Friday, November 20, 2015


Continuing with the broad goal setting of our professional development, I made a chart yesterday to organize my thoughts and ideas about summer learning opportunities.

Column 1: What should we STOP doing?

Column 2: What should we START doing?

Column 3: What should we CONTINUE doing?

Here are my thoughts so far:

Column 1: STOP doing

  • Technology topics
  • Face to face technical training (too individualized)
  • Training
  • Awarding credits by hours completed
I consider the large group face-to-face PD on specific technical topics and how it is really focused on the individual in the room instead of the group as a whole. Each person is learning at their own pace individually with little time for group sharing. Flipping technical training to video on-demand can give everyone their learning at their own pace and then use the group setting for testing out what they learned by incorporating into a lesson for peer feedback. 

Column 2: START doing

  • Peer coaching
  • Group collaboration
  • Facilitating
  • Awarding credit by outcome
Perhaps using a peer coaching cycle where groups of teachers observe a lesson taught by a teacher, then provide feedback for improvement, and then teach again with additional feedback and reflection. Facilitating a peer coaching group distributes the control of the learning back to the group itself rather than the trainer. Allowing teachers to keep documentation of lessons to use for T-TESS evaluations could assist with multiple dimensions for proficiency and above. 

Column 3: CONTINUE doing

  • Online task oriented technical training (individual)
  • Online task oriented collaboration (group)
  • Encouraging idea sharing and group research
  • Purpose & goal driven professional development
I think we will always need to provide technical training for individualized learning but it must be video blended with example documents. We had tremendous success last year with Amazing Race and group learning and sharing online so that will continue. I want to see us look into Action Research and taking the time to discover current problems and spend time researching effective actionable items to solve them as a group. And finally, our professional development must be grounded with purpose and goals. Each offering must have a measurable goal instead of simply making a memo or state-mandated requirement into a training opportunity. Tie it into the district goals, district improvement planning, and campus improvement planning if possible. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Early Stage Summer PD Planning

I usually start planning summer professional development in January but with the new teacher evaluation system T-TESS coming in to play next year, I have started earlier than usual.

I'm really low tech when it comes to planning out big ideas. I start with an empty canvas - a giant Post-It sheet of paper on my wall and some sharpies.

On this canvas, I just brainstorm. I think of what worked last year and ideas I have for this year. It is global and not specific to sessions yet. Just general ideas, goals, and the shape of what I think staff development should be that is different from what we did last year. 

Here are ideas I posted yesterday that have started getting me thinking about this year's staff development:

  • Shift from hours to outcomes
  • Open lab was individual work; could there be a collaborative work?
  • Move all "technical" training to online task-driven courses (still individual work)
  • In-group offerings would be collaborative with focus on lesson-building
  • Look into peer/teacher coaching models
  • Create times for SOLE experiences: teachers researching topics they generate to solve global classroom/campus/culture issues

Hours to Outcomes
So with our new T-TESS evaluation system which moves from 6-domains of focus to 16-dimensions, I wonder if we will be see changes to the TEA & SBEC definition of credit for professional development. The current model is based on time: 1 hour credit for 1 hour of face-to-face learning. I want our PD to be more focused on the purpose of the learning opportunity and what our teachers can produce from their learning instead of the amount of time they are in a seat. 

Technical Training
I personally don't enjoy the 3 to 6-hour face to face technical training we have been giving teachers for professional development over the years. Most of them forget what they learned within the week after they attended. I've been transitioning away from it as much as possible because it is such a waste of everyone's time.

By moving technical training to online task-driven implementation, I have more teachers who realize they can review concepts learned in their iTunesU course materials than need to call me for a refresher. We will continue to offer more independent technical training opportunities plus this gives access to learning for our coaching staff, summer school and teacher travelers who miss scheduled PD due to other commitments. Feedback has been great about online technical training. 

Collaborative PD
Last year we had a highly successful and well attended opportunity every other week for teachers to come in to a lab to work individually on anything. Credit was awarded by time they spent in the lab. It worked well and I want to continue offering it but it was really individualized learning. Several times teachers would share things they were finding and resources they had implemented but the overall structure of sitting in a lab for credit by the hour was really individualized. 

I want to offer a way to move from the individualized "study-hall" atmosphere of Open Lab to a collaborative sharing of ideas and reflection. Going to keep researching this and developing it.

SOLE Groups
Each year, our district forms Academic Excellence Committees (AECs) made up of teachers, administrative staff, parents, and board members to research new ideas for implementation into our district. Each group meets once a month to share ideas and work together to research and implement their assigned concept. 

I don't think we can get away from this type of meeting during the year but I think we should offer this type of research as professional learning opportunities in the summer. Summer gives more condensed time to focus on an issue rather than spreading it out to 1-hour each month.

The SOLE method (Self Organized Learning Environments developed by Sugata Mitra) is one I have been interested in developing with teachers as a way for them to adapt for students. The idea is to form research groups focused on solving a particular problem that is not assigned but developed by the very members of the group. 

It is a blend of Inquiry and Project-based learning styles. I think we all need more exposure to researching and sharing as a way to learn professionally with each other. Plus, this very concept meshes into three of the sixteen dimensions of T-TESS. 

So I would like to see this type of group research offered as a professional learning opportunity for our teachers.  I just need to spend more time fleshing this idea out as well. 

Teacher Coaching
We need more time for our teachers to experience reflective practice. Technical training isn't helping our teachers educate better. Our teachers need more time to observe each other teaching and providing feedback to each other to improve practice. Teacher coaching would be a great way to move from the static view of a lesson plan to seeing it in practice and then making adjustments to realistically put it into the classroom experience. 

We spend a lot of time planning. 

But I think we are at the point where our teachers need to see plans in action and give/receive genuine feedback to one another. 

This is another area I plan to spend focusing my own research to develop further for our teachers. 

So all this is just brainstorming. I would appreciate input and ideas if you have any!