I came across the #BFC530 chat yesterday and was intrigued by the perspectives and suggestions to improve professional learning. Here are a few examples:
If you read these or just ask any teacher (which you should do by the way!), you will likely hear similar responses.
Teachers want (and need according to research):
- PERSONAL PATHWAYS–Teacher overwhelmingly want opportunities and models that allow them to learn based on their own goals and needs. When teachers have opportunities to experience new learning approaches that allow them to solve problems they are facing in their classrooms, they can better meet the needs of the learners in their unique context.
- COLLABORATION–Teachers like to learn from their peers, and seek regular collaborative learning opportunities during the work day to develop. When these effective systems are in place for all teachers, they often learn new strategies and increase their effectiveness and efficacy through the collective knowledge and support of the learning community.
- OBSERVATIONS OF PEERS–Teachers have been far too isolated and the teaching profession is plagued by a culture of closed doors. When given the opportunity (and sometimes a gentle nudge), teachers appreciate observing peers and reflecting on their own practice and almost always want to do it more.
- FEEDBACK–Too often feedback and observations come in the form of an evaluation rather than in the spirit of growth and development. Teachers want support from colleagues they trust and have a relationship with to provide more regular feedback to push them to the next level.
- SHARED ACCOUNTABILITY– This is probably not what you were expecting but I often hear from teachers that they are willing to put the effort in if they feel like there are clear expectations and accountability for everyone to move forward. An effective way to build collective efficacy and shared accountability improving student outcomes is to focus on the collective analysis of evidence of student learning rather than the inspection of teaching (DuFour and Mattos, 2014).
Teacher’s beliefs, knowledge, and skills are shaped by their experiences both past and present, and that these often get mirrored in their classrooms. Yet too many teachers are still sitting through one size fits all “training” to learn about a new initiative or program instead of spending time experiencing, doing, and practicing new ideas to learn and make them better.
Ask George points out in the Innovator’s Mindset, Often the biggest barrier to innovation is our own way of thinking.” So to get another perspective, here’s a challenge for you:
If you are an administrator, ask a teacher what they think is going well and what else they need.
If you are a teacher, advocate for what you need with your administrators or fellow teachers. Many people want to support you but don’t always know what you need.
Let me know how it goes!