working relationship. “Marc was a great teacher and was confident, which helped me relax,” Katie had stated after the first session. Since we had such great compatibility we wonder what would happen when the teachers do not get along. Would this have affected our results even more? We also thought about bringing in another teacher to join our research, but decided in the end, it would have made it even more difficult to plan our sessions. Would it have been easier if Katie had another novice teacher who was learning the same technology or would it have been more stressful for Marc? So how can educators implement change in an effective manner without decreasing a teacher’s confidence? Does it take being a veteran teacher, one who has a full understanding of their primary job as teacher, who can deviate and learn new technology? It didn’t sound like the lack of time issues improve with experience. How drastically would the results have differed if it were two veteran teachers implementing the CRS? Would the stress levels have been less or would they have been higher because the veteran teachers would struggle with dominating over one another? It seems Marc was, in fact, less stressed than Katie, but he also knew how to work the CRS and has years of experience on his side. We also felt more comfortable because we had created a support system for each other during this research. This part of the collaborative apprenticeship worked well because it

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addressed the social issues of teachers (Glazer, Hannafin & Song, 2005). Teachers, from the interviews, also stated that it is difficult to implement change without support from administration. How would our stress levels have changed during this research if we were frowned upon by our administrations or other teachers? Would we have been more stressed and more eager to please in an attempt to gain support? It did seem less stressful to each other that we did not have a competitive relationship, but rather, a mutually productive relationship. We believed the stress level continuum was a successful way to measure and record stress levels. It was effective for us because it produced quick and easy results and forced us to quantify our stress level. We decided to put our initial reaction as our response, select a number directly after the session was completed and not discuss with each other until we had each selected our levels. It was interesting to see how differently we both felt along the way. It was a way to share our concerns. We believe Tomal’s (2010) examples of resistance to change may work for a broader audience. Our study seemed stronger when we abandoned this list because we were able to search for factors more appropriate to our specific research. This allowed us to identify the dominate factors: time and process. Katie wishes she took the research a little more seriously, but hesitated because she did not feel there was any real pressure attached to this research. She felt if the research failed, it simply failed and there would be no consequences except for bad data. How much more stress would she have felt if she had administration commanding this implementation? How valid or reliable are the results then? Did her attitude affect Marc’s attitude?

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Marc felt disappointed in the fact that Katie thought the lesson was a disaster and wishes he had been able to foresee these issues. He felt guilty and stated after that he “should have known better.” He felt collaborating one on one worked well, “but if we had followed the model of collaborative apprenticeship more closely and had another new teacher for Katie to bounce ideas off, I [he] may have felt better about everything.” We both agree that change will always be a stressor for us. We believe that the change needs to be worth it and it needs to have an element of excitement to it. It needs to be worth our time and energy. Katie agrees that if the change was worthwhile and helped her teaching, she would have taken it more seriously and Marc agrees that change can occur, but there needs to be time and meaning for it to be implemented. Conclusion Educators will always feel stress, they will also always be asked to change and to implement new ideas. It is important to examine how change can occur without causing unneeded stress in teachers. Our study shows that at Mountain View Union, lack of time and lack of a clear process are important to consider when planning and implementing any education reform. We also found the collaborative apprenticeship model was a good way to address the social forces inherent in the change process.

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