Tag: professional development

Practicing What We Preach

March 22, 2016 by

ConferenceThis post originally appeared at ASCD Edge on March 13, 2016.

My school district in southern Maine is sixteen months into our journey to a learner-centered, proficiency-based teaching and learning system. Teachers are working incredibly hard to provide engaging, relevant and transparent learning for each child.

As we embrace this work, another one of our goals is to increase student agency. For us, this means taking charge of one’s own learning and fostering learner voice and choice. Increased motivation to engage in learning is becoming evident, now that many of our students see themselves as active learners empowered to make some choices within their learning experiences.

With these principles employed, we began to ask ourselves, “If learner voice and choice is so important and powerful, then shouldn’t we also empower our teachers to have autonomy over their professional learning?”

How many times have you gone to a professional development session, only to feel frustrated because it didn’t meet your individual learning needs? What would happen if we intentionally encouraged teacher voice and choice as we planned and implemented our professional learning time?

This concept was brought to our building leadership team and the group was enthusiastic about the idea. In addition to our PLC work and Instructional Coaching Model, our current district calendar includes monthly early release days for students. This time in the afternoon enables each school to plan additional professional learning for staff.

We planned our first menu of professional learning sessions and sent out a sign-up sheet to staff. The three-hour time frame was chunked into three blocks of time with several offerings for each time block. Personalized learning time to work individually or with colleagues was offered in each of the three blocks, along with facilitated sessions that focused on topics important to proficiency-based teaching and learning. Some of the topics included methods for tracking learner progress over time, technology integration in the classroom and Understanding by Design unit planning. Staff signed up for the sessions that were most relevant to their current learning needs. (more…)

Lake County Schools: Moving at the Speed of Trust at South Lake High School

February 16, 2016 by
slhs map of learning

SLHS Map of Learning

This post is the second in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida. Begin with the district overview and follow along at these schools: South Lake High, Lost Lake Elementary, Sawgrass Bay Elementary, and Lake Windy Hill Middle

My first stop at Lake County Schools was South Lake High School (SLHS) with Kathy Halbig, Coordinator of Personalized Learning, as my guide. Arriving a bit early, I had the chance to read all the posters and photographs that dotted the walls in the reception area, congratulating students for Future Farmers of America, bowling, golf, track, and national merit scholars. And I thought – normal American high school.

However, once I met with Principal Rob McCue, Assistant Principal Kim Updike, and PL Facilitator Bobby Rego, I realized that South Lake High School is really the “new normal” – an entrepreneurial, innovative spirit committed to figuring out exactly how to personalize education so every student is achieving no matter what their level of skill and maturity when they first enroll in high school. With 1,820 students, of which 62 percent (or more) is FRL, South Lake High School has to design for students who are likely to be the first generation to go to college. The school is based in Groveland, Florida, where agricultural strength is on the decline and so are the jobs. In a world in which so many schools are not racially integrated, it’s worth noting that South Lake is 13 percent African-American, 23 percent Hispanic, and 64 percent white.

Powerful Understanding of Personalization: Immediately in our opening conversation, Updike and McCue stated, “Personalized learning means meeting kids where they are and taking them as far as you can by any means necessary.” The official definition of personalized learning is equally powerful, as it emphasizes student agency: Personalized learning is a broad spectrum of educational opportunities for students that provides students VOICE and CHOICE in how they learn and demonstrate mastery of standards. At South Lake High, we view personalized learning as simply meeting students where they are and taking them as far as they can go, and then some, while assisting them in making global connections to their interests, community, college, and careers. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

April 23, 2015 by

ESEA MovementScreen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

New Designs

  • Building 21 is one of three new innovative high schools designed to transform education. This article describes its one-to-one technology program, data-enriched feedback loops, and more. (more…)

The Role of Assessment Instruments in a Competency-Based System

November 5, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.01.11 AMNo matter how you approach it, you cannot mitigate the massive change agent that is competency-based education. It does not leave much room for “old school” notions of teaching and learning. It does not tolerate anything less than a committed belief that all students can achieve at high levels.

It certainly demands a philosophical and ideological shift in thinking about “best practice” in education.

When I had first embarked on this journey, I had prepared myself for these shifts as they pertained to my practice. How can I become more student-centered? What does that look like? How will I know if my students are ready?

The question I never asked: How will I assess it and grade it? (more…)

A Personalized Learning Approach to Professional Development at Education Achievement Authority

September 2, 2014 by
kristen vogt

Kristen Vogt

The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan calls the academic model employed at their schools “student-centered learning.” Perhaps their professional development for teachers—the subject of the latest Next Gen Tools brief—could be categorized as “teacher-centered professional learning.”

EAA joins the growing list of school districts and charter organizations that are reimagining professional learning for educators, as my colleague Stef Blouin blogged about last week—she was drawing on the personalized, self-directed, ongoing, collaborative, and embedded professional development at Matchbook Learning, Intrinsic Schools, Alpha Public Schools, and Horry County Schools. USC Hybrid High’s Oliver Sicat offered his perspective of personalized professional development in his recent blog at BlendMyLearning.com. (more…)

Just Start

August 19, 2014 by

Just startWhat do Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bill Belichick, and Anshul Samar have in common? Sure, they all had a vision of what they wanted to accomplish. But more importantly, they got STARTED. The difference between a great idea and an idea that makes a great difference, is someone executed it. To engage in the process of continuous improvement, the crux of leadership, one needs to begin. As investor and motivational speaker Robert Kiyosaki said, “If you are the kind of person who is waiting for the ‘right’ thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.”

The person most responsible for the construction of the path to change for any school is the principal. Too often administrators try to line up all the pieces so there is a guarantee we do not make a mistake. After all, we are working with young minds. A simple mistake could ruin their future. So we analyze, plot, analyze again, get new information, see how that informs our decision, analyze again, make adjustments, analyze the adjustments, which causes the need for more decisions. All of this is hypothetical since we have nothing tangible to adjust. Voltaire warned, “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.” We need to not worry and simply apply what we know today. The fear of hitting the magic switch and turning our students into thoughtless zombies left to wander aimlessly in a land of lost potential is unfounded. What school leaders need to do, regardless of role, is get a vision of their postcard destination, map the critical steps to get them from where they are to where they want to be, and then take that important first step. (more…)

Another Brick in the Wall

March 25, 2014 by
Writing Wall PLC

Writing Wall PLC

Looking closely together at students’ work can unveil a treasure trove of insights to guide educators as they reflect on their purpose, assess their progress, and plan strategies for reaching all students more successfully. Students’ experiences are enhanced when teachers develop an awareness of where they fall along a continuum of learning. Writing, for instance, is a content area that lends itself well to studying student work within a continuum, and has been the focal point in guiding our teachers at Memorial Elementary School as we align our work not only within each grade level, but vertically within all grade levels in our school.

Getting to this point, however, was a three-year journey that continues to evolve as we learn more about not only our students’ skills and needs, but also about our own staff needs related to instruction and aligning our assessment of student work. (more…)

A Learning Progression To Support Teachers

July 23, 2013 by

photoAll twelve of us sit around the table in our workroom, pouring through the Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum.  I half skim the paper in front of me, half scan the faces of my colleagues.  On one of my scans I catch my principal’s eye.  He’s scanning too. We finished our first draft of the progression yesterday, and this is the moment when we find out if our work makes sense.  I’m a little nervous.

The teachers in the room with us, the Phase 1 teams, are all taking the first steps towards our vision of customized learning.  It is now April and all of us are tired, a little ragged, from stretching into this first year.  These people are the best people to look at this progression and give us honest, brutal feedback.  And they will.

The Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum is a learning progression, just like any other learning progression, but for teachers.  A learning progression takes a skill or concept, breaks out the different aspects of that skill or concept, and arranges learning targets from simple to complex.  There are different kinds of learning progressions depending on content and skill, as Fritz Mosher touches on in his CPRE policy brief “The Role of Learning Progressions in Standards-Based Education Reform,” as well as different formats for organizing them.  The Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum takes the skills and understandings needed to create and support a personalized learning environment and arranges them by the following philosophical lenses: (more…)

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