A new year and new ideas. Daniel Pink in his book When, writes about the power of beginnings and endings – and a new school year brings about a whole assortment of possibilities wiped clean from the end of the previous academic year. Last year I was involved in discussing a new way to grow Professionally at ISB and this year am part of the pilot group that will try out our recommended approach and give feedback about the process, but also (hopefully) grow as a professional in my own learning in a more authentic way.
“Effective professional development is anything that engages teachers in learning activities that are supportive, job-embedded, instructionally focused, collaborative and ongoing. With these characteristics in place, teachers are more likely to consider professional development relevant and authentic, which makes teacher learning and improved teacher practice more likely.” (Hunzicker, 2010) Effective teacher professional development must be ongoing and continuous and it must be relevant to the teacher in the space. Often we are sent or elect to go to a workshop to learn something or to grow over a weekend or three-day workshop or conference. There can be many takeaways such as meeting up with colleagues from the district or region and touching base with your personal learning network on these occasions. You can meet new professionals with whom you can share ideas and strengthen your learning as well as connecting with researchers or others who are involved in the profession or add to your learning (ex. presenting or digital learning) in your school and classes. A one-shot learning is not as powerful as ongoing growth and development. Our focus for ISB staff was to offer a space for personal professional growth that included the following:
- Peer Feedback – an opportunity for collaboration within the process – this could be through peer observation or feedback; a mentoring relationship; a hierarchal feedback (teacher to Principal) or same-level collaboration (colleague to colleague); this could include a cross-divisional learning (ES to MS or HS) or something completely different – all of these are up to the learner and what they would like to focus on for their goal and learning.
- Standards – we wanted to adopt a set of critically evaluated standards so that we could each discuss our pedagogy, teaching and learning with a clear framework. This framework would allow us a common way to discuss our practice but we also wanted a set of standards that would provide student survey or collection of data around the same standards to ensure we had
- Student feedback on our practice – an opportunity for us to collect data from our students twice a year to give us feedback on our practice from their perspective and to use this to generate our goal/s or shine a light on areas for growth (that we may or may not have known about!)
- Digital space to house our process/ practice/reflections – to do away with a paper trail and allow us to use a platform (which has evolved into a blog space) that was personal, could be private, would allow for collaboration and sharing; model our practice with our students and be available for now and future learning conversations whether at ISB or beyond.
The process this year (as we don’t have student data yet) is
- Meet as a Pilot Group to discuss our common purpose WHAT we are doing/ WHY we are doing it and HOW we will do this over Year 1
- Use the Tripod 7 C’s Standards to initially complete a Teacher Reflection – using the questions and ideas that Tripod shares on its website
- Create a Goal that addresses one (or two?) of the 7C’s with and then
- Share that Goal with our Principal
- One class group will complete a Student survey which will give us one data point to start with –
- Edit/change our Goal based on student feedback (optional – it may not be necessary to do this). The goal of the professional growth should align with areas that have been suggested by the student survey or at least link to the areas of discussion with students and colleagues. It would not be overly useful to students in your class if you chose to study how to be a more Caring professional if you were outstanding in that field but clearly needed to improve as a Challenging practitioner.
- Conduct your Professional Growth plan/research/trials/ etc that includes working Collaboratively with another professional as a critical friend or co-teacher for growth
- Reflect/ Share/ Update using the Blog
- A second Student survey in the Spring
- Reflection/ New Goal set for next year (or could be a continuation of the current goal)
- Reflection on the Process as part of the Pilot scheme.
Our Head of School is very invested in making this change and finding out what we can do better as part of this process – but first and foremost I feel that he is very invested in growing our staff to be more invested in their own learning. A few things I wonder about are:
- Will there be some alignment of Professional Goal (as part of this pilot or not) and application for Professional development (going to conferences/ inviting in mentors etc)
- Will there be some ownership of your learning – an opportunity to share in a wider school format (how will we know what others are learning about and where there are some intersections to allow us to come together and learn from each other in a more authentic way?)
- Could this work be less calendared? Does it need to be ‘completed’ in a year?
- how could we remove student bias (is there student bias, our students in the Spring will have had longer to know us – how will this be compared to our student survey and feedback from the Fall?)
- How will we share our learning in PE (Division and Vertical) and could this inform us where we could share and collaborate together for growth? Where we could look for group learning from an invited expert?
- How will I use my current social media PLN for growth here?
I am keen to get started, and as usual have lots of ideas. The issue is going to be nailing down my thoughts into a simple project that I can effectively measure and learn from. I look forward to sharing this journey and hope to improve my practice (as usual!).