Do you want to go fast… or far?

I am not a natural collaborator.

Anyone I have ever been on a team with would be able to confirm this fact.

I am passionate. I am zealous. I am idealistic. I am stubborn.

I get a vision in my mind and I have to make it happen.

Even though I am not a natural collaborator, I’m slowing learning how to collaborate – and I must say, it’s been pretty great.

For me, my (slow) transformation can be summed up by this quote:

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Last year, I knew I believed in student agency and set off (mostly on my own) to turn that vision into a reality. That’s not to say I didn’t have an amazing team around me! I had six wonderful teachers who personally supported me and cheered me on, no matter how different or crazy my idea seemed. It’s just that none of them were professionally interested in going the same direction that I was, or to the extent that I was. So last year, I knew where I wanted to go, I went by myself and I got there fast.

This year, I have another amazing team around me. The difference being they are professionally interested in the same things that I am, so I am no longer alone in my pursuit to respect and support student agency – and that has helped me truly learn the power of collaboration. With them I have been able to go much farther than I ever made it last year on my own.

Here are a few examples that have helped me along my journey:

Going fast – last year I knew I wanted to have my students plan their own day…. so I had them plan their own day. Pretty much, right out of the gate! I gave them an empty day plan, and only really made a few slight adjustments to the template over the year.

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Going far – this year I shared my approach from last year. We tested it out, discussed it, revised it, tested it again, revised it again, tried something different, asked for feedback, revised it again. What was once a fairly basic day plan template and process, grew into a more sophisticated template and process of planning, which then transformed into an even more sophisticated template and process for weekly planning!

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Going fast – last year I knew I wanted students to set up their learning space… so I had them set-up their learning space.

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Going far – this year I proposed them same idea, which after many collective brainstorms, turned into a grade-wide learning space re-design. Students conducted research about learning spaces, collected data from their 84 community members, collaborated with students from a variety of homerooms, learned new technical skills (like 3D Floor Planner) put together video proposals and made informed choices about their learning space.

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Going fastlast year I knew I wanted all three voices to be heard equally at three-way conferences. So I made a very basic placemat and had parents, students and myself take turns deciding whether something was a “star” or a “wish”.

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Going far – this year I pitched the same idea to my team…then, the magic of collaboration happened… and we ended up with a Gradual Increase of Responsibility, where students, parents and teachers could share their perspective, in a colour-coded way, which then could be kept and used to set and track personal goals on a day to day basis.

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Starting to get the picture? 

I couldn’t have ever imagined the distance these initial ideas would come to reach. But that’s the point isn’t is? True collaboration is leaving a room with ideas that no one person could have come up with on their own.

… So to those of you educators out there who are like me, you may want to pause and ask yourself:

Do you want to go fast…. or do you want to go far?

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Transdisciplinary Math – An epiphany and a plan!

For the past few weeks I have been helping my teams review their math scope and sequence and decide which math is transdisciplinary and fits within a Unit of Inquiry and what math is better taught in stand-alone units. This process always seems to lead to the same conclusion….

Teaching math in a transdisciplinary way is hard. 

Teachers seem to believe in the purpose and power of teaching math in a relevant and significant context and want to do it… but most seem not too sure about how to do it.

As I get ready to transition back into the classroom in the fall, this is something that has started to occupy my mind as well. How DO you do it? The last time I was a PYP teacher I can self-admit that teaching math within the context of my UOIs was not a strength of mine – in fact, I’m not sure if I did it at all. So naturally, this is an area I want to get much better at. But how? 

And then I had an idea! It hit me this weekend while I was watching BBC’s Africa series.

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Since teaching math in a transdisciplinary way was on my mind, I couldn’t help but notice that every vignette was OVERFLOWING with opportunities for math inquiries!

The average size of a giraffe’s tongue is half a meter.”

“Only one out of 1000 turtles make it to adult hood.”

One million birds migrate over the Sahara each year.”

“Each chick weighs only 20 grams.”

“The adult grows to be 5 times the size of the baby.”

“Silver ants can only survive in the sun for 1 hour.”

Every few minutes there was some piece of information about an animal or a landscape or a natural phenomenon where you needed to understand the math concept being referenced in order to fully understand what was being said. And that is when it hit me! All of the movies, books, articles, graphics etc. we use in our Units of Inquiry probably already contain opportunities for math – we just need to be looking for them and know what to do with them!

So here is my plan for next year!

Step 1- Introduce a text related to the central idea or the central concepts.

As usual, choose (or invite your students to help choose) a resources to explore the big idea in your current Unit of Inquiry. Introduce the text in an open-ended way. Allow the students to engage with the text in a natural and organic way. Read the book. Watch the movie. Listen to the song. Look at the info graphic. Allow the students to enjoy it and ask questions, make connections and offer thoughts. I’m thinking of using a back channel like Today’s Meet to allow students to communicate their thoughts, reactions and questions with their learning community while watching, listening or looking without interrupting one another. You could also provide post-its so students could record their thinking if a device is not available.

Step 2 – Revisit the text with a math focus

The next day, revisit the same text, but this time let students know that they will be looking at the text as mathematicians. Re-read the book. Re-watch the movie. Re-listen to the song. Re-look at the infographic. But this time, stop and pay specific attention to the “math moments”. If the video says “Giraffes’ tongues are half a meter long” pause the video and ask students, “What does that mean?” “How long is that?” “How can we find out?” “How can we show it?”. Any time a number, a measurement, a statistic, a pattern, or a concept is mentioned stop, point it out and explore it.

Step 3 – Follow where it takes you

When you stop to explore the math within a UOI text, be prepared to follow the inquiry. If it takes 10 minutes great. If it reveals other math concepts, skills and vocabulary that need to be explored first, back up and inquire into those. If your students need to bust out some manipulatives, look online, consult other mathematicians – do it! Allow what ever time is needed to explore and truly understand what the math means in that context.

Step 4 – Don’t stop at math! 

After the initial open-ended viewing and the math-specific viewing… keep going! You could apply the same strategy for many different purposes. Explore the same text a third time with a writer’s lens and hone in on the techniques the writer used. Explore the same text with a musician’s perspective and focus on how different segments of music contribute to the message. Explore the same text from an artist’s point of view to analyze colour, line and shape that was used. This would be a great opportunity to connect with single-subject teachers and share some of the texts with them to be looked at and deconstructed multiple times, in multiple ways, through multiple disciplinary-perspectives. Your whole week could be deconstructing one text in different ways for different purposes!

Eventually, I believe you will be able to get to the stage where instead of telling students “here is the math” when exploring a UOI text, you will be able to ask them “where is the math?”.  I also have the sneaking suspicion that if you allow students to document their thinking during the initial, unstructured exploration of the text there will be some math-related questions that are recorded about the quantities, measurements and statistics that are referenced. So you wouldn’t even need to point out the math, you could allow students’ own questions to be the driving force of the math inquiry.

So I challenge you… go back and look at some of your UOI books, videos, graphics etc and notice the opportunities for “math moments” and more!

How do you explore your UOIs through the discipline of math?

What are your best approaches to inquiring into math within the context of a UOI?

Personalized Professional Learning – Take Two!

A few months ago, my partner in crime and I had a crazy idea to design a model of Personalized  Professional Learning that would hopefully model for our staff, what we expect to see in their classrooms. Our first attempt at PPL went really well and we received awesome feedback from our staff – but we wanted to challenge ourselves to reflect, refine and improve the model further.

Our biggest area of self-identified growth was linking everyone’s personalized learning to our School Improvement Plan goals and our PYP Action plan goals. When reflecting on our first iteration of PPL, we realized we had modelled open-inquiry. We asked our staff “What do you want to learn about” and we structured an afternoon to support those goals. However,  open-inquiry is often a luxury teachers -and we’ve come to discover – administrators do not have. Teachers have curriculum goals that students need to meet and administrators have school improvement plan and IB program action plan goals that staff need to meet. Thus bringing to light our challenge when designing the second iteration of PPL – how can we design a half day of personalized professional learning that is inquiry-based, differentiated, built on learner voice and choice… but still guides our staff towards meeting our school and program goals?

Here is how we went about it:

Step 1 – Rethinking and reorganizing topics of learning interests

Last time, our staff collectively built a learning menu that listed many different topics 21st Century teachers are learning about – maker space, play, e-portfolios, etc.

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We realized that many of those topics ALREADY contribute to our School Improvement Plan (SIP) goals and IB Action Plan (IBAP) goals – we just needed to make the connections more explicit. So our 8 person leadership team sat down and re-organized the menus by SIP goals and IBAP goals. This resulted in new learning menus that had all the same staff-selected topics of interest, but organized in a more purposeful way.

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Step 2 – Reflecting on our last afternoon of PPL 

At our school, we advocate for “no secret teacher business”, which means we also need to model “no secret leadership business”. So we were honest, vulnerable and transparent with our staff. We openly reflected on both the strengths an areas of growth of our first attempt at PPL. We admitted that we had used a model of open inquiry, and we were clear that next time we wanted to implement a model that was more guided and informed by our SIP and IBAP. To get our staff to begin to think of PPL in this way, we did an activity where everyone reflected on what they learned about during our first attempt at PPL and tried to retroactively find a connection to our School Improvement Plan or PYP Action Plan. We posted goals from our SIP and IBAP around the room and gave stickers to all staff to post based on goals that connected to what they had learned about on our last half day.

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We shared with our staff, that even though it was great that so much of our learning accidentally contributed to our SIP and IBAP, this time we wanted to ensure that our PPL purposefully contributed to our school and program goals.

Step 3 – Purposefully planning for our upcoming half day of PPL

Similar to last time, we wanted to give our staff some time to think about what they would learn, how they would learn and how they would share their learning for our upcoming half day – the difference being this time, we wanted their “what” to be linked to either a School Improvement Plan goal or PYP Action Plan goal. In order to do this, we used an after school staff meeting to give staff time with our newly organized learning menus to think about how they might to spend  their upcoming half day. Each staff member took a few small colour squares and wrote down what they wanted to learn, how they wanted to learn and how they planned to share their learning with others.

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Then, they had to post their squares on bulletin boards that we had divided up based on our School Improvement Plan and PYP Action plan.

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This allowed everyone on staff to not only be purposeful about what they wanted to learn and how it contributes to school and program goals, but it was also a great way to allow everyone to see what everyone else was interested in learning about on the upcoming half day.

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Step 4 -Planning in response to learning

Similar to last time, our leadership team wanted to plan the structure of the half day based on the learning needs and interests of the staff. In order to do this, we looked at our bulletin boards and recorded how staff wanted to learn and what specifically they wanted to learn about.

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We analyzed the data, specifically paying attention to numbers and trends in order to figure out how best to structure our half day of personalized professional learning. This approach revealed that most of our staff was interested in personal inquiry and collaborative inquiry and some of our staff was interested in workshops, mainly about math, literacy and technology. This allowed us to build a structure for our half day that was representative of our learners’ needs and interests.

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Step 5 – Let the learning happen

On our half day, we gathered as a whole staff to review the structure of the day, review our essential agreements and set personal goals.

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Then we just stepped back and let the learning unfold. It was amazing to see some staff attend workshops, some staff inquiring collaboratively and other staff pursuing  areas of personal exploration.

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OF COURSE, we kept adult recess which proved to be one of the day’s highlights again!

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And we finished the day reflecting on what we learned and how we learned.

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Step 6 – Track the learning

Always, at the end of professional development, we collect feedback from our staff about what went well and what could be improved for next time. In addition to feedback, this time we wanted to collect some data about the learning that took place as well and specifically how it contributed to our School Improvement Plan and PYP Action Plan.

We collected data on what staff learned:

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We collected data on how staff learned:

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We collected data on how staff shared their learning with others:

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We collected data on how staff’s learning contributed to our School Improvement Plan goals:

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We collected data on how staff’s leaning contributed to our PYP Action Plan goals:

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Once all the data was collected and organized, we made a display to ensure that our whole learning community could see the stats about our half day of personalized professional learning.

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All in all, I think it was a success! It felt good to find the synergy between having all learners learning towards to a standard collection of goals, but allowing them to do it in a way that was relevant, significant, challenging and engaging for each them as individual learners. Again, we received an overwhelming positive response to our half day of PPL. When learners are thanking you for letting them learn and asking for more and longer opportunities to learn, hopefully that means we’re on the right track!

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We still have lots of room to grow, so we would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on our model of Personalized Professional Learning! 

 

Reflections from a new instructional coach

This is my second year as PYP Coordinator, and the first year I have tried my hand at instructional coaching. I completed an 8 week coaching course with Eduro and now I’m feeling ready to give it a try. So when a fabulous Grade 4 teacher at my school came to me looking for support, I thought this would be a great chance to put my learning about coaching into practice.

Here is how it went:

Pre-Meeting – Getting the ball rolling

First, we met and I listened to her concerns. Then I told her the premise of instructional coaching, specifically cognitive coaching, and asked if she would be interested in this kind of support. She said sure – let’s give it a try! So I blocked off an entire day to be able to be a fly on the wall and observe what was happening in her class.

Observations – An inquiry into this Grade 4 class

The first bell rang and I was ready to go. I had a pad of paper, a pencil, my coffee and an inquiring mind. I found a seat at the back of the class and simply asked my self “What do I notice?“. I jotted down everything and anything – judgement free, merely observations –  and made note of the time for each observation. I also collected tallies for things like “on-task”, “engaged” “finished” “disruptions” to help collect some quantitative data that we could later analyze together. At the same time I recorded some ideas for reflective questions to guide my post-meeting conversation with the teacher.

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I loved that so many of the students were curious about what I was doing! It was a great opportunity for transparency and vulnerability – no secret teacher coach business! I told them I was like a learning detective and that my job was to make sure the most learning possible was happening in all of our classrooms. One of the ways I do that is by going into classrooms and seeing when learning is happening and when learning is not happening so that the teacher and I can meet and try to figure out why. They thought it was pretty cool and they especially liked my tallies and graphs about their learning.

Post-Meeting – Debriefing, reflecting, analyzing, and inferring 

Once the day was finished, I sat down with the teacher and reminded her that our purpose was to pay attention to what was actually happening with the students, and to think deeply about why that might be happening. Next I asked her to compare the kind of day I witnessed to an average, typical day in her class. Was today an accurate representation of a typical day? Was today better than usual? Worse than usual? She said it was a much better than normal day. This gave me an insight into her thinking about what a “good day of school” looks and feels like.

Then we went through the day chunk by chunk following the same four steps each time:

  1. Her reflections – First, I wanted to give her a chance to reflect and share her perspective. How do you think (the start of the day, literacy, math, UOI, end of the day) went? Why do you think that was so? What do you think you did as the teacher to contribute to that?
  2. My anecdotal observations – Next, I offered to share the observations I recorded throughout that chunk of time by first asking, “do you want to know what I noticed?” Each time she said yes, so I shared my observations with her. I noticed you stood in the door way as they entered. I noticed you used a song for a transition. I noticed the students were able to self-manage that routine. I noticed there was lots of great conversation between partners. I noticed you wrote the steps on the board. 
  3. Reflective questions – Then, I wanted to ask purposefully crafted questions to help her think deeply about her choices and her practice and how they impact student learning. What do you think the impact would be if you greeted each student at the door by name? What could be the benefit of a morning meeting? What is the value to the learner of having a peer mark their mad minutes? What could you do to allow for more students to share their thinking when you ask a question? What opportunities could there be for the students to engage in their peer’s presentations without interrupting? 
  4. The data – After that, I wanted to share some quantitative data. During the class time I took tallies of certain things, and during recess I turned those tallies into rough (okay, very rough) graphs to allow us to visually analyze trends. What do you notice? Why do you think that is? What does this reveal to us? What questions do you have?

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Next steps – Once we had gone through each chunk of the day, I asked her where she wanted to go from here. She decided that she wanted to take some time to continue to reflect on her own and go through her notes (that she was taking throughout our post-meeting). I respected that and told her that when she feels ready for the next step she can let me know and we can decide how best to proceed based on our discoveries and reflections from today.

Since this was one of my first forays into instructional coaching I asked her to share some reflections with me about the process of instructional coaching – What was it like? What went well? What was helpful? What suggestions do you have to help me grow as a coach?

Her reflections from the day:

Having you visit my classroom was a pleasant experience. (If you recall I was very nervous about it.) I felt exactly like you were a fly on the wall. I felt that the observations made were made to help me look at my classroom, students and myself. Things that were included were things that were done well and things to look at to see if I liked the result or wanted to change to try to improve whether it was student involvement or how the activity went. I did not feel like I was being told this is what you are doing wrong at any point. I liked the questions you asked. Some made me uncomfortable, but a good uncomfortable, reflecting more on how things went, if I like how they went and realizing I didn’t have the answer to some of them. I liked finding out that my expectations were not always correct. It was a very beneficial experience. I felt like the point was to help me reflect and change as I want to. I greatly appreciate the offer to help me continue my reflection and ways to improve and will totally take you up on it.

My reflections from the day:

  • I loved spending the day in a classroom. It was such an honour to be welcome and trusted to be a fly on the wall and observe and record the happenings of someone else’s classroom
  • It felt great to be able to communicate my purpose for being there with students in a transparent way that felt safe and non-threatening to anyone
  • I was surprised at how much insight can be gained from collecting data about what is actually happening with students
  • There is so much power in asking purposeful questions – many times the teacher took her time to reflect and think deeply about what I was asking
  • There weren’t always clear answers. Many times throughout our debrief, questions and challenges appeared for which there was no quick fix. We decided to call them potential nuggets of opportunity that we could explore in depth later thoughtfully and systematically
  • Getting a chance to collaboratively reflect really helped me understand what she is interested in leaning more about and trying in her classroom. Since we met I have came across tons of resources that I know will be relevant to her learning, that I probably wouldn’t have known about without having the chance to sit down and chat with her one on one in such depth.

All in all, it was a day well spent. I am confident… hopeful … confident that the work we did today will positively impact student learning in her classroom!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback about this process and any experience you have with instructional coaching. Please also feel free to share any constructive feedback about how I can improve as an instructional coach. 

A Half Day of Personalized Professional Learning

Last week I shared our journey towards a half day of personalized professional learning for our Elementary staff. This week it happened… and it was AMAZING!

Here is how it went:

Sunday we sent out an email with some expectations and information for the upcoming half day of professional development learning. The information included a schedule, a reminder to bring a device and a copy of the “learning menu” for the day. We built the menu based on the input we collected the week before from their learning preferences forms.

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We also attached brief descriptions for each of the options in the learning and action blocks, as well as options for sharing throughout the day. This gave everyone a few days to think about how they wanted to spend their afternoon of learning.

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Tuesday students were dismissed at 11:00 and we were gathered in our multipurpose room ready to go at 11:45.

Connections

We intentionally seated our very large staff in mixed groupings to help build our learning community and allow for some personal connections to be made before we jumped into the learning. We used the chocolate bar activity from this post, where everyone select a chocolate bar or piece of candy that they felt represents them and shared their reasoning with their colleagues at the table. This was a great ice breaker as the room immediately erupted into chatter and laughter!

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Today at a glance

Then we took some time to go over the schedule and format of the half day to ensure that we were all on the same page. We also took this time to ensure that everyone’s learning focus for the afternoon was tied together with the common thread of improving student learning.

Options for sharing

Our leadership team felt very strongly that we could trust our staff as professional to drive their own learning and there was no need for an external measure of accountability. We also felt that the true accountability was to one another and the learning community in general, so we wanted to build a variety of ways to allow and encourage everyone to share their learning with each other throughout the day. So we introduced three options for sharing; our shared blog, a back channel using Today’sMeet or through Twitter using our hashtag for the day #AISQ8PPL .

Essential Agreements

We wanted to ensure that all 125 Elementary staff members had a shared understanding of what was needed in order to make this day a truly successful day of learning. We wanted everyone’s voice in this process, so we used a modified ‘growing definition’ structure to help us build our essential agreements. First we had each group of 8 come up with their list of agreements, then we had each group add the one they felt most strongly about to this google doc, which we projected for all to see. After that, we gave an opportunity for the whole staff to review the essential agreements and offer any suggestions or changes they felt were needed. Once all 125 of us were in agreement, we each signed our names.
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Learning Block 1 & 2

Each staff member self-selected what they wanted to learn about and how they wanted to learn.

We had staff choose personal inquiry…

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Collaborative inquiry…

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Guided inquiry…

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EdCamp…

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School Walkabout…

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Workshops…

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Sharing throughout the day

It was great to see so many staff members sharing their learning journey throughout the day. We had 3 new posts on our blog, 126 entries on the back channel and 130 tweets on #AISQ8PPL. People were excitedly sharing discoveries, resources, a-ha moments and more!

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Adult recess

Then came time for adult recess – which was awesome! All 125 of us headed outside into the fresh air and sunshine to take a little body break and re-charge our minds. We had skipping, colouring, frisbee, soccer, basketball, music, Western dancing, Arab dancing and a lot of laughter.

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Action Block

If I’m being totally honest… our action block was much shorter than expected… because we extended adult recess by 10 minutes. (Totally worth it!) But after we managed to pry ourselves away from the fun and the sun, it was awesome to see groups of staff members sitting together sharing their learning, discussing their discoveries and helping one another log on to Twitter. We had 20 new people sign-up for Twitter throughout the course of the day! Talk about learner-initiated action!

Content Reflection

Now it was time to reflect. First, we used the Visible Thinking Routine “I used to think… Now I think” to encourage everyone to reflect on what they had learned and how their understanding of teaching and learning had changed. Staff was invited to either Tweet, back channel or write down their reflection.

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Process Reflection

We also  wanted everyone to think about how they learned, so we invited everyone to write, back channel or Tweet about how and when they modelled the traits of the IB Learner Profile.

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Application Reflection 

We also asked everyone to think about their experience as a learner today and how that might impact the work they do with their learners.

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Feedback 

Finally we asked for some feedback about the afternoon. We set up a google form with two boxes – one for stars and one for wishes. We wanted an honest assessment of how the day went, what worked, what didn’t and suggestions for next time. The responses were overwhelmingly positive! Here is a small representative sample of the 10 pages of feedback we received.

Stars:

  • loved the different options for learning
  • great to have time to put our learning into action
  • nice to have personal choice and freedom
  • loved being in charge of my own learning
  • adult recess was awesome!!!
  • interesting to see what other people were learning
  • nice to be trusted to be responsible for my own learning
  • differentiated with lots of choice and options
  • interacting with people I don’t usually interact with
  • range of choices for different learning preferences
  • I enjoyed having learning tailored to my needs and interests
  • allowed me to reflect on my practice
  • relaxed and teacher-centered
  • I learned so much!
  • the time flew by
  • staff were treated as professionals
  • great team building and time for collaboration
  • appreciated being able to learn at my own pace
  • learning options were various and rich
  • not having to listen to anyone talk at me
  • taking ownership over my learning
  • time for exploration, inquiry and reflection

We also received some great constructive feedback that we will use to improve our structure for next time!

Wishes:

  • more opportunity for this structure of professional learning
  • more time to think about and complete the reflections
  • longer sessions to dive deeper into the inquiries
  • set up Twitter and social media before the day so we are ready to go
  • longer adult recess
  • more time to collaborate and share our learning
  • a full day instead of only half
  • longer time to eat lunch before we start
  • bigger variety workshops to choose from, led by teachers
  • track the data of what and how everyone is learning
  • longer learning blocks
  • longer action blocks

How awesome is it that our biggest suggestion from our staff is MORE time for professional learning!?

Thinking back on the day, I have a few of my own personal reflections:

  • It was great to develop a structure that allowed for every member of our staff to be a learner and spend time learning things relevant to their position within the school- especially the people who are usually delivering PD on these types of days (admin, coaches, coordinators, etc.)
  • It was amazing to see the learner-led action that resulted from this day. Staff members joined Twitter, started blogs, made changes to their teaching practice, signed up for workshops and more
  • If you trust your staff and develop the structures to help them to take ownership for their own learning, they will not disappoint. Our staff not only met our expectations, but went above and beyond our hopes and dreams for the day!
  • This structure of professional learning did wonders for our sense of community and staff morale
  • Sometimes the best way to help someone learn about inquiry, differentiation, learner choice and voice, social media and technology integration is not to have that be the content of learning, but instead the conduit for learning
  • Adult recess if life changing

We started on this journey by being very vulnerable and transparent with our staff saying “If you hate PD, that’s a clue to our leadership team that we are doing something wrong.” If that’s true, then hopefully these Tweets and post-its are clues that we’re doing something right…

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Since this is the first time we’ve tried something like this, we would love to hear your feedback and suggestions to continue to help us grow and extend our model of personalized, professional learning for all! 

 

A journey towards a half day of personalized professional learning (Part 1)

It all started when myself and the Globally Minded Counsellor sat down and decided we needed to shake up the model of professional development happening at our school. The current model was not bad by any means – we used lots of visible thinking routines, always asked staff for feedback about how we could improve and provided choice as often as possible…

But when we asked ourself the question “Who owns their learning?” we both knew the answer was “We do.” And that’s what we wanted to change. We wanted to let go of our control, so that our staff was able to take ownership for their own learning and we thought our upcoming half day presented the perfect opportunity!

Here’s how it went…

Step one – getting the leadership team on board

We organized an inquiry into professional development and invited the whole leadership team. We started with a provocation. We projected a couple of Profressional Development memes and reflected upon our reactions, thoughts, connections, hopes and fears. Then we shared what we thought with one another.

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Next, we each completed an inquiry self-assessment, where all of the words students had been replaced with teachers and all the words teacher had been replaced with leadership.  We each reflected on how inquiry-based our professional development had been so far this year and then we shared our thoughts with one another.

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Then, we inquired into what other schools around the world were doing and saying about professional development. We used this collection of resources and the Visible Thinking Routine Connect-Extend-Challenge to organize our thinking.

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After that, we completed a Back to the Future Protocol to help us create a shared vision of where we want to be by the end of the year and how we are going to get there.

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Finally, to ensure there was no secret teacher leadership business, we posted all of our thinking on the bulletin board in our multipurpose room for the whole staff to see.

Step two – getting staff buy in 

Now it was time to start disrupting our staff’s thinking about professional development. So we used a divisional staff meeting – where all 125 staff were present – to inquire into 21st Century professional learning.

We started by projecting the same memes to provoke thinking and reactions about PD. We built in time for everyone to discuss their connections, reactions and thoughts with one another.

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Then, we were vulnerable and transparent with the staff. We said, “If any of you feel this way about our professional development, that is a clue for us – as a leadership team – that we are doing something wrong. Our goal is to work together as a staff to make sure none of us feel this way about our upcoming half day on February 2nd. In order to accomplish this we need to start by placing the ownership for your own learning back in your hands.”

As a first step down that path, we wanted to tune into what our staff already knew about 21st C professional learning. So we asked these three questions:

What are 21st C educators learning about?

How are 21st C educators learning?

What ways are 21st C educators sharing their learning with others?

We invited everyone to either post their thinking on to this online anchor chart or the paper anchor charts posted around the room.

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Then, to challenge our thinking and broaden our perspective, we all explored this collection of resources to see what other schools are doing. We then added our discoveries to the same anchor charts.

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Finally, we had everyone create a learning wish list of things they would want to learn about if they had the time.

Step 3 – Planning in response to learning 

Now it was time to start putting together  a structure for our upcoming half day that would support personalized, professional learning for all of our staff. But we wanted to ensure that the structure would represent everyone’s learning interests and preferences. So instead of trying to anticipate what kind of learning the staff wanted… we simply asked them.

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Each and every person on our staff completed a learning preferences form – principals, teachers, TAs, counsellors, coordinators, and coaches alike.

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Then came the fun part! Our leadership team took all 125 learning preference forms and started looking for trends to help us build a half day structure that would support everyone’s personalized professional learning.

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Now we’re at the stage of finalizing the structure for the half day. We plan to share that with staff on Sunday to allow everyone to have a few days to think about how they want to spend their half day of personalized professional learning on Tuesday, February 2nd.

Then we jump in with both feet!

Wish us luck. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

 

An Inquiry into the Inquiry Cycle

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When teachers are transitioning into the PYP-ways of collaboratively planning a Unit of Inquiry, it is not uncommon to receive requests to spend time “coming up with activities for the unit“. Such was true last week, when I received this request from our wonderful Grade 3 team. I have recently shared my perspective of the role of activities in the PYP, so I had to be careful to make sure that I resisted the urge to give them my meaning and instead provided them with an opportunity to construct their own meaning. In short, I wanted to take an inquiry-based approach!

Here is how it went:

Tuning in – Each teacher brainstormed 2-3 activities for their upcoming unit and wrote them on half-sheets of paper. I collected these so we could use them later. This also gave me a great insight into their understanding of what an activity is and their approach to inquiry-based planning.

Provocation – To provoke their thinking about activities and inquiry-based planning, I showed them the following excerpts from a collection of blog posts and encouraged them to share their reactions, connections, tensions and questions.

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What inquiry teachers are saying…

IC provocation 2 IC provocation 3 IC Provocation 4 IC Provocation 5 Sorting Out – First, the teachers spread the stages of the Kath Murdoch inquiry cycle around our multipurpose room floor.

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Then, they took all the questions from this version of the inquiry cycle and placed them beside the stage of inquiry they felt the questions supported.

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Next, they took a collection of Visible Thinking Routines and matched them to the specific questions they felt the VTR could help explore.

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After that, they took 20 printed out Tweets from #pypchat of actual PYP classroom examples and matched them the stages of inquiry or the respective question.

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Finally, they took their own activities from the beginning of our time together and placed them around the inquiry cycle.

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After much discussion, collaboration, disagreement, debate and deep thinking, the final result was a collection of questions, VTRs and classrooms examples that they could walk away with for their upcoming unit, that would hopefully help satiate their need for “activities” without stealing too much thinking from their students.

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I also hope this inquiry helped to challenge their understanding of what planning looks like in the PYP, as well as to continue to experience what learning through inquiry feels like.

I haven’t had a chance yet to debrief and reflect with the whole team, but I did receive an email from one of the teachers  saying:

“Thank you so much for today. The activity really provoked me and it really got me thinking. It was great!”

I look forward to hearing the rest of the team’s reflections and what action they have taken since this inquiry!