We’re deep into fall here at UVEI: a time for warm cider, leaf-peeping, and bringing those sweaters out of the closet (even though it feels like we just put those away). But the arrival of fall also marks the beginning of a new school year for students and educators alike. And nothing quite celebrates the arrival of this time of the year than another round of action research from the Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning! The Barnes Initiative, now in its sixth year, is named after lifetime educator and UVEI founder Barbara Barnes and supported by the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation and UVEI’s Board of Directors. This year’s cohort members, pictured from left to right, include:

   *Adam Norwood, EdD, Coordinator of the Barnes Initiative & UVEI Faculty Member; 
   *Amanda Pugliese, MTSS Coordinator for Central Vermont Supervisory Union; 
   *Jennifer Stainton, EdD, 2022-23 Barnes Fellow and Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, Mountain View Supervisory Union, VT; 
   *Jessica Kenyon, UVEI Principal Intern and Assistant Principal, Whitefield Elementary School, NH; 
   *Sharal Plumley, Principal, Whitefield Elementary School, NH; 
   *Carrie Fitz, UVEI MEd Candidate and Teacher Alumna, Interventionist, East Montpelier Elementary School, VT; 
   *Aimee Gonzalez, 2022-2023 Barnes Fellow and MEd Alumna, World Language Chair & French Teacher, Crossroads Academy, NH. 
   *Not pictured: Ashley Hanlon, EdD, Principal, Grand Isle School, VT.


Curious About Last Year’s Barnes Cohort?
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In 2022-2023, the Barnes Initiative focused on “Workforce Development Within the Education Sector: Attracting, Supporting, and Retaining Educators Across Their Careers Throughout Vermont and New Hampshire.” A comprehensive needs assessment revealed that educators in the region were seeking opportunities for meaningful professional collaboration as a means to sustain and develop themselves in the field. Last year’s research showed us that by optimizing the functioning of team meetings, educators experienced modest improvements in job satisfaction and a sense of belonging. The potential revealed was certainly promising, and we were curious to learn more.


So far, we’ve discovered the answer is complex, extending far beyond pay and benefits, and will require rounds of exploration and tinkering with solutions.

This year’s cohort picks up where the previous year left off, centering on the theme “Exploring Professional Collaboration Within Schools as a Way to Sustain and Develop Educators Throughout Vermont and New Hampshire.” Our goal is to further understand how professional collaboration within schools can support and empower educators and, in turn, benefit their students. We will soon deploy a comprehensive needs assessment across multiple schools, covering various levels and settings within Vermont and New Hampshire, as a step to identifying a specific problem of practice that educators are encountering when it comes to professional collaboration. Aimee Gonzalez, who participated both last year and this year as a research fellow, describes her passion for the project: “Having an opportunity to explore options for supporting and retaining teachers is a topic that I truly felt both connected to and eager to research….Continuing the work from last year’s initiative made the most sense as we seek to further our understanding and hopefully help support teachers’ overall happiness and efficacy at work to encourage retention and growth.”


What comes next? Once the cohort identifies the Problem of Practice, we will engage in the process of creating a Theory of Action by mid-November. This actionable plan will serve as a framework to address the identified challenges and promote more effective collaboration among educators. We aim to empower educators to work collaboratively to enhance their professional growth, thereby enriching the overall educational experience for students.


We are excited about the potential impact this year’s Barnes Initiative can have on the professional growth of educators and the quality of education in Vermont and New Hampshire. Jen Stainton, who has been a research fellow for 2+ years, describes some of this impact: “Barnes has allowed a group of Upper Valley educators to collaboratively dig in and better understand why educators choose to stay or leave due to job satisfaction. So far, we’ve discovered the answer is complex, extending far beyond pay and benefits, and will require rounds of exploration and tinkering with solutions. The Barnes research allows me to intellectually wrestle with compelling problems of the field in addition to connecting with educators across New Hampshire and Vermont.”