The Tuning Protocol: a Process for Reflection on Teacher and Student Work

What is it students are asked to do and what is the quality of the work they produce? The tuning protocol asks a teacher to present actual work before a group of thoughtful critical friends in a structured reflective discourse aimed at tuning the work to higher standards. In his essay Three Pictures of an Exhibition, the Coalition’s Joseph McDonald describes the warm and cool responses participants are asked to proffer. Warm, supportive responses identify what is positive in the work, showing those investments of belief in the performer that arise from a caring history.” More objective, cool responses address the substance of the work, objectively evaluating what is presented(not who presents it); does the test measure what is really valued? Though it is often used to critique the design and context for exhibitions, the tuning protocol is designed as a way to present student work, in the form of several contrasting samples of written work or a videotaped presentation. Participants then address questions about the extent and the quality of the work, and the standards to which it is held. It may help to think about qualities of work, rather than make an overall judgment of quality” CES’s David Allen says. For example the Prospect Center’s descriptive review process asks participants to describe what is there, as well as point out what is missing or weak- a variation of warm and cool.(See the Descriptive Review of a Child by R.D. Kanevsky, in Authentic Assessment in Practice New York; Columbia university NCREST, 1993) In the outline below, the time allotments indicated are the suggested minimum for each task.

I. Introduction(10 minutes)
Facilitator briefly introduces protocol goals, norms and agenda
Participants briefly introduce themselves

II. Teacher Presentation(20 minutes)
context for student work(describing the exhibitions vision,coaching, scoring rubrics, etc.)
samples of student work such as photocopied pieces of written work and video clips

III. Clarifying Questions(5 min)
facilitator will judge if questions more properly belong in warm or cool feedback than as clarifiers

IV. Pause to reflect on warm and cool feedback(2-3 min.)
participants may choose to write down feedback items they’d like to share (generally no more than one example of each)

V. Warm and Cool Feedback(15 minutes)
participants share feedback on work and its context among themselves, while teacher-presenter is silent
facilitator may try to give some focus by reminding participants of an area of emphasis supplied by teacher-presenter

VI. Reflection/Response(15 minutes)
teacher-presenter reflects on and responds to those comments/questions he or she chooses to
participants are silent
facilitator may intervene to clarify or give response focus

VII. Debrief(10 minutes)
begin with teacher-presenter(how did the protocol experience compare with what you expected?)
talk about any frustrations, misunderstandings, etc. as well as positive reactions participants may have experienced
more general discussion of the tuning protocol may develop

Guidelines and Norms
guidelines for facilitators

1. Be assertive about keeping time. a protocol that doesn’t allow for all the components will do a disservice to the presenter, the work presented, and the participants’ understanding of the process. Don’t let one participant monopolize!
2. Be protective of teacher-presenters By making their eir work more public, teachers are exposing themselves to kinds of critiques they may not be use dot. Inappropriate comments or questions should be recast or withdrawn. Try to determine just how “tough” your presenter wants the feedback to be.
3. Be provocative of substantive discourse. Many presenters may be used to blanket praise. Without thoughtful but probing cool questions and comments, they won’t benefit from the tuning protocol experience. Presenters often say they’d have liked more cool feedback.

Norms for Participants
1. Be respectful of teacher presenters. By making their work more public teachers are exposing themselves to kinds of critiques they may not be used to. Inappropriate comments or questions should be recast or withdrawn.
2. Contribute to substantive discourse. Without thoughtful but probing “cool” questions and comments, they won’t benefit from the tuning protocol experience.
3. Be appreciative of the facilitator’s role, particularly in regard to the following the norms and keeping time. A tuning protocol that doesn’t allow for all components(presentation, feedback, response, debrief) to be enacted properly will do a disservice to both the teacher-presenters and to the participants.

The Tuning Protocol: a Process for Reflection by David Allen, is available from the Publications office of the Coalition of Essential Schools   (401)-351-2525    (401)-351-2525 .