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The Descriptive Review of a Child Protocol

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The Descriptive Review of a Child Protocol

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Jun 25
Emily W (Jun 25 2020 3:48PM) : As you read through the protocol and its description, we invite you to consider the following question: How is this process different or similar to the ways in which you (or others) have encountered, observed, and described students? [Edited]
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Adapted by Katy Kelly from “Making the Whole Student Visible: The Descriptive Review of a Child”, HORACE, 11/1996 – a process developed by Pat Carini at the Prospect Center in Bennington, Vermont for reflecting on students and their work.

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The Prospect Archive and Center for Education and Research in North Bennington, Vermont, has, over many years, developed the concept of “Descriptive Review of the Child.” The work done by these dedicated educators has seeded a dialogue about children’s work all across the country that deserves gratitude and acknowledgement.

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This process is not intended to solve a problem or change a child, rather it allows us to know her better — and as a result use that knowledge to better meet her academic, social, or physical needs.

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Jun 25
Emily W (Jun 25 2020 3:51PM) : This protocol has continued to appear "radical" to some educators. Why do you think, after nearly 30-years, this protocol is considered radical and new?
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Jul 29
Jessica C (Jul 29 2020 5:39PM) : The US tends to have a "quick-fix" mentality to make problems go away asap. Getting to know a child takes time and runs counter to the idea of making bad things go away quickly.
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Jul 29
Amanda G (Jul 29 2020 11:19PM) : Well said, Jessica. [Edited]
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Jul 29
Amanda G (Jul 29 2020 11:26PM) : In addition to Jessica's response. Unfortunately, there are some close-minded educators that believe they have "seen" this behavior before in their years of experience. Instead of getting to know this specific child, they revert to past efforts.
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Jul 30
Jessica C (Jul 30 2020 5:23PM) : Good point, Amanda. Teachers need to be curious about their students, not just presume they know everything.
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Aug 1
Ifeoma E (Aug 01 2020 4:56AM) : I do agree with you, Amanda, every behavior has an antecedent, which can’t be the same for every student adopting one size fits all approach in addressing a behavior is a recipe for failure.
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Aug 5
Emmie S (Aug 05 2020 11:12PM) : I think while this may not be a new concept teacher must take into account a lot more about the children than what they are simply seeing in the classroom to truly understand and get a full and accurate picture of their students.
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Jul 12
Ayaan S (Jul 12 2020 12:01AM) : This protocol is necessary and deemed important especially by public health officials as it provides a solid foundation shaped to meet the specific needs of each child. Have you seen this protocol implemented by educators?
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Time (see facilitation tips) Allow at least 90 minutes for the process and plan on pre-conferencing several days prior to the conference to allow participants time to reflect on the child and prepare their description. Times given below are guidelines only based on a 90-minute conference – they should be reviewed carefully in every pre-conference.

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Process (see attached notes for details of each step)

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Jun 25
Emily W (Jun 25 2020 3:48PM) : Which of these steps seem most valuable in ensuring that teachers attend to students with respect and care?
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Aug 2
Juanita M (Aug 02 2020 6:39PM) : Of all these steps doing the pre-conference is extremely valuable. Most teacher is very busy and sometimes may not give each child the proper amount of time to reflect on that child. And not just reflect on only their weaknesses but also their strengths.
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Jul 12
Ayaan S (Jul 12 2020 12:04AM) : These steps are crucial in attaining the child's comfort and allows the teachers to better care for the children. It is a way to understand the child.
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  1. Introductions — facilitator introduces the presenters, the process, the child, and the focusing question (5 minutes)
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  3. Description of Child — use prompts in notes (20 minutes)
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  5. Summary of Presentation, Dominant Themes, Patterns, Restatement of Focusing Question — facilitator (5 minutes)
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  7. Other Descriptions (10 minutes)
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  9. Restatement of Focusing Question (5 minutes)
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  11. Clarifying/Probing Questions from participants (15 minutes)
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  13. Pop-ups — What did we hear you say — participants (5 minutes)
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  15. Summary of Presentation, dominant themes, patterns Restatement of Focusing Question — facilitator (5 minutes)
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  17. Discussion/Recommendations — participants (15 minutes)
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  19. Presenter Response (5 minutes)
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  21. Debrief (5 minutes)
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Facilitation Tips

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Jun 25
Emily W (Jun 25 2020 3:53PM) : How might you share this protocol AND enact it with your host teacher? What problems might you encounter? How might you respond to criticism of this protocol or its steps?
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Aug 2
Juanita M (Aug 02 2020 6:48PM) : You should share information with your host teacher either before the school day starts or after. A problem that you may encounter with your host teacher is that they may have their own way of accessing their children and may not like the new approach. more
I would respond to criticism by educating the host teacher of the benefits of doing it this way. I find that meeting criticism with facts or research helps people see it differently.
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Aug 3
Aline V (Aug 03 2020 11:53PM) : Protocol more

I agree with you Juanita that one problem could be in the different ways they assessing their students. One suggestion could be to ask the teacher what their methods of assessing are and explaining your reasons for the way you assessed.

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Jul 12
Ayaan S (Jul 12 2020 12:08AM) : These are key to making a good environment for the protocol to occur in. Changes may be needed based on any problems or discomfort that the teacher feels the student is feeling.
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  1. Timing — the timing for this process depends on how many people are presenting and how many are participating. 90 minutes allows enough time to work through the process if timed out carefully. Two hours or more is better, especially if a parent is involved.
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  3. Presenters — usually there is one main presenter, most often a teacher with any number of additional interested parties — parents, counselors, other teachers, mentors, etc. who can offer different perspectives on the child. Generally, the more presenters the more time you need for the conference.
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  5. Parents as presenters — parents don’t often get a chance to talk to a group of caring, interested people about their child. They know their child well and can add greatly to the conference. There may be times when it is difficult to include them or counter-productive. That is your call as facilitator. That said, once they are involved it’s hard to tell a parent to stop talking so they can be tough to facilitate. Therefore it is important that they are involved in pre-conferencing and are aware of the process before they go into it.
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  7. Pre-conference — pre-conferencing far enough in advance of the conference allows the presenters important time to reflect on the child, collect information and prepare for their presentation.
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  9. Summarizing — facilitator should take careful notes and pay attention to any dominant themes or patterns that emerge, while keeping the group’s attention fixed on the focusing question.
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Notes on Process

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  1. Introductions — facilitator introduces the presenters, the process, the child, and the focusing question. In introducing the child, the facilitator may want, at this time, to give a thumbnail description of the child: grade, age, birth order, pseudonym if appropriate.
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  1. Description of Child — The presenting teacher may describe the classroom context if it would be helpful to participants: the room plan, setting, schedule, etc. Then she describes the child, including both characteristic and unusual behavior, using the prompts in the following categories:
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    Jun 29
    Paul A

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    (Jun 29 2020 2:36PM) : Use the notes under "Description of Child" (paragraphs 26-30) to guide your writing about a youth or a child you know well.
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    Jul 12
    Ayaan S (Jul 12 2020 12:17AM) : What are usual behaviors and characteristics defined by? Each child has a different background that they come from, some things are normal for a child that may not be seen in another.
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    Jul 31
    Ifeoma E (Jul 31 2020 3:33PM) : knowing the student's background is at the core of how to manage a class to create a conducive learning environment. Acknowledging the importance of difference in the classroom is particularly essential to help avoid biases that can lead to assumptions
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    Jul 7
    Andrea C (Jul 07 2020 1:41PM) : That this child needs more help. more

    Are you saying every child with an unusual behavior is bad ?

  1. Physical Presence and Gesture — Characteristic gestures and expressions: How are these visible in the child’s face, hands, body attitudes? How do they vary, and in response to what circumstances (e.g. indoors and outdoors)? Characteristic level of energy: How would you describe the child’s rhythm and pace? How does it vary? How would you describe the child’s voice? It’s rhythm, expressiveness, inflection? Disposition. How would you describe the child’s characteristic temperament and its range (e.g. intense, even, up and down)? How are feelings expressed? Fully? Rarely? How do you “read” the child’s feelings? Where and how are they visible? What is the child’s emotional tone or “color” (e.g. vivid, bright, serene, etc.) ?
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    Aug 1
    Ifeoma E (Aug 01 2020 4:05AM) : Visualizing these characteristics goes beyond knowing the information on their permanent record. It entails genuine interest in their background and experiences. Developing an appropriate relationship is central to be able to understand them at this level [Edited]
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    Aug 5
    Emmie S (Aug 05 2020 11:06PM) : I believe that before making concrete opinions on a child's physical presence you must also understand their background and the bases for what they are working with as all family dynamics are different.
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    Jul 30
    Jessica C (Jul 30 2020 3:52PM) : I've never thought to pay attention to this level of physical detail in a student, but I can see how it could be helpful have concrete observations rather than just interpretations of behavior.
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  3. Relationships with Children and Adults — Does the child have friends? How would you characterize those attachments? Are they consistent? Changeable? Is the child recognized within the group? How is this recognition expressed? Is the child comfortable in the group? How would you describe the child’s casual, day-to-day contact with others? How does this daily contact vary? When there are tensions, how do they get resolved? How would you describe the child’s relationship to you? To other adults?
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    Jul 30
    Jessica C (Jul 30 2020 3:54PM) : If teachers primarily see their students in the context of their own class, how do they get a read of what students' relationships are with other adults?
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    Aug 1
    Ifeoma E (Aug 01 2020 4:35AM) : I don't think a student's relationship assessment can be done in isolation, interaction with parents and other staff members who are directly involved with the child can help the teacher understand the child's relationship with adults better
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    Aug 3
    Aline V (Aug 03 2020 11:50PM) : Adults more

    Perhaps they are alluding to all the other staff members that students interact with briefly throughout the day. For example, the lunch lady or when they are transitioning to other classrooms and there is an interaction with the gym or art or music teacher. Sometimes there are staff members who come into the classroom and visit. During these brief encounters, were it to happen a few times, there may be behavior that is reasonable to be noted and not dismissed.

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  5. Activities and Interests — What are the child’s preferred activities? Do these reflect underlying interests that are visible to you? For example, does drawing or story writing center on recurrent and related motifs such as superhuman figures, danger and rescue, volcanoes and other large-scale events? How would you describe the range of the child’s interests? Which interests are intense, passionate? How would you characterize the child’s engagement with projects (e.g. quick, methodical, slapdash, thorough)? Is the product important to the child? What is the response to mishaps, frustrations? Are there media that have a strong appeal for the child (e.g. paint, blocks, books, woodworking)?
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  7. Formal Learning — What is the child’s characteristic approach to a new subject or process or direction? In learning, what does the child rely on (e.g. observation, memory, trial and error, steps and sequence, getting the whole picture, context)? How does that learning approach vary from subject to subject? What is the child’s characteristic attitude toward learning? How would you characterize the child as a thinker? What ideas and content have appeal? Is there a speculative streak? A problem-solving one? A gift for analogy and metaphor? For image? For reason and logic? For insight? For intuition? For the imaginative leap? For fantasy? What are the child’s preferred subjects? What conventions and skills come easily? Which are hard?
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    Jul 30
    Jessica C (Jul 30 2020 3:58PM) : These are helpful categories
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  1. Summary of Presentation, dominant themes, patterns, Restatement of Focusing Question – facilitator
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  3. Other Descriptions — This should not be a repetition of the description already given but observations that build on it and furthers our insight into the child. It may include comments from people not present. If a parent is not present any important medical information supplied by the school or doctors should be presented at this time along with any other school documents or reports.
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  5. Restatement of Focusing Question — It is important to keep the group focused on the purpose of the conference.
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  7. Clarifying/Probing Questions from participants — These are burning questions — ones that participants feel they must have an answer to in order to go further. This opens out multiple perspectives and generates new information that may enhance the teacher’s insights, expectations, or approach, or may even shift her focusing question itself. Start with clarifying and move to probing questions.
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    Aug 3
    Aline V (Aug 03 2020 11:45PM) : Burning Questions more

    This is a time for the other side to chime in and ask questions they need answered before taking the next step. With that being said, this is a vital step in this process as these questions could define how things can go.

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  9. Pop-ups – What did we hear you say — The participants take turns making simple statements from their notes about what they have heard about the child.
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  11. Summary of Presentation, dominant themes, patterns, Restatement of Focusing Question.
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  13. Discussion/Recommendations — participants discuss what they have heard and offer suggestions and recommendations. They may build on each other or contradict each other. These recommendations focus on ways to support the child’s strengths – not change the child – and create harmony in her school life.
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  15. Presenter Response — the presenter may choose to comment on anything she has heard, answer any question that has come up or give any new insights she has gained. She is not obliged to do any of these.
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  17. Debrief — How did this process work for the presenter(s) in gaining new insights about the child? How was it for the participants? What implications emerged for their own practice. The facilitator should be given feedback at this time.
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Protocols are most powerful and effective when used within an ongoing professional learning community and facilitated by a skilled facilitator. To learn more about professional learning communities and seminars for facilitation, please visit the School Reform Initiative website at www.schoolreforminitiative.org

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DMU Timestamp: May 11, 2020 21:16

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Jun 25
Emily W (Jun 25 2020 3:55PM) : Can you think of a time in which this protocol might have been useful or necessary in building stronger student-teacher relationships and decreasing any negative misconceptions?
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Jul 29
Amanda G (Jul 29 2020 11:36PM) : During a power struggle. This protocol would be helpful. Understanding the child's relationships with children and other adults may help the teacher build a relationship with the student while decreasing misconceptions of why it has happened.
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Jul 12
Ayaan S (Jul 12 2020 12:21AM) : Maybe putting examples in this protocol from when it was used would allow a better understanding of it. It would provide ideas for those thinking to implement it and perhaps encourage others who are uncertain.
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