Professional Development and Professional Equity

November 24, 2015

In my last post, I outlined various roles that individual participants may assume during professional development (PD) related to developing a sound proficiency-based education (PBE) model. Here, I focus on thoughtfully-planned PD that is responsive to teachers’ learning needs and establishes a climate of growth and support. Curriculum, communication, and collaboration provide the foundation for productive PBE work, and questions that emerge include:

  • How will we develop and communicate curricular expectations with each other before presenting a model to students, parents, and other stakeholders?

  • How might we establish formal and informal pathways to continue dialogue and offer professional support?

Establishing consistent expectations and inter-rater reliability can be challenging, especially when teachers are in the early stages of defining what proficiency “looks like.” Identifying common outcomes and developing assessments are paramount for progress. However, addressing the “what ifs” that emerge is just as important as completing the task at hand; the “what ifs,” in fact, reflect the changeable nature of this work and are vitally important to address so that all feel comfortable moving forward.

 

When a workshop timeline is at stake, many teacher questions and concerns often land in the parking lot - that whiteboard, chart paper, or array of sticky notes with requests for clarification or exploration to “save for later.” Unfortunately, the parking lot can easily become a junkyard, with targeted follow up forgotten amidst other implementation-related priorities.

 

There’s a profound difference between hearing teachers’ questions and concerns and thoughtfully assessing PD needs. When formative assessment reveals gaps in students’ understanding, we go back and re-teach. The parking lot provides valuable data for planning future sessions and targeting areas where additional resources are needed. Example: If an exit survey indicates a teacher needs to see more content-specific exemplars, find them, share, and follow up. I can’t help but wonder if these simple responses could form a bridge between change resistance and supported embrace of a PBE model.

 

Professional dialogue, especially during PBE implementation, cannot exist in a vacuum, revisited only during faculty meetings or workshop days or without information related to students and their PBE-related progress. For example, student progress reports, such as those that JumpRope can create, can serve as a great starting point, giving teachers the chance to reflect on real data and discuss the practices that lead to the data. Shared resources open up multiple doors to student success. It’s not about whose lessons are best but rather fine-tuning all valid, appropriately-aligned options to create a cache of possibilities.

 

Great minds think together, right? For that to happen, all minds must feel like they have an equal seat at the table. As teachers, we must leverage our strengths and support each other to grow during the change process, and this professional equity can be achieved through responsive and supportive professional development.

 

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