Thursday, January 7, 2016

Structures to Support Professional Learning

As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about learning, I have spent a lot of time pondering the best structures to support learning and growth. I have shared my thinking on my blog as well as my attempts to design and implement structures that work.

Looking back to the December 2011 post Making Shift Happen- How?  I think this was the first post that expressed my searching for a structure that would work universally to shift school culture to one of self-motivated, self-directed learning for all.  Here we are in January 2016, and I am still playing with these ideas, having tried many approaches (which are documented throughout the blog). At this point, I'm pretty sure that there is nothing that has universal appeal, no "magic-bullet" that engages every learner and paves a path to lifelong growth-mindset.

This does not stop me from continuing to plug away at the process. If you follow my journey, you know that my job description changes from year to year. This year, I am out of the classroom and once again focusing my energies on professional learning for teachers. 

One thing that I notice is how different teacher-learners are from my 4th/5th grade learners. I think that teachers, as a group, can tend to be more closed-off to learning, whereas the kids are more open. They know that their job is learning and they generally participate in the process. Another thing I notice is how similar teacher-learners are to my 4th/5th graders. As a group, the teachers are similar to a classroom of students. Some are super motivated and need little to no external motivation. They love learning and seek out challenge. They welcome coaching and feedback. Others need a high degree of external structure and pacing. They need a push to get started and keep moving but would rather be left alone.  

The thing noticed about myself is that I always (ok, almost always) felt compassion for my young students, even the ones who, let's be honest, never lifted a finger without serious work on my part! Yet, with teacher-learners, I've typically lacked compassion and felt only frustration; these are paid professionals! I'm trying to temper my approach and bring more understanding and yes, love, to my work with adult learners. 

I am still working at designing materials and structures that help support growth, as I also work on managing my own expectations. Ultimately, I believe deeply that becoming an excellent, reflective learner is the number one job of the teacher and is an ongoing, never-ending process. In my classroom it was important that the learning space be beautiful. As I evolve as an instructional designer, it is important to me that my teaching materials are visually appealing, concise and well-organized (aka beautiful), and I am working very hard on my own learning of design and visual note taking. 

All of this is the preface to sharing some recent materials I created for "my teachers" at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School to support professional learning. One is a sketchnote depicting the idea of creating SMART goals. The other is a worksheet (yes :-) that can be used during the planning process. (this is one page of a two page worksheet. If you'd like a PDF version of the whole thing, let me know. I'm happy to share).