Tagged: PhD

And I Quote: Meeting Teachers In Their Classrooms As A Foundation For Professional Learning

Meeting Learners in Their Space

Professional learning in school communities is unquestionably a complex and challenging concept to attend to. Teachers, like all learners, are wide ranging in their interests, their developmental pathways, their learning styles, and their capacity to engage on any given day and in any given setting. There is no standard that works for everyone (at least I haven’t come across it).

Some adult learners require movement and interaction to stay connected while others prefer to stay put, listen, and take notes. Some want to generate thoughts and ideas through a process of individual and collaborative brainstorming, exploration, and critical thinking, while others prefer to have information delivered to them. Even so, dynamic lecturers can transform the traditional “sit and get” experience into vibrant and engaging opportunities for rich, meaningful, and connected learning, and effective group facilitators can draw enthusiastic participation out of the most reluctant collaborators.

As school administrators and professional learning teams consider reflective systems and structures such as Camburn’s three phase reflective process, Gladwell and DiCamillo’s professional dyads, and/or Purcell’s “post class reflective notes,” we must also consider connected and meaningful content. How do we get at learning that truly drives individual and collaborative progress and effectively impacts student wellbeing and achievement in authentically positive ways?

Of comprehensive school reform (CSR) programs, Camburn warns, “if we wish to develop a fuller understanding of how teachers’ work experiences support the development of their practice, it is useful to look beyond their participation in traditional staff development and consider a broader array of experiences” (p. 464). He further clarifies by suggesting, “knowledge about teaching that is acquired in teachers’ immediate work context (their classrooms and the larger school organization) may be more readily applied than knowledge acquired outside that context” (p. 466). A suggestion that connects directly to the “try it out, mull it over, and critically evaluate it” professional learning triangle he points to as scaffolding for genuine reflective progress.

Individual and/or collaborative reflective practices, employed in real-time and on location can influence professional learning a ways that provide teachers with the autonomy needed to connect in meaningfully with school reform or improvement initiatives, a valued voice along their own learning pathways, and a framework regarding how learning meets application for them and for their unique student population during any given moment in time.

Enlisting connected research and reflecting on outside scenarios and ideas has its place and should not be dismissed as worthwhile for professional learning in school communities. However, school leaders must also consider that the base of any truly connected progress specific to their school community is in fact real-time teaching and learning challenges and triumphs that are also specific to their school community, and that are concurrently transpiring along with the progress. Empowering classroom teachers to drive their own professional learning through reflection on their own experiences can be immensely powerful.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article by Eric M. Camburn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled “Embedded Teacher Learning Opportunities as a Site for Reflective Practice: An Exploratory Study,” published in 2010 in the American Journal of Education.

And I Quote: Immediate Written Reflection Might Make Even The Best Teachers Even Better

Immediate Puddles

Teachers have loads of pencils, shelves overflowing with books, buckets of paper clips and pushpins, and they have drawers that are jam-packed with construction paper. They have magic markers and they have paintbrushes to match their plethora of vibrant, plastic, circle-basin watercolor trays. They have computers, they have printers, and they have copy machines. They have chairs and they have tables. They have colorful carpets and they have decorative wall art. They have expertise and they have one another for collaboration when additional expertise is required. Teachers have many of the things they need to create comfortable, safe, and engaging learning environments for the students they serve.

What’s the one thing that teachers might highlight as something they don’t have? Enough time. The business of education is multifaceted, enormously demanding, and fast-paced. It often seems that there isn’t enough time in a school day to include intentional reflection along with the many other things teachers have to do, most of which present as urgent and important, while reflection might not, even for those who value it as important to their learning and growth.

David Purcell wrote about his exploration of “post class reflective notes” (p. 5) in a way that suggests consideration of time management with regard to ongoing and intentional reflective practice for connected, real-time learning and growth for teachers. Engaging in the practice took time, however, Purcell found the return on that time investment pointedly beneficial for him, and moreover, for his students.

Purcell suggested, “The cumulative effect over time of incorporating reflective practice is that I have increased my sense of mastery as a teacher (p. 14).” Again, time is critical in this equation. We don’t see the impact of reflective practice immediately, but rather “over time.” Ironically, for that impact to be maximized, Purcell suggests we engage in the reflective practice immediately.

While the challenges and triumphs of a class session or a school day are fresh in mind, a teacher’s immediate reflective notes can be invaluable to future learning and ongoing reflective growth. Keeping a daily reflective journal, even if only jotting down a few sentences or bullet points for further consideration, can be powerful in insuring a connectedness between professional learning and professional practice.

Whether as a foundation for any of Camburn’s three phases of reflective collaboration, as a tool for reference within a professional dyad as outlined by Gladwell and Dicamillo, or in connection with other intentional reflective systems or structures, immediate “post class reflective notes” are likely to serve as reminders of potential, and genuine areas of focus for driving progress in best practices instruction.

Regarding his use of regular and immediate written reflection Purcell further submits, it “has likely had a positive effect on student learning through (his) improved effectiveness as a teacher” (p. 14). He equates an “increased sense of mastery” with “improved effectiveness as a teacher,” as well he should. We know that one’s self image is a influential force in one’s progress. When teachers regularly remind themselves of their own challenge areas and growth patterns they energize themselves with the consistent cue that improvement is indelibly connected to critical and targeted processing.

Immediate written reflection is a professional learning practice that has the capacity to shift a traditional (and valid) time-deficient paradigm into one where connected perceptions of importance are capable of overriding those of urgency, even and especially in the busy day to day of teaching and learning.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article called, “Sociology, Teaching, and Reflective Practice: Using Writing to Improve” by David Purcell.

And I Quote: Professional Learning As Guided By Professional Learners

Learner Guided Learning

One viable approach for school administrators seeking to support the fitness of a collaborative professional learning culture with reflection as a foundation is through a structure described by Gladwell and DiCamillo as “professional dyads,” in which teachers organically find their way to one another as partners in progress. Regardless of reflective phase or content, Gladwell and DiCamillo suggest that teachers, students, and school communities are well served when administrators are supportive of teachers as the primary determiners of their own developmental pathways, and more specifically, as functionally best-suited to decide with whom they will move along those pathways.

Gladwell and DiCamillo outline professional dyads as partnerships formed over time, born out of genuine interest that leads to the formation of trusting relationships between sets of teachers who support one another in self-selected learning because they’re excited about it, because they each connect to it, and because they’re genuinely seeking to support, celebrate, and learn from one another. It’s a structure that might seem removed from the collective learning paradigm of a school, but for the passion of teachers with an all-inclusive view of school culture and the support of administrators who recognize the value of, and stand committed to a shared instructional leadership standard.

Professional dyads work “because each teacher possesses unique strengths,” and because teachers drawn to this type of partnership are likely to “encourage each other to pursue their unique interests in and outside of the classroom (p.7).” While remaining steadfastly aware and attentive school administrates can take a relatively hands-off approach to encouraging this structure by noticing as various partnerships are forming, encouraging those partnerships to mature and thrive, supporting those partnerships by listening and seeking guidance from teachers as they define progress on their terms, and celebrating outcomes with genuine enthusiasm.

Administrators can value the critically important voice of the teachers they serve by maintaining that teachers are well suited to guide progress in school communities. They can scaffold the reflective learning process by entrusting teachers as learners to follow dedicated, if adaptive routes to shared outcomes of their own volition, and empower them to lead the way for others. Even as Camburn’s three phases of reflective learning unfold in whatever order and over any number of potential schematic possibilities, professional dyads give teachers command of their learning in a way that promotes individual and collective progress with sensitivity.

As we anticipate another great school year, consider ways in which you might support the teachers you serve in designing their own learning pathways, and then get excited about the impact that might have on student well being and achievement.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

And I Quote: A 3-Part Structure For Reflective Professional Learning

Learning, Growtth, & Reflection

Teachers and administrators are constantly searching for the best ways to design, promote, and maintain school cultures in which meaningful, connected, and operational professional learning is supported, nurtured, and celebrated as the norm. Collaboration is coveted as among the most important components of such learning. Autonomy and choice are also revered among adult learners in school communities. Teachers want to have a voice in deciding what makes sense as a pathway to progress in their classrooms and schools, they want to be a part of forward thinking and cooperative teams, and they want to be recognized and trusted as experts when it comes to the wellbeing and achievement of the students they serve; and rightfully so, because after all, they are.

It is widely recognized that school communities are fast-paced places, regularly inundated with demands that would seek to subvert otherwise-established priority preferences and cause time itself to appear the enemy of progress. Camburn suggests that being able to “try out, mull over, and critically evaluate new practices” affords adult learners opportunities to, “make them their own (p. 463).” How can we arrange for time to try out, mull over, and critically evaluate anything when there’s so much coming at us at such a frenetic pace?

Integrated reflective systems and strategies have the power to offer structure and consistency to professional learning models focused on the real-time, collaborative, learner-centric, growth and enrichment regarding best practices in instruction, social-emotional development, an partnership-driven communication between stakeholders in school communities. In separating the three components of Camburn’s suggestion we can define reflective learning practice in a concise way, thereby creating scaffolding for professional learning on the range of topics that will no doubt surface during the course of a school year.

Regardless of subject matter or theme, a “trying out” opportunity can be provided in connection to learning at each turn. Those facilitating professional learning in schools can make clear that learners will have a chance to put their connected thoughts and ideas into action, and that the chance to do so should be understood as an overt aspect of the learning process. While potentially contrived, role-play provides an immediate opportunity for trying things out, whereas a mandate to pilot and/or explore learned content bridges a long term, episodic learning structure. Either have their benefit to reflective practice, and both have potential pitfalls.

“Mulling over” can be done across a wide range of approaches. This phase is arguably enhanced by some degree of independence, as learners tend to need space to process new concepts, ideas, and practices internally before being able to effectively communicate about them with others. The key is recognizing each of the three components of Camburn’s suggestions an explicit piece of reflective learning, and to clearly emphasize reflection is the foundation of authentic processing.

An emphasis on each component and on reflection itself communicates to learners that each is important, and it gives them permission to exercise patience throughout the learning process. When facilitators of professional learning highlight reflection and its parts as a priority they expressly suggest a value for long-term, sustainable practices to.

“Critical evaluation” as a third point in the learning process is also the most collaborative. Moving through “trying out” new practices as connected to new learning and “mulling over” the experience leads naturally to a “critical evaluation” of next steps. Doing so in collaboration with colleagues initiates ongoing partnerships, feeds a culture of connectedness, and drives further learning between professional peers and teams of teachers.

What from the learning can be incorporated into ongoing practice and how will consequent augmented practice impact student learning? What data will be collected to consistently evaluate the connected instruction and in what time frame will it again be considered for the possibility of further augmentation? How can the new learning enhance best practices instruction for groups of students? How can it do the same for individuals? In what ways will these shifts in practice be communicated with parents? In what ways will they be communicated with students?

In his three-part suggestion Camburn doesn’t prescribe specific methodology for reflective practice in professional learning. He simply outlines a foundation that speaks to the need for effective cultures of collaboration in which teachers are valued as experts, partners, and leaders, and one that identifies reflection as a potential pathway to slowing down and isolating a process that we know is enhanced by attention to detail and patient consideration. Facilitators of professional learning in school communities can utilize Camburn’s three-part suggestion to simplify and clarify the process for the learners they serve, and to give unambiguous permission to adult learners to manage their time in ways that genuine learning, growth, and progress demand.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article by Eric M. Camburn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled “Embedded Teacher Learning Opportunities as a Site for Reflective Practice: An Exploratory Study,” published in 2010 in the American Journal of Education.