Category Archives: Professional Development

Professional Development

Working With A Diverse Staff: The 3 Types of Colleagues in a Change Initiative

Creating educational programs and systems that work for all kids has been my work for a long time. I have grown to understand that asking educators to change how they work produces a range of very human responses:

  • Let’s go!
  • Sounds good, but how?
  • Maybe… Can you show me that it works?
  • Yes, but what about this?
  • No Way!

Student Aspirations guru Dr. Russ Quaglia (Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations) was one of my graduate professors and served on my dissertation committee. He used to talk about three kinds of educators, when it comes to school change:

  • Yahoos
  • Yes Buts
  • NFWs

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs, and resources and were anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

The Yes Buts seem hesitant and skeptical of the initiatives with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?”

The NFWs are the folks who look a little like Yes Buts with their questions of “but what about this and what about that?” but who are really saying to themselves and their fellow NFWs, “No freaking way am I doing this!”

Each present their own challenge to school change and each needs a different kind of attention and support.

This is the beginning of a series of posts exploring what we misunderstand about Yahoos, Yes Buts and NFWs, and how to best support each. Frankly, the advice is counterintuitive in places, but is based on practical experience successfully implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change.

 

Next in the series: How we misunderstand Yahoos.

12 Professional Learning Curriculum Buckets for Teaching and Learning with Tech

As we think about our teachers becoming highly skilled at using technology in the classroom, we could certainly generate a very long list of abilities, approaches, tools, apps, strategies, and other competences we’d like them to get good at.

But there are certain behaviors/professional learning that have been linked to fostering a quality, learning-focused 1to1 technology initiative. These become our 12 buckets that would make up a professional learning curriculum for teachers.

Four of those buckets focus on teachers’ being able to use the technology themselves and create the conditions in the classroom for students to use the technology for learning.

  1. Personal Use: Can teachers use the device themselves as their own productivity and learning tool?12 Professional Learning Buckets for Learning Through Technology
  2. Classroom Management for Tech: How can teachers insure that students are focused and on-task when using technology in the classroom (especially when every student has a device in front of them!)?
  3. Student Motivation & Engagement: How do teachers ensure that students are mentally and physically engaged? How can teachers create the conditions for student self-motivation?
  4. Teaching Digital Citizenship: How do (all) teachers help students learn how to use technology safely and appropriately? (This isn’t just the responsibility of the computer teacher!)

And 8 of those buckets are the pedagogical approaches that make up “Powerful Uses of Technology” (notice that they focus on educational goals, not technology tools):

  1. Tech for Foundational Knowledge: How can we help students learn the basics?
  2. Tech for Practice and Deepening Understanding: What tools and resources help students develop some fluency with those basics?
  3. Tech for Using Knowledge: How can we contextualize learning and make learning engaging and meaningful? How can students use their knowledge? What is the role for creating and creativity, and for project-based learning.
  4. Tech for Learning Progress Management: How do we keep track of student learning? Promote a transparent curriculum? Make learning progressions clear? Help students navigate their learning? Maintain evidence of mastery?
  5. Tech for Personalizing Learning: How does technology help us tailor the learning to the student?
  6. Tech for Supporting Independent Learning: How can technology help the student do more on their own and need the teacher less?
  7. Tech for Assessment and Evidence of Learning: How can technology help us capture what students know and can do?
  8. Tech for Home/School Connection: How can technology help us stay better connected to parents?
Remember, we’d like to promote and encourage these buckets because they focus on creating quality learning experiences for students, not simply focusing on tools, skills, and devices. This keeps learning first, ensures we are talking about learning, not the tech, and promotes the idea of “More Verbs, Fewer Nouns.”
 
How might the 12 Buckets serve your school?

Not All At Once: Breaking Your Initiative Into Phases

Leading large-scale school change is a challenge. These kinds of initiatives are often complex and include numerous parts and components. Further, the initiative often includes practices educators, the folks responsible for implementing the initiative, have never experienced themselves as learners. Such initiatives often seem overwhelming to teachers!

While I was with Auburn schools, one lesson we learned from working with other districts further along implementing Customized Learning (proficiency-based learning) than we were was “not all at once!” Although there are many components to this school reform effort, following a certain sequence seemed to lead to successful implementation more often than other processes or approaches.

We teased out those lessons about sequence into phases for implementing Customized Learning and started applying them to plans for training and supporting teachers, as well as plans for implementing a statewide requirement for a proficiency-based diploma.

Seeing the practical benefits of breaking our proficiency-based learning work into phases led us to also consider our work around learning through technology within a 1to1 environment, and we created phases for implementing technology for learning, as well.

Although there is flexibility in how districts implement each phase, or even in how they might break an implementation into phases, there seems to be real, practical advantages to thinking of a complex initiative in phases. Each phase focuses on building the capacity of teachers to implement the key components of a complex initiative, but by making the transition manageable by breaking it down into doable steps.

The Power of Breaking an Initiative into Phases (as viewed from the example of Proficiency-Based Learning)

The Phases – Customized Learning

The Phases – Technology for Learning

Reframing Professional Development (Again)

Professional Development is more than just workshops, readings, and online courses. So what is it? And why am I dissatisfied with PD being reduced to these usual components? I think I have rewritten (and rethought) this post more than any other. My earlier thinking is posted here, and here.

Why reframe it again now?

I think I finally figured out what it is that makes us (Auburn Schools) think differently about professional development.

It’s the proficiency piece.

Teacher and student

We aren’t interested in simply sharing techniques or information. We want changes in classroom practice.

I have collaborated with other districts and initiatives, and I hear frustrations about how much they have invested in professional development – how many sessions they have provided – and how it has resulted in very little change in practice.

I think it is because our thinking about professional development has been incomplete. Sometimes folks say that teachers are oppositional or unwilling to change, but I think it is that workshops are simply insufficient (and perhaps their role is misunderstood), even though they are a key component.

Over time, our understanding about what we need to pay attention to in terms of PD and support has expanded to include 3 overarching categories: clarity; support for foundational knowledge, and support for achieving proficiency.

Clarity

  • A Professional Learning Curriculum – If we have an initiative (technology integration, proficiency-based learning, math instruction, middle level practices, what ever it may be…), what do we want our educators to become good at? As with young learners, adult learners can excel when we are transparent about what we would like them to know and be able to do. What are the (clearly articulated) knowledge and skills we want our educators to become proficient in, and what scopes and sequences make sense?
  • A Professional Learning Progress Management System – How will we manage, acknowledge and certify adult learning (just as we should for student learning)? What system(s) will we use to help make the professional curriculum and pathways transparent, to certify teacher proficiencies as they move through their professional curriculum, and to record and manage their “certifications” (micro-credentialling, “badging,” Educate/Empower or other learning progress management systems)?
  • Answering “But What Does It Look Like?” – Simply stated, this is “models & examples”; a curated collection of possible documents, classroom visits, videos, photos, and articles, etc., to help teachers develop a sense of what an aspect of the strategy would look like in action. Teachers often have an intellectual understanding of what they are being asked to do, but not a practical understanding. These models and examples play a critical role in helping them move to the point of being able to try this new idea in their own classroom.

Support for Foundational Knowledge

  • “Same Page” Trainings – These are introductory workshops, getting teachers on the same page about a new set of concepts, skills, or strategies they will be working to implement. We used to think of teachers as leaving a workshop as proficient in the new skill. Now we think of these “same page” sessions as just the beginning. The real (professional) learning happens when they go back to their classrooms and try out the strategy (see the PD components in the next category).
  • Reusable Learning Objects – Instead of having to wait for a workshop, or for the Tech Integrator or Instructional Coach to visit her classroom, these how-to articles, lessons, short courses, videos, and other digital resources (aligned to our professional learning curriculum) are available to a teacher as she needs them.

Support for Achieving Proficiency

Lesson Invention
  • Lesson Invention and Tryouts – There is much to any new system that needs to be designed or invented (or at least adapted for our schools). The work teachers do to design, invent, prototype, refine, perfect, and share these systems and strategies is valuable professional learning for all of us. Even relatively simple ideas or strategies, if they are truly new to a teacher, require some level of “invention” for that educator to put them into action. Embedded in the idea of lesson invention and tryouts is the notion of continuous improvement, and the chance to try a skill in the classroom, reflect on how it went and how it could be done better, and then try it out again with the improvements (play-debrief-replay).
  • Coaching and Feedback – Keeping with the idea of continuous improvement, this includes the teacher working with any Technology Integrator, Instructional Coach, administrator, or peer, who models lessons or strategies, co-designs or plans with the teacher, observes, and/or provides formative feedback to support the teacher’s professional growth and ability to increase the level of fidelity with which they can implement the strategy.
  • Teacher Face-to-Face Time – Teachers need time to sit with other teachers working on the same initiatives to share experiences, ideas, and resources, as well as to ask questions and seek support. They need a chance to share things that they have tried that worked, and to seek assistance with those things they are still challenged by. And the notion of “face-to-face” can extend well beyond her school or district via the blogs and social networks the teacher builds and follows.
Teacher Face-to-Face Time

We don’t just see that there are 3 categories of professional learning, but we acknowledge that all three compliment each other and are needed. Teachers don’t get to proficiency without the foundational supports. To offer workshops without defining the desired broader professional learning at best leaves gaps in teachers’ learning and at worst becomes a collection of random workshops. To share a set of expectations with teachers (the professional curriculum) without providing training and supports is the irresponsible expectation that they can change practices without supports.

Successful changes in classroom practice come when there is clarity, as well as support for both building foundational understandings and growing to proficiency.

If your initiative isn’t progressing the way you would like, if you aren’t seeing the the classroom changes you’d like to see, I’d invite you to look at the strategies within the three categories. Is your initiative attending to each?

 

Progress on our Professional Learning Project

Like a lot of districts working on large initiatives, we're struggling with how we can provide all the professional development and support our staff needs and how to manage the professional learning. Much of that development and systems work for us (Auburn School Department) is now part of the Distributed PD Project (watch this overview of the project.)

The project is more about creating our professional learning systems, than it is about actual workshops, trainings, coaching, etc. The project started with looking at supporting teachers with technology integration (leveraging technology for learning), but we knew we needed a similar system for our around Customized Learning. Recent developments have increased Customized Learning as a priority, but we are continuing to put as much attention into the technology for learning piece – both as a subset of the Customized Learning work, but also to support the folks who are primarily interested in the technology professional learning.

We have just shared a draft professional curriculum grid for Technology for Learning and a draft professional curriculum grid for Customized Learning. Each is only a partial grid outlining the Measurement Topics and steps or learning progressions within each Strand. By partial, we mean incomplete, but we have shared them hoping that others will collaborate with us to complete them.

Also, we have started a heightened collaboration with Educate/Empower around this work and are collaborating more intensively with 3 other Maine districts who share the same needs. Working from a proficiency-based learning perspective, and recognizing the power of a transparent curriculum and easy access to resources and support, the project is, right now, focused on the following:

  • Creating a professional learning curriculum/continuum for transitioning to Customized Learning, including for leveraging technology for learning
  • Developing a micro-credentialing (badging) infrastructure for that curriculum (we have selected Educate/Empower for the platform)
  • Developing or collecting reusable learning objects (videos, online resources, online modules, etc.) aligned to our professional learning curriculum
  • Develop a system to recruit and certify a cross-district cohort of “certifiers,” who will review educators' evidence of proficiency in the professional learning

 

Benefits of Attending Auburn’s Leveraging Learning iPad Institute

Auburn Schools (ME), an early adopter of 1to1 iPads in primary grades, hosts the annual Leveraging Learning Institute on the topic. Registration for the Nov 12-14 Institute opens at noon (ET) on August 21.

Dr. David Murphy, RSU 44 Superintendent (Bethel, ME), has sent a team to the Institute every year. In this video, he discusses both what his district has gotten from attending the Institute, and the benefits of sending a team of teachers, administrators, tech integrators, and technicians.

 

Registration is limited to 135, so be sure to register early. Districts are encouraged to send teams, and the Institute is structured to support teamwork (but individuals are welcome, too!).

This year, we are expecting the Institute to be internationally rich! More than a third of our participants are likely to be educators from outside the United States. What a great opportunity to share your experiences and learn from educators from across the country and around the world!

Learn more by visiting the Leveraging Learning Hold the Date Page.  We hope to see you at the Institute!

 

The (New) Evolving Face of Professional Development

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about professional development. 

We’re working on a comprehensive project to define a professional learning curriculum related to our strategic initiatives (Customized Learning, Tech for Learning, etc), build modules and professional learning playlists around those learning targets, and provide a system for certifying teachers for their accomplishments and for what they know and can do. And I have written before about how our thinking about professional development has evolved over time.

This post captures our current (Summer 2014) thinking on the topic.

Not only are we recognizing that we just don’t have enough resources and opportunities to do traditional “everyone in the same room” professional development, but we have started thinking differently about the purpose of those workshops and other whole-group PD.

Until recently, I used to think of whole-group PD as the end. Teachers attend the PD session and they would leave being proficient at the skill taught in the session, ready and able to implement it well in their classroom.

Now, I think of whole-group PD as just the beginning, an opportunity to introduce a group to a new idea and get them all “on the same page” before they begin working in their own classrooms at learning how to implement the skill well. This is especially important given that the work we’ve been doing lately around Customized Learning, including teaching with iPads, is new to teachers (they haven’t experienced this themselves as learners) and have to invent many of the pieces. 

And that idea, the idea that these new skills are complex, and need inventing and development, and later need practice, and that teachers need to be supported throughout their work to get good at them, has us thinking about workshops as just one small piece of professional development.

For us, professional development for our teachers needs to include some fluid combination of these components:

  • “Same Page” Trainings – These are introductory workshops, getting teachers on the same page about a new set of concepts, skills, or strategies they will be working to implement.
  • Lesson Invention & Tryouts – There is much to this new system that needs to be designed or invented (or at least adapted for our schools). The work teachers do to design, invent, prototype, refine, perfect, and share these systems and strategies is valuable professional learning for all of us. Embedded in this idea is the notion of continuous improvement, and the chance to try a skill in the classroom, reflect on how it went and how it could be done better, and then try it out again with the improvements (play-debrief-replay).
  • Coaching & Feedback – Keeping with the idea of continuous improvement, this includes any Technology Integrator, Instructional Coach, administrator, or peer who models lessons or strategies, co-designs or plans with the teacher, observes, and/or provides formative feedback to support the teacher’s professional growth.
  • Teacher Face-to-Face Time – Teachers need time to sit with other teachers to share experiences, ideas, and resources, as well as to ask questions and seek support. They need a chance to share things that they have tried that worked, and to seek assistance with those things they are still challenged by. And the notion of “face-to-face” can extend well beyond her school or district via the blogs and social networks the teacher builds and follows.
  • On-Demand Modules & Play Lists – Instead of having to wait for a workshop, or for the Tech Integrator or Instructional Coach to visit her classroom, these how-to articles, lessons, short courses, videos, and other digital resources are available to a teacher as she needs them.
  • Answering “But What Does It Look Like?” – Simply stated, this is models & examples: a curated collection of possible classroom visits, videos, photos, and articles, etc., to help teachers develop a sense of what an aspect of the initiative would look like in action. Teachers often have an intellectual understanding of what they are being asked to do, but not a practical understanding.  These models and examples play a critical role in helping them move to the point of being able to try this new idea in their own classroom.
 
Of course, now we have to figure out how to do all of these well….