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2010-11 Crossfield - Mulit-Faceted Professional Learning

Proposal

We would like to propose that Crossfield Elementary be considered a developing centre of excellence through prototyping a multi-faceted, systematic model of professional learning. 

During the 2009 – 2010 school year a Collaborative Action Research model for professional learning was implemented.  Within this model all educators developed a personal action plan which focused on improving their practice, in an area of their choice, linked to our school’s AISI focus. People with similar plans were grouped together to support the learning of one another.  

Action research is a long-term commitment of a dynamic nature toward improvement of practice.  All educators began by researching and planning, then implementing their plans.  Following this, they observed the results of their actions, collected evidence and reflected upon their conclusions which lead to further planning.  Although individuals worked on each part of this cycle on their own, new learning, planning and reflecting were also supported by their collaborative group.   Collaborative group meeting time was scheduled on each of our seven school based professional learning days.  All educators were given a journal to keep a record of their learning.  Emphasis was placed on implementing new learning as well as collecting evidence of improved student learning.  During our final professional learning session, each educator presented their individual plan and evidence to the group.  Two of the presentations were outstanding and will serve as exemplars heading into the 2010 – 2011 school year. 

Our first year of implementing this collaborative action research model was effective.  The old workshop delivery model for educators changed to vibrant and on-going professional learning communities where educators generated, as well as gained knowledge. It took sometime for people to realize that they were in charge of their own learning and what they got out of it would depend on what they put in.  Moving into our second year we are confident that all educators clearly understand the benefits to both their practice and student learning, this model affords.  We are looking forward to interacting in meaningful ways to learn deeply with colleagues about what it means to teach students in the 21st Century. 

As well, we will continue to spend half of each school based professional learning day focusing on improving our knowledge and skills in working with technology to enable successful infusion into all learning environments.

New Learning Structures

According to Sparks in a high performance culture the main task of school leaders is the gradual and sustained improvement of teaching in all classrooms.  High-quality professional learning by all teachers is critically important if we want high-quality learning in all classrooms (2005).  Three new professional learning structures are being implemented during the 2010 – 2011 school year to support and accelerate teacher improvement.

1.  An unexpected result of sharing and celebrating our learning at the end of our first year of collaborative action research was the desire from all staff members to do this on a more regular basis.  When people learned about programs and strategies others are implementing, many were interested in adding some of these to their practice.  Educators who shared became the resident “expert” on the new topic or strategy that others could go to for advice, support or to observe their practice “in action”.  We decided to add a professional learning section to our monthly staff meetings where an educator would share an aspect of their practice that highlighted 21st Century learning.  Thought provoking questions would be posed to the group to help facilitate table discussions.

2.  Each grade team has been provided with weekly professional learning time because we believe that collaboration amongst grade teams will build shared responsibility and improve student learning.  To begin the year all teachers have agreed to engage in a book study of Alberta Education’s resource Making a Difference: Meeting Diverse Learning Needs with Differentiated Instruction during this embedded time.

3.  Administrative embedded coaching is aimed to support teacher professional learning in the classroom.  We are striving to heighten teachers’ abilities:

  • to take responsibility for the learning of all students, emphasizing achievement through a continuum of support in an inclusive setting
  • to plan, teach and reflect in ways that ensure that all students are engaged in high quality learning opportunities

We are devoting significant administrative time, .7 FTE to this initiative.  Research suggests that providing differentiated support for professional learning in this way will lead to sustained improvement.  Areas of focus will include Universal Design for learning, balanced assessment, Understanding by Design, differentiated instruction, acquisitions of 21st Century skills and response to intervention. 

We will begin the year working intently with individuals or teams of teachers that volunteer to work with us.  Engaging in cognitive coaching conversations will determine areas of focus and then we will proceed using an action research model.  It is our intent that by supporting teachers through this cycle of planning, acting, observing and reflecting they will be empowered to move forward in their practice.  Together we will define, implement and reflect upon strategies to feed our learning forward and create 21st Century learning opportunities for our students.

A visual representation of our professional learning model is as follows:

(Picture of Model inserted here)

 

Last spring in discussing our model with you, Manny, Dr. Peat and Denise Clovechok, you all expressed interest, enthusiasm and support in this structure and its possibilities for improving both teacher and student learning.  Since then have spent more time researching, discussing and refining our ideas.  We believe that we are building on excellence in professional learning in a way that is unique to Rocky View Schools.  We would like to be considered a developing centre of excellence through prototyping a multi-faceted, systematic model of professional learning.  As part of this request we are asking for financial support and/or support from the learning department’s curriculum diversity specialists.  Financial support would be utilized to provide some embedded time for staff members to meet regularly with administrative coaches.  The support of RVS’s diversity specialists would be employed to offer expertise and guidance to both the administrative coaches and the classroom teachers.  We would be prepared to document our journey, sharing our strategies, learning and evidence with interested parties from within and outside of the division.

In conclusion we cite DuFour (2007) who eloquently summarizes our vision of professional learning:

We will know a new era has dawned when educators engaged in the deepest and most meaningful learning won't even recognize they are participating in professional development. Purposeful collaboration, collective inquiry, action research, and seeking evidence of results to inform individual, team, and school practices will be so deeply embedded in educators' routine work that they will consider these powerful learning experiences as simply "the way we do things around here." The artificial distinction that has so long existed between teacher "work time" (that is, time spent in the classroom) and teacher "learning time" (that is, the days set aside annually for "institutes") will be replaced by a culture in which working and learning are so interwoven, it will be impossible to identify where one begins and the other ends. The collaborative team will become the primary engine for this professional learning, and time for collaboration will be embedded in teachers' daily and weekly schedule. Teams will be expected to develop and pursue results-oriented goals that are specifically linked to school and district goals. Teachers working in teams will be required to analyze data, identify concerns regarding the learning of their students, build shared knowledge regarding how to best address those concerns, develop and implement short-term action plans to improve upon the current reality, analyze data to see what worked and what did not, assist each other as they work interdependently to achieve the goals for which they are mutually accountable, and continue to repeat this process in a perpetual cycle of improvement. 

 

 

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