As our society evolves and schools work to meet the needs of learners, educators need to develop new skills, knowledge, and mindsets. Working with teachers across diverse has given me insight into how they want to learn and what they want out of their professional learning opportunities. This series will feature a more in depth look at each of the 10 characteristics of professional learning that shifts practices.
Part 3 of this series is focused on action-oriented learning experiences.
It is easy to get caught up in pacing guides and which units will be taught and how to get in the required minutes of certain programs. Too often though when the focus remains on what we teach it often fails to change how we teach. To shift this mindset, we put together cross grade level teams to focus on how we would design these learning experiences and what we could learn about pedagogy rather than specific curriculum. To frame the day and how we were going to work together, I shared this quote:
Moving from Planning to Action
The teachers shared a common frustration of recent professional development where they learned great strategies but never having enough time to really think about implications for their own classroom or plan for how they would integrate these ideas into their existing practice. We wanted to make sure that there was an opportunity to practice, reflect, and refine the practices to ensure actionable next steps with a focus on how we were teaching not just what.
We used a protocol and set objectives to guide the day and provide structure but the teachers’ goals, experiences, and expertise became the content and drivers of the learning experiences. Typically this cycle can be spread out over weeks or even months and fails to help teacher shift practice quickly and effectively based on real experiences. This process or “Learning Lab” as we called it happened over the course of one day and helped teachers move from problem to solving to action, which allowed for maximum impact of the learning experience. Since teachers were driving their own learning and the content with the goal of experimenting in the classroom, the strategies were practical and applicable for their context in real time.
Here is the protocol that guided the day. I added approximated times to give a sense of how we allocated time. It is important to be mindful of the group needs and flexible yet structured enough to get to action, which is why facilitation is key. There were may opportunities to keep planning and not get into the classroom to work with students but we continued to push through in order to push our comfort levels in order to have the greatest impact on our learning.
- Define Norms and Goals (30 minutes)
- How will we work together as a productive team?
- How might we hold each other accountable for shared goals?
- How might we honor individual needs?
- Define the Problem (30 minutes to 1 hour)
- What does the data say?
- What challenges might exist?
- What do we know about what is currently working?
- Observe Models (30 minutes to 1 hour)
- What did you notice?
- What are wondering about?
- What are implications for your practice?
- How might we improve learning?
- Plan for Action (1 hours)
- What is our learning objective?
- What new strategies/ approaches are we going to try?
- How might we organize the learning experience?
- How might we collect data on our learning objective?
- Try Something in a Classroom (1 hour)
- What are we noticing as we see this in practice?
- What do we notice about student learning?
- What are we learning about our students?
- What do we notice about the role of the teacher?
- Reflect on Learning (30 minutes)
- What might be implications for our practice?
- What might we want to start doing more of?
- What might we stop doing?
- What do we need to keep doing?
- Plan for Actionable Next Steps (1 hour)
- How might I integrate new learning tomorrow?
- How might I collect evidence of my process?
- How might we share what we am learning with our peers?
- How will we continue to grow and learn as a community based on what we are trying in our classrooms?
- What other support might we need?
A Few of My Key Takeaways
-We all learned from seeing different teaching styles and seeing what we planned put into action. I think we all picked up some great strategies.
-Each teacher had insight and knowledge that added to the development of each individual in the room and just needed the space, time, and to be empowered to share it.
– The lesson plan needed to be put into action to understand its strengths, challenges and how to move forward. Without the safe space to try out our new ideas and collectively reflect on the outcomes, it could have easily remained a plan that never made it to action.
-It was powerful to see the students questioning techniques and communication strategies they were taught to solve problems and the teachers we in awe of what they could do given the opportunity.
-Modeling for students how teachers were learning and trying new things was powerful for everyone. Everyone pushed beyond their comfort zone and the learning was amplified as a result.
-A common goal and opportunity to put ideas into practice with peers created a community of learners that wants to work together to improve.
We continue to refine this approach and learn more every time we lead this with a group of teachers. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences if you try out some of these ideas or have other approaches that help teachers move from planning to action to impact learning for everyone.
This is the first of 5 part series on the 10 Characteristics of Professional Learning that Shifts Practice. Check out the rest of the series: