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Cultivating Collective Efficacy Through Inclusive Education

By Claire Farabee
Cultivating Collective Efficacy Through Inclusive Education

In today's educational arena, the resounding call to "remember your why!" echoes profoundly among international education leaders. Undoubtedly, teachers are propelled by a profound desire to nurture and empower the next generation. What researchers have emphasized is the power of the “why” lies in a shared purpose that is fostered through trust and cohesion. So, how does one align 15 diverse educational philosophies, academic lexicons, and prior knowledge sets into supporting a singular initiative? How can 15 individual teachers, each unique and dynamic, converge to deliver inclusive education across diverse classrooms, subjects, and languages to a shared cohort of 135 students? How do we foster a collective mindset among 15 teachers, encouraging them to transition from viewing students as "mine" to "ours," thus evolving as educators, leaders, and a cohesive team?

In 2022, the American School of Guatemala (CAG) embarked on a pioneering journey to unite a team of teachers and advance inclusive practices with a Universal Design for Learning ethos, extending beyond student engagement to encompass professional growth for educators. We established a firm goal: "Inclusive education through co-teaching and interventions." Subsequently, we charted a flexible pathway, identifying and dismantling barriers such as scheduling complexities, staffing shortages, and training needs. Administrative initiatives facilitated collaborative planning, co-teaching arrangements, and structured intervention schedules, setting our shared "why" into motion. Yet, the ultimate challenge remained: how to align fifteen distinct individuals toward a common goal while honoring each teacher's unique learning journey?

Call it a Professional Learning Community, call it Critical Friends, call it a Collaborative Learning Group, or a Grade Level Growth Team. It goes by many names, but we called ours the Universal Data Meeting - a forum for conversations, vulnerability, and trust-building. Held every six weeks during school hours, these three-hour sessions served as the crucible for nurturing our collective commitment to inclusive education. Here, educators engaged in honest dialogue, welcomed constructive feedback, and forged deep bonds of trust. This meeting emerged as a catalyst for collaboration, equipping teachers with the skills and insights to drive meaningful change while fostering a shared sense of purpose.

Structured around a refined protocol, the Universal Data Meeting granted every participant a voice, allowing them to talk about what they love most about their job: their students. Through a shared digital platform, teachers responded to four fundamental questions, reflecting on their classroom practices and student needs.  

1. As a whole, what is going well for your students?

2. How do you know?

3. As a whole, what do your students need?

4. How do you know? 

The open-ended nature of these inquiries encouraged diverse perspectives, fostering discussions rich in educational vernacular and data literacy. By embracing vulnerability and showcasing their successes and challenges, teachers gradually built trust and expertise, driving the conversation toward common data points and standardized terminology.

As discussions transitioned to tier-two instruction, teachers continued to collaborate on identifying and addressing specific student needs. Each contribution was valued, fostering a deeper understanding of educational terminology and practices. Through this iterative process, teachers uncovered commonalities across classrooms, leveraging their growing trust to share insights and seek guidance from peers. With every meeting, trust deepened, expertise expanded, and a shared commitment to student success solidified.

Central to the Universal Data Meeting was the holistic consideration of every student's journey. Through individualized profiles containing essential data points and reflective spaces, teachers collectively strategized interventions tailored to each student's needs. In two hour-long deliberations, classroom teachers, learning specialists, auxiliary teachers, Special Education Department specialists, and administrators deliberated on student progress, ensuring that every intervention was thoughtful and purposeful. By the meeting's conclusion, students were assigned to intervention groups, and teachers reflected on their professional growth trajectories, selecting interventions to teach that aligned with their developmental goals.

The Universal Data Meeting emerged as a cornerstone of inclusive education, uniting educators in a shared purpose and empowering them to meet the diverse needs of every student. Here, vulnerability, honesty, and trust were not just encouraged but celebrated, fostering a culture of collaboration and shared learning. As a result, our students thrived, propelled by the collective efficacy of 15 teachers united by a singular "why." Though our pathways may differ, together we have realized the dream of collective teacher efficacy.


Claire Farabee is a learning specialist and Response to Intervention and Instruction coordinator at the American School of Guatemala (CAG) in Guatemala City.


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