Teacher Speakout! Panel Discussion and Event Summary

May 26, 2017

Teacher Speakout!—Event Summary

The Need: The Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) is a national leader in research meant to influence classroom practice and education policy; yet, often, teachers’ voices go unheard when WCER forms research agendas intended to impact teachers’ work.

Our Mission: Teacher Speakout! engages the voices and knowledge of Wisconsin teachers so they become valued partners in innovation. Thus, practitioner-informed education research at UW–Madison will be more responsive to classroom realities, both the successes and challenges.

The Process: Teacher Speakout! is a three-phased effort in which we (1) identify teachers who are interested in a collaborative relationship with WCER, (2) host an event in which teachers discuss their classroom experiences with faculty, staff, students, and other education stakeholders, and (3) package WCER research findings to be more effectively tailored to the needs of teachers.

Because most education research occurs in urban or suburban schools, we identified the voices of rural teachers as especially important to hear from in the inaugural Teacher Speakout!

We also sought to engage UW–Madison alumni for the first event. We found that 49 alums currently teach in rural Wisconsin school districts. We created a survey asking them about teaching practices and experiences. We received 29 full survey responses, and nine teachers were able to participate in an event on the UW–Madison campus. They came from seven school districts (student enrollment in parenthesis): Barneveld (455), La Farge (224), Markesan (829), Mauston (1,514), Mercer (147), Phillips (748), and River Valley (1,265).

The Result: At the May 15 event, there were 71 attendees from among many audiences: education researchers, graduate students, local media, legislators, and education advocates and policymakers. For example, there were two state assembly legislators, and representatives came from both Senators’ offices, the Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Public Education Network, and the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.

The teachers were uniformly thrilled to share their knowledge, successes and challenges with these audiences. And researchers made valuable connections. Below is a sampling of comments:

Thank you for a wonderful, inspiring, rewarding day yesterday. I am still smiling…. I hope to continue our communication and connection. The little red Union chair … will remind me of the most meaningful day of my career. —Teacher from Mercer.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of our district and rural schools in general. I appreciated being included in the conversation and hope it leads to a new and exciting partnership between the University and rural schools. —Teacher from Phillips.

At the Teachers Speakout! I became interested in what [a teacher] was saying about her school, so I choose it for one of my visits. The Teacher Speakout! was a great opportunity for me to get insights into life at rural schools in Wisconsin! —WCER researcher.

Next Steps: Our goals were to treat rural teachers with respect and establish meaningful relationships between teachers and researchers. The May 15 event achieved both. Now we must continue the respect and benefits by deepening the relationships. Planned follow up activities include feature stories on the teachers for their local news outlets, disseminating print and web products that tailor WCER research findings to the needs of teachers, and Fall visits to the districts to learn firsthand about teachers’ successes in addressing issues of interest to research.

Teacher Speakout!—Panel Video