Activity Directions: Examine educator beliefs

For more information about how to use this activity to support Exploring Instructional Practices, see the Action Overview: Educator Beliefs.

In Activity 1, the leadership team prepares a plan for examining educator beliefs which they will conduct among educators in their organization. The leaders begin by discussing an article which makes the case that examining beliefs is important for being able to change practices and the leaders need to examine their own readiness for leading this work. The leadership team also examines possible methods for collecting and analyzing data about beliefs.

Activity 2 option 1 provides directions for using an educator survey concerning beliefs and leading discussions among participants about the beliefs and culture of the community. Option 2 provides directions for leading focus groups of stakeholders as another method to collect data about beliefs.


· The leadership team will understand how educator beliefs affect efforts to change practices

· The leadership team will develop a plan to collect and analyze educator beliefs in the organization 

· Educators and other stakeholders will reflect on the collective beliefs of the school community. 

Activity 1: Develop a plan for collecting and analyzing educator beliefs data


90 minutes


1. Identify the leadership team members who will prepare a plan for collecting and analyzing beliefs data.

2. Have available the article Handout: Changing Professional Practice Requires Changing Beliefs and a handout or slides of the reflection questions. Read background on facilitating ORID questions.

3. Have available the link to the Common Beliefs Survey from Teaching Tolerance.


1. The participants should individually read the article Handout: Changing Professional Practice Requires Changing Beliefs, at least pages 354-356, and respond to the following questions. Other parts of this article are applicable to other areas of this Standards Portal.

Objective: What are some ways that beliefs affect the ability to change professional practices?

Reflective: What have been your experiences with these ideas?

Interpretive:  What can be challenges with looking at educator beliefs?

Decisional: What strategies could be used to examine educator beliefs?

2. Participants share in small groups (2-4 people) their responses to prompts O, R, and I. Discuss in the large group responses to prompt D.

3. Review the Common Beliefs Survey from Teaching Tolerance and determine if this is an appropriate tool for your organization. Develop a plan to implement that tool or some other mechanism.

Some factors to consider:

a. Trust level that has been established among the participants

b. Issues or events that are affecting the organization or the community

4. Determine if there are other sources of information that may be helpful and determine methods of gathering data about beliefs. A potential mechanism is focus groups. Examples of data sources are: 

§ A Survey of students and families

§ Observations of instruction

§ Parent advisory committee

§ Indian education advisory committee

§ Community interest group

5. Plan an analysis of the data collected. This information may be helpful for the fifth action in this strategy of Developing a Vision for Instruction and Curriculum. A possible procedure for analyzing the collected data:

a. Assign a small group (at least two people) to each major set of data.

b. Have them write patterns and observations from their set of data, for example on sticky notes, chart paper or shared electronic documents.

c. Compare information from the various sets of data and compile observations for use in the Vision Development action. Prioritize the observations.

Activity 2 Option 1: Conduct a Common Beliefs Survey


60 minute session


1. Determine the logistics of the sessions: scheduling, invitations, etc. This could be by buildings, departments or other grouping.

2. Review the directions for conducting the Common Beliefs Survey 

3. Copy or electronically distribute the Teacher Voices handout. For example an email could be sent to participants with an explanation of the purpose and directions how to turn in the survey. They could return the paper copy, or submit it to an anonymous dropbox or google folder.

4. Collect the handout and compile the scores and comments. 

5. Make copies of the Discussion Prompts 


1. Introduce the purpose of the session. 

2. Share the group’s composite scores and comments from the "Teacher Voices" worksheet.

3. Next, break participants into diverse, small groups of four to six. Assign each small group one or more statements for further reflection. Provide each small group with a copy of their assigned statements, with composite scores and representative comments, as well as the Discussion Prompts for their corresponding questions.

4. Allow small groups adequate time for discussion, encouraging them to write down thoughts and comments and to come up with at least one related "action step" that might help them and others better serve racially and ethnically diverse students.

5. Ask small groups to report back to the class. Facilitate a whole-group discussion, as needed.

6. Compile the action steps and other observations of the whole-group discussion for use in Action Overview: Select Instructional Practices.

Activity 2 Option 2: Conduct Focus Group Discussions

A focus group is a small group of six to ten people that is led by a facilitator in a discussion about a defined topic or issue. Focus groups can often discuss questions and surface deeper ideas that a survey. 


45 - 60 minute sessions


1. Select the participants to be representative of the spectrum of ideas that will be addressed.

2. Plan the set of questions and the recording mechanism. It is often best to have a person who can type notes as people speak or have an audio recording of the meeting (for retyping notes)

3. Recording devices: chart paper, sticky notes, etc.

4. For suggestions on conducting focus groups, refer to this Community Toolbox from the University of Kansas


1. Introduce the rationale for the meeting and the way their responses will be used (anonymous, combined with other data, for improving instruction, etc.)

2. Establish a conducive environment through introductions, and norm setting.

3. Use some of the following questions for leading the discussion

a. What have been your own personal experiences within the educational system as a person of color, a rural community, or poverty?

b.  What are some examples of when you have seen instruction or professional development focused on the most powerful “inclusive” instructional approaches?

c. What inequitable or equitable practices are in play in instruction or assessment?

d. How well are we meeting the needs of all students (high performing, low performing, SPED, ELL)? How could that be improved?

e. What specific inequities in opportunities do you know or believe exist in the organization?

f. How do you know when all students have the opportunity to learn? And what makes these opportunities equitable?

g.  Can you describe a time that your experience or voice was validated/dismissed in a classroom or school?

h. In your classroom or school role, how do you incorporate and give voice to students’ diverse experiences?

i. What are examples where policies or programs have prevented voices to be heard and led to inequitable opportunities?


Guerra, P.L., & Nelson, S.W. (2009). Changing professional practice requires changing beliefs, Phi Delta Kappan, 90(5), 354-359.

Hawley, W., Jordan Irvine, J., & Landa, M. (n.d.). Common beliefs survey: teaching racially and ethnically diverse students. In Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from

Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. Community Tool Box: Conducting Focus Groups. Retrieved from