Learning doesn’t happen from an experience; learning happens when one reflects on experience.
It’s been weeks since I’ve returned from ASB-Unplugged and this is really the first opportunity I’ve had to capture some reflection. One thing I haven’t quite figured out is how to create the space for all of us at Graded to share out learning that emerges from conferences. And as a result, I probably owe an apology to those that may have found themselves stuck with me at the lunch table my first few days back. This, however, is a feeble attempt to begin to close the abyss. I owe it to you to share what I learned.
Although I felt like I got to explore a lot, I didn’t walk away inspired to try a new digital tool, or to significantly alter structures of professional learning, or change expectations I have (we have) for relevant, engaging learning. I didn’t come away with a deeper understanding of technology’s role in learning or how I can better serve Graded in moving beyond where we are to where we can be. I think we’re on the right track to figuring out solutions to some complex issues. My biggest take away is linked to the concept of benchmarking and trust. I know. Odd.
I think we commonly enter a learning community with a lens of comparing to see where we stand in relation to what others are doing. For those that know me, by nature I’m a bit of a case builder. I land on an idea and filter information to support my conclusions. I’m really trying to grow beyond this instinct. The first few hours of the conference, I found myself thinking… “well, we do that… many of our classrooms look like that… we have that in place…” After a session with Scott McLeod (click here to see our workshop resources) I began to grapple with a whole new idea. In an almost passing remark, he noted the importance of benchmarking not to organizations that match or extend our reach to excellence, but to benchmark to the organization we WANT to be – and that may mean not having another, specific program to benchmark against or measurement tools to evaluate what is valuable to our school at the ready. This may mean we need to benchmark to an ideal. This is a much more ambiguous, daunting task than, for example, identifying other international programs that are doing a “good job” and delivering graduates to the doors of ivy leagues.
Beginning in mere days, we will begin our accreditation process by first examining our mission and projecting a direction for our school. We will use the outcome to evaluate where we stand and build steps to become the school we want and can be. Admittedly, I’m curious to see where we land as a community. How aligned are we presently to a shared vision of schooling? Can we embrace a future we cannot define? Will we honestly question our assumptions and collectively commit to building a program that serves children well?
In my 20 months at Graded School, I continue to be surprised by the work. New questions continuously emerge and my learning curve remains steep (just the way I like it). I trust that if we engage in the process with integrity, we’ll land on the benchmarks that will help define Graded in the future.
I spent a good chunk of this morning planning a workshop I’ll be facilitating at ASB-Unplugged. Entitled Re-imaging PD… Again?, the workshop has acted as a catalyst for reflection on the success and challenges of our PLCs at Graded. In a brief 18 months, our structure has grown from a fairly traditional implementation that is organized by subject area and grade level teams touted by the DuFour’s to one that is designed to accelerate a shift in our collaborative culture — to break down silos of practice to honor the expertise that exists across our campus and to honor the learning needs of teachers (McLaughlin and Talbert, 2006).
Graded’s PLC Survey – January 2012
Graded’s PLC Survey – January 2012
The part of our PLC’s that I haven’t been completely transparent about is the design and integration of digital tools. As educators, we are being asked to re-imagine schooling that is a far cry from our own learning history that often emphasized rote memorization, compartmentalized knowledge, and surface understanding of content. Our PLC structure is based on an assumption that for teachers to actively engage students in new technologies, they must have the opportunity to engage in ongoing professional development that mirrors such experiences. Before we can teach, I deeply believe we need to don the student hat first. In an analysis of your PLC pages and a review of presentation videos I discovered a rich array of tools that teachers chose to serve their learning needs first. Not only do they reflect a clear purpose, but they have the potential to impact our learning culture in ways that deepen our collaborative practices.
Hats off (student OR teacher) to Graded faculty. I hope to continue to build a structure that serves the learning needs (student OR teacher) of Graded well.
I used to laugh at sentence stems. I thought they were contrived and superficial, but I’ve discovered it is quite the opposite. Like a good protocol (yes, I really love protocols) they change the frame of thinking. They help build a different habit of discourse, and I find that I can weave them into dialogue fairly gracefully. This prompt that serves as the title is from a collection of prompts I’ve gathered over time for probing teachers’ thinking about instruction – about helping them visualize what they expect from students based on an instructional move.
I use this prompt to backwards plan meeting outcomes as well… and today, LLT (Learning Leadership Team) was the meeting. For the first time in awhile we had the opportunity to stop and reflect on our efforts in supporting teachers, specifically through observations and feedback. We had the opportunity to stop and reflect on the quality of our feedback and the value it serves in a teacher’s practice. I was humbled.
When I presented research-based criteria of quality, I wanted to see leaders use this as a tool to self-assess and plan for refinement BUT I saw them identify areas where their feedback was not strong and reach out to their colleagues for critique and ideas… I saw them identify their greatest challenges and seek advice from another perspective… I saw them eager to learn, to serve and to lead well…
The prompt certainly served to set the stage, but I recognize the culture of our meetings empowers a sense of vulnerability that really does allow us to enter as learners. I can’t help but take this question to the classroom level… how does your classroom culture empower a sense of vulnerability and reflection? Need a prompt?