I love the challenge of planning professional development (PD) for 90 teachers. As a Principal, I see my role as an instructional leader and coach. Knowing that not ALL teachers need the same thing or want to learn the same thing, I rubbed my hands together, buckled down for hours upon hours and collaborated with a great colleague to “pony up” to this challenge. These PD sessions would not be “sit and get” sessions. They would be hands-on sessions with the teachers engaging with content and colleagues with choice in what to learn and how to learn. We also explicitly planned to allow for varied access points for teachers based on their own background knowledge and skills.
I was told by the administration that the push for the school is to do more PBL (Problem/Project Based Learning). Side note- Previously the teachers were directed to write a “golden unit” using Backward Design that ended with doing a project…Ta-Da! They are done and doing PBL…WRONG. What was observed was that many teachers wrote one unit, did it and checked the PBL box as done. The admin realized that teachers needed support in the teaching practices of the PBL approach. We chose three aspects to focus on over three sessions of PD during early release time allowing for a total of 6 hours to learn together. We focused on the Teaching Practices from PLB Works (green/blue circle above): scaffolding student learning, assessing, and engaging and coaching.
During the PD, teachers made choices in their learning, discussed with their colleagues, read articles, watched videos, reflected on their learning, set goals for application in the classroom, received feedback and were provided with a resource site for reference.
We decided to take the PBL PD in the direction of lifting the level of teaching practice across the curriculum in every classroom PreK-12 in each moment rather than during just a unit. We designed a series of three PDs (6 hours total over three weeks) that were grounded in research based. When PD is grounded in research, it models that teaching and learning should be grounded in research this alone pushes most teachers to their next level.
We also modeled differentiated teaching providing for choice and interest. The final common thread to each session was to ensure that we shared the “why” behind the choices we were making in our teaching. Teachers have so many choices and the more intentional with them, the better. We have conducted three of the six sessions so far and will do the next sessions second semester.
The first PD was focused on student discussion…the goal was to shift teachers from monologue to dialogue as John Hattie writes in 10 Midframes for Visible Learning. Teachers who already valued and used student discussion could pick up and new strategy and teacher who were not using student discussion could learn why we should and how to do it. The differentiated approach we used could met teachers where they were at.
The second PD was focused on assessment and feedback. The teachers had previously defined learning as a community as, “Learning is acquiring new knowledge, skills and behaviors.” So, we needed to look at what teachers need to understand what is knowledge, skills and behaviors. Then we preselected five articles ranging from what is assessment to how to do an authentic assessment of learning. Teachers chose an article to read and then we led a jigsaw (a highly effective strategy according to John Hattie’s work). We then concluded with focusing on feedback as John Hattie outlines it in his book referenced above. We hoped that this PD was at a high level so that beginners could gain something and experienced teachers could also push their practice to the next level.
The third session was on differentiation. This HUGE topic is difficult to lead a group of 90 teachers in building their skills. We had pre-assessed their understanding of differentiation on an exit ticket the week before. No one had written or expressed all the elements Carol Tomlinson defines in her work. So, we knew we could push teachers who already differentiate and those that are new to it. But again, the struggle in HOW to do that in a room of 90 teachers. We approached this session recognizing everyone is on a continuum, asking the teachers to recognize where they are at and where they can go for themselves through reflection.
During these PDs, I realized the immense challenge of leading 90 teachers in lifting their practice when they are at 90 different places. However, I do think the PDs were successful! One indicator was that we didn’t see teachers looking at their watches or ducking out of sessions. We modeled differentiation in each of the three PDs with varied approaches to content, process and product as well as understood the varied readiness to access new ideas.
We walk around the school now and hear students having more dialogue in the classrooms and teachers are having more rich conversations in planning meetings. Finally, I believe the PD gave a common language and focus for the year setting teachers up for rich dialogue with their peers.
Thanks for reading!! If you are interested in the slides or resources we used, leave a comment and your email. We are happy to share!
*My partner in planning was/is Susan Cole, Assistant Principal. Her knowledge of PBL and the teachers was such an important part of the success of these PDs. Also, her undying awareness off too many words on slides was essential!
Carol Tomlinson’s video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01798frimeQ (November 2019)
Buck Institute for Education- PBL Works- https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl/gold-standard-project-design (November 2019).
Hattie, J., & Zierer, K. (2018). 10 Mindframes for visible learning: teaching for success. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
I believe... and ask myself...
My personal code of ethics applies to the way I interact with students, my colleagues, and the families in the school community and my vision for a school culture. I strive to treat people well through understanding, kindness, and integrity. My mom always said that I would be a good judge because as a child I was always working for justice and able to see multiple perspectives. I think the job of educational leader suits me well for the same reasons. Empathy and the ability to work with others are strong skills that need to be reflected on an constantly refined to suit the people and situations. Reflection is present in my code of ethics for this reason.
Students come first and being committed to all students are at the top of the list because keeping the focus on students is what it is all about for me. Students provide the purpose and inspiration. As educational leaders, we need to nurture, include, inspire and protect each one. McKenzie and Scheurich article, Equity Traps, encouraged school leaders to dive into the work of discussing equity for all students.
The remaining four bullet points are lists in no particular order, as they are all important to me personally and professionally. Everyone knows that school is for learning and I know that everyone in the building needs to be learning to make it the best place possible. I am a life-long learner for learnings sake, fulfilling my curiosities. I often lead books studies, share articles, participate in Twitter book chats and whatsapp friends and colleagues relevant quotes from books I am reading. I will be able to check myself by asking how I can see a result of my learning in action. I know that when adults are curious and excited to learn, students will emulate and internalize the practice.
Respecting diversity is a good first step, but I dove in. Celebrating diversity, highlighting the difference and similarities amongst us is so important. Diversity exists in many ways around us through culture, ethnicity, thought, and more. Learning from each others’ various perspectives and experiences. Celebrating diversity reflects the idea that we are better together.
Healthy relationships take intentionality. Speaking with people face to face, listening before forming the next thought and being open-minded to ideas. This communication takes practice, reflection and refinement. Marzano, Waters and McNulty’s meta analysis of the impact of principals showed that strong lines of communication had a direct positive correlation to student learning (2006, p. 42). Fostering a culture of shared beliefs was right behind communication on Marzano, Walters and McNulty’s list which hints at the idea that communication and culture are connected. When communication and culture are positive, then trust can be built. Trust allows for collaboration and feedback, positive and constructive, helping us all to improve ourselves and our professional practice.
Acting with integrity is the underlying aspect that makes all the above ethics possible. Having strong moral principles that guide decision making about students, the staff and the community is of utmost importance so that trust can be built. Authenticity in a leaders actions and transparency, when possible, all lead to the community seeing a person of integrity helping in difficult situations.
I want the people that I work with to be able to see my code of ethics in action in every interaction we have and the decisions we make together.
What would you put on your personal code of ethics? Do you agree or disagree with something I wrote? Please share in the comments below.
Association of American Educators. Code of Ethics for Educators. Retrieved from
https://www.aaeteachers.org/index.php/about-us/aae-code-of-ethics on September 11, 2018.
Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
McKenzie, K and Scheurich, J. (2004). Equity Traps: A Useful Construct for Preparing Principals to Lead Schools That Are Successful With Racially Diverse Students. Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 40(5), pp. 601-632.