David Price, in his book Open, describes how this access has created a “messy and at times chaotic phenomenon… It has changed how we live and learn, socially. If we fully understand and grasp its potential, we can be more fully engaged and fulfilled in our work and studies, and better able to adapt to the uncertainties we will face in the future.” This unprecedented access to people, information, and new ideas has transformed the notion of how we can teach and learn. However, making shifts across diverse classrooms will require more than purchasing technology and some online resources and programs. To align learning experiences to the world that we live in today, there is a lot to learn and it will require embracing a culture of learning and innovation in our schools.
This highlights a major challenge that exists in education right now. We have required more of educators than ever before without the proper time and support to learn how to be successful in their changing role. We have expected teachers to learn on their own time and figure it all out. Not only is this unfair to them, it’s unfair to our students. When teachers lack a clear understanding of their role and how to leverage the powerful tools and resources to create desired learning experiences, they become frustrated and revert back to how they have always taught, despite the resources at their fingertips or those of their students.
I was meeting with a principal recently, and in her school, like so many other schools, there are many priorities and initiatives that teachers are expected to implement in their classrooms. I asked, “If I were a teacher here, how would I learn how to best use all the new resources and strategies to meet the needs of my students?” Her response was simple and honest, “We have a lot of room for improvement in that area.” She acknowledged that they had not made a concerted effort to prioritize goals and align learning experiences for teachers to integrate new ideas, shed outdated practices, and improve teaching and learning. This principal is not alone, she was just very candid about the reality that existed in her school. To support deeper learning for educators so they can create deeper learning in their schools, consider how to create the following systems to support teacher growth and development.
Systematic, job-embedded collaboration. To truly integrate new learning, educators need time to learn with their peers and opportunities to learn and practice new strategies in safe environment. It is the application of the new learning that breeds innovative ideas and practices that can impact learning across schools and classrooms.
Models and opportunities to experience powerful learning. Teachers have been far too isolated and the teaching professional is plagued by a culture of closed doors. To improve practice, there is a need for teachers to see models and engage as learners to experience the resources and opportunities that exist for their students.
Cycles of coaching and feedback : Creating an environment where teachers are encouraged to take risks and receive feedback that is specific to their goals, in pursuit of learning and growth rather than perfection, is absolutely foundational to shifting practices.
Empowering teachers to integrate resources and tools to fit their unique context is necessary to leverage better opportunities for learning. We can continue to create new initiatives and programs but if we fail to engage teachers, and create the time to integrate new learning, we will miss out on our greatest lever in educational reform. If we don’t prioritize authentic and relevant learning experiences for teachers, how can we ensure our students have deeper learning experiences in a world that is dynamic and constantly evolving?