You’ve intentionally planned an impactful professional learning session for your teachers. You feel good about your facilitation, and the monitoring you did along the way evidenced understanding. The feeling in the room was positive, and you wrapped up answering all of the questions posed.
Guess what? You’re not done. Either in the session itself, or shortly thereafter, you must solicit feedback from your staff. We ask teachers to do this every day; why are we so hesitant? Do we not know how? Jennifer Gonzalez, who writes the Cult of Pedagogy blog, has some great suggestions.
She highlights that we must go beyond casual requests, or fluff questions such as “did you like today’s learning?” Your feedback must relate specifically to your intended outcomes, and possibly for what the next steps might be.
The scenario I set out in the beginning of this post is not always the setting in which we operate. For example, during our September faculty meeting, I really did not do a good job facilitating and I knew it in the moment. Asking for feedback when I knew it was likely going to be critical was tough. Yet, I forged ahead, asking two questions relating to the intended outcomes (for which the feedback was mostly positive), and then one open-ended question for any questions that remained. Not only did I get questions, but I also got suggestions. And, I got some deserved criticism.
I learned that no matter how transparent I think I am being, I should go one step further. I learned that I needed to be more clear on our “why” and “how”. And in seeking this feedback, and then addressing it with my staff, we built trust. As Stephen Covey says:
Join the conversation…how do you seek and use feedback?
Last week, we welcomed our teachers back. On the first day, for 3 hours, I facilitated professional learning. A few days prior to that, I asked an instructional coach to schedule a reflective conversation to take place when I was done. Yes, principals need coaches, too!
It was an absolutely hectic day. In addition to welcoming staff back, we also had the following scheduled: new family orientation, 7th grade orientation, and 8th grade packet pick-up. Did I mention I had also just become principal 10 days before that???
Part of me wanted to cancel the conversation – I had so many other things to do. Yet, I held true to the time, and I’m glad I did. I was able to reflect on the first time I spent with all teachers, and my sense of how things had gone. My coach helped me celebrate, and was a meaningful thinking partner on what I would have done differently. I was able to take notes, with the experience of professional learning fresh in my mind, and use them to plan forward for the next session. Our teachers and students will benefit from that 45 minutes, and guess what? Everything else that needed to happen that day did happen.
I have another coaching conversation scheduled for next week. When is yours?
Join the conversation…how might you be reflecting as school starts?
“Teacher learning should be problem-based.”
About a year ago, I heard Tony Bryk say this in a room full of educators. It resonated at the time, but it wasn’t until today that I thought about it as PBL.
As an example, the Buck Institute for Education has identified “gold standard” PBL elements for students. What if we took them and applied them to teacher professional learning? It might look something like this:
1. Challenging Problem or Question (teacher teams frame a meaningful problem to solve or question to answer around student learning).
2. Sustained Inquiry (teacher teams engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information).
3. Authenticity (teacher teams operate in a school context that features a curriculum, assessment, or instruction need with real student impact).
4. Voice and Choice (teacher teams make decisions, from the questions they generate to the resources they use to find answers to their questions to the tasks and roles they take on as team members).
5. Reflection (teacher teams reflect on their learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry, the quality of their work, and how they overcame obstacles).
6. Critique & Revision (teacher teams give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process).
7. Sharing (teacher teams make their learning public by explaining, displaying, or presenting their process and current student learning outcomes to others beyond the collaborative team).
Indeed, a lot of this is already in place if your school is engaged in an inquiry cycle to improve student learning.
Taking this one step further, instructional leaders might adapt the gold standard teaching practices to support teachers:
- Design & Plan (principals frame the learning from launch to culmination).
- Align to Standards (principals ensure that the teacher team inquiries address key knowledge and skills around student learning).
- Building the Culture (principals explicitly and implicitly promote teacher team independence and growth, open-ended inquiry, team spirit, and attention to quality).
- Manage Activities (principals support teacher teams to organize tasks and schedules, set checkpoints and deadlines, find and use resources, and create processes).
- Scaffold Teacher Learning (principals employ a variety of learning modules, tools, and strategies to support all teachers in reaching team goals).
- Assess Teacher Learning (principals assess the knowledge, understanding, and skills, and include self- and peer-assessment of team and individual learning).
- Engage & Coach (principals engage in learning alongside teacher teams and identify when teams need skill building, redirection, and encouragement).
I’ll end where I began — with the words of Tony Bryk: “Embrace the wisdom of crowds. We can accomplish more together than even the best of us can accomplish alone.” There is no need to re-create the wheel.
Join the conversation…does this resonate with you?