Tag: professional learning communities

CBE Problems of Practice: Self-Pace and Faster is Better

October 8, 2018 by

This is the third in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on grading and attendance.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

3. Designs based on student pace, not depth of learning. Quite a few districts have been designing their learning, curriculum, and instruction for kids to pass through the system as fast as they could. Students earn a passing grade (a 3 or at least a C) on something and then quickly moved on to the next thing. This can lead to a series of learning that was “good enough” but never “great.” So students are essentially doing enough to get by but not enough to excel. (more…)

Personalized PD and Collaborative Teams: A Symbiotic Approach to Professional Learning, Part 2

December 1, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education on September 7, 2017. In Part 1 of this series, Lebeaux shared some analysis of the ways in which Personalized Professional Development and Collaborative Teams mutually benefit one another and support a school’s process of sustainable, positive transformation.  In Part 2, below, she provides some guidance on potential approaches to bringing both of these into practice.

Bringing about transformative teacher practice is challenging in any circumstance; in a low-performing school falling under local and state scrutiny, it’s particularly dire. And yet schools fraught with high pressure for students to “perform” well and for data to demonstrate their turnaround most particularly require the kind of motivated, self-improving, and engaged staff that these tandem PD structures would provide. As a result, we require a strategic and intentional approach to implementing these two practices, each of which is revolutionary in their own right, to make them feasible and accessible to the schools that need them the most.

Although the two structures mutually reinforce each other, they need not be introduced simultaneously. The two columns of tips in the infographic seen here are not chronological steps in a process so much as attributes important to the success of each. As a result, we can explore the earliest steps of each approach individually below.

Click here to view the full image.

Getting Started with Personalized Professional Development

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Personalized PD and Collaborative Teams: A Symbiotic Approach to Professional Learning, Part 1

October 19, 2017 by

Diana Lebeaux, Senior Associate, Personalized Learning Network

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education on September 5, 2017.

Those of us who consider ourselves progressive and who regularly coach schools tend to focus our support on either collaboration or personalization. Schools that worry about the isolation of the traditional teacher, and teachers who yearn to share ideas, tend to focus on establishing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), also known as Critical Friends Groups (CFGs). These groups become the mechanism of choice for propagating best practices, distributing leadership, and building collective buy-in for school reform or redesign initiatives. On the other hand, schools that fear teacher disengagement or who weary of professional development that never gains traction with teachers to foster improved student results tend to experiment with the newer approach, personalized professional development. This offshoot of personalized learning provides a structured way for teachers to share—or own—decision-making about the professional development with which they will engage, granted that it aligns with the school’s overall goals and the district’s other logistical parameters.

Both practices have promise individually, and because both represent a significant shift away from typical “sit and get” district- or school-wide professional development (PD), school leaders tend to invest their reform efforts around one or the other. After all, both approaches are ambitious and require capacity building, effective systems, and buy-in, which require time and effort. Both can result in improved teacher empowerment and even save districts money. However, unless these reforms are strategically bundled in tandem, I would argue that neither can meet its full potential to open up, and dramatically improve, classroom practice.

I have seen schools that institute PLCs begin to encounter a dreaded implementation gap when teachers mistrust (sometimes with good reason) the intention of the initiative, viewing the PLCs as a top-down, forced experience, or an attempt to further standardize practice to the detriment of teachers’ individual agency. At times, there are situations in which the PLCs are an overt means of prescribing professional development, in which principals mask top-down mandates under the guise of collaborative teamwork: arguably, these instances are poor or inauthentic implementation of PLCs. However, there are also many instances in which PLCs themselves are created with the authentic intention to build a safe community in which teachers can de-privatize practice, but the PLCs do not meet their potential to be revolutionary because they occur in isolation, providing a single outlet for teacher voice in a school that otherwise silences it.

Similarly, otherwise traditionally-structured schools that make a foray into the realm of personalized professional learning find a number of logistical hurdles that can hamper implementation. While personalized professional development plans and teacher micro-credentials, two means of personalizing PD, can provide incentives and structures that will inspire and guide teachers to learn, neither is a panacea. When poorly instituted—or done in isolation—these innovations can overly rely on educators’ knowledge of their own skills and their inevitably limited awareness of the opportunities for PD available to them. Schools may include data analysis, self-assessments and selected catalogues to mitigate some of these problems—or principals may build learning plans in tandem with their staff—but these can still result in ad hoc, sporadic instances of professional learning that may not align with the school’s overall goals or plans.  (more…)

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