Thursday, August 21, 2014

Practical ways to make professional learning more individualized and meaningful

Over the past two years we have worked hard on revamping our professional learning practices. We had two goals in mind: make professional learning more individualized, and more meaningful for all. Deep conversations have taken place over the course of two years.  It is really easy to schedule school wide sit-n-git sessions for all to take part in.  Like most districts, we've been there-done-that.  It's difficult to individualize and make professional learning meaningful for all.  Is it even possible?

This past June we met as a committee and planned next year's professional development.  In total there were nine teachers and three administrators that worked together over two days.  Our initial goal was to create teacher led professional development for each of upcoming our professional learning days.  We ended up scrapping most of those ideas.  Instead we kept coming back to the two main questions:

1) How do we individualize?

2) How do we make it meaningful for all?

I believe high quality professional learning practices merge the above concepts together.  As we progressed in our conversations, we gained clarity.  We decided to use our professional development days in the following ways.

Each individual professional learning community (PLC) will develop their own Professional Learning Plan focused on student engagement.  We established professional learning (PL) mentors to help guide this process.  Each PLC with the help of the PL mentor will select from the following developed options to focus on throughout the year:
          School Visitation(s):
    • If your PLC chooses the school visitation option, you will identify a focus to improve student engagement within your PLC and obtain research articles or texts that are helpful. You must find a school or teacher that is implementing methods you would like to emulate. A visit must be completed by January 19, 2015. October 29 and December 3 are identified half days for our professional development. If at all possible, use those identified days for your visits. We do understand that you may need a full day to complete your visitation. You will need to carpool and complete your visits as a PLC team. Student engagement methods observed and research based activities should be incorporated into your classroom throughout the remainder of the year. 
          Study Group:
    • If your PLC chooses the study group option, you will identify a focus to improve student engagement within your PLC and obtain research articles or texts that are helpful. You will research and select a book pertaining to your focus area. The book(s) or professional journal article(s) you choose should be research based and target your specific needs for improving student engagement within your classroom. Once chosen you will need to provide your rationale for the selection. You will then be expected to read, discuss and implement specific ideas from the book according to the timeline for professional development.  You will have put something into practice by January 19, 2015.
          Online Learning:
    • If your PLC chooses the continuing education course for your professional learning plan, you will be able to choose from a list of pre-approved   1 credit classes available through UND’s continuing ed. program.  There will be a list of pre-approved courses relating to our goal of improving student engagement in your classroom. You will enroll on September 29th.  Completion of the class is required and a transcript must be submitted to receive reimbursement. 
      Course Options:
      1.     21st Century Tools for Teachers

      2.     Authentic Innovation in the 21st Century Classroom

      3.     Student Engagement: Inquiry Based (Teacher driven)

      4.     Differentiation: Inquiry Based (Teacher driven)

      5.     Other course options: (Must be approved by PD committee) 
We rolled these new changes out yesterday at our inservice and I think it went over well.  We are going away from the traditional 2-3 days of sit-n-git PD of the past.  These days will given to PLCs to guide their own learning.  It is exciting and risky at the same time, but I believe these changes are necessary for us to truly move forward.

Here is a Dropbox link to our documents to guide this process: Professional Learning Plan

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