Podcast: Building Professional Growth Plans With Backwards Planning - Steve Barkley

Podcast: Building Professional Growth Plans With Backwards Planning

This is the first of a two part podcast where Steve identifies the need to build professional growth plans that support increasing student success. In part one, Steve describes planning backwards from the desired student outcome to identifying teacher learning needs and opportunities.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPTAnnouncer : 00:00 Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud is sponsored by the AAIE Institute for International School Leadership. Preparing educators for the unique challenge of international school leadership through online courses led by international school leaders. Learn more at aaieinstitute.org.

Steve [Intro]: 00:18 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.

Steve: 00:46 Building professional growth plans with backwards planning. I recently had the opportunity to be a keynoter at the Better Together Summit: Transforming Professional Learning. And my keynote was built around the development of teachers’ professional growth plans. I’ve been working with several school systems, both in the US and internationally, exploring the process that’s being used for promoting educator growth that promotes learner growth. And I use the term educator because in some areas, I’m focusing on school administrators’ growth plans and in others I’m focusing on teachers’ growth plans. I do believe that all of these need to be built in a backwards process driven from student achievement. This podcast will be the first of two that are taken from my keynote at that better together summit. I was introduced and joined in my session by Corey Camp.

Corey : 02:05 If you followed Steve’s work, you know him well, if you follow his podcast and Steve Ponders Out Loud is one of my favorites, I encourage you to follow him on his website and social media. And Steve, we are so excited to have you with us today.

Steve: 02:21 Thank you, I’m excited to be here. I’m going to jump right in and so, the neat thing about working in education is there is no mountain top in in teaching. You have entered a profession that you do not have to worry about mastering it before retirement gets here. And I shared in the conversation last night that I am at the age, I’m actually past the age where retirement is an option, but the piece that is is driving me crazy is I realize how much there is that I don’t know. And so as teachers are looking at professional growth, I think the time we’re in right now is just an amazing one. I’m almost thinking that teachers are gonna need some guidance in the ability to look at at all the possible areas that a teacher might want to explore extending because of what they’ve experienced in these last six months.

Steve: 03:34 They may need some assistance in kind of narrowing that down. The picture that I put in my mind as to why there is no mountain top to teaching and – I describe that if you consider everything you know about teaching and learning, and you take that and you put it inside of a balloon, the outside of that balloon represents areas for further study. So if you take a look at the investment you’ve made in these two days in this conference, and you all those pieces that you’ve learned, it’s less about you leaving this conference with what you’ve learned and what you’re going to do, I believe, and it’s more about leaving this conference with what you’ve learned, created, what questions for you for further learning and how are you going to look at and expand upon the learning that that’s happened?

Steve: 04:32 Critical component here is that teacher learning should be driven by increases in student learning. Two foundations behind my work is that I believe teaching today has to be a a team sport. I was influenced greatly because I entered the profession being driven by teaching on a team. I actually had the opportunity to enter an experimental program where I student taught my entire senior year at university. So I actually student taught from September till June. I was assigned to a grade four classroom that had a master teacher, two student teachers, a graduate intern, visiting professors and an 18 kids. And what that meant is I spent a whole year teaching where I was constantly observed and given feedback and my decision making was done with other people.

Steve: 05:47 And after that year’s worth of experience, I joined a a middle school team and an open concept school. So I taught in a large room with four teachers and a hundred students. And so again, informally, my work was always observed and feedback was available and decision making was done as a team. And after five years of that, on a dare, I got transferred to teach first grade. And I only survived my first year of teaching first grade because I was teaching with Diane. Diane was an experienced first grade teacher. She and I shared a classroom with a paraprofessional and usually a student from the same university program that I had been in. And that constant learning and working together was always present. And then, when I began to work in professional development and started traveling as a trainer, I was somewhat shocked to find that most teachers’ experiences were quite different from mine and that many teachers had been historically used to working in isolation.

Steve: 06:55 So, my thought process here is that while for me, I’m convinced teaching was always better done as a team. But today, I believe it is now a a requirement. I don’t think there’s any way that educators can meet the student goals and strategies that we’ve got laid out working as individuals. I think the team is now a necessity. And so that adds my next piece here then about teaching needing to be a public act. For teachers to work as teams, they have to have high levels of trust in each other and I don’t see any way that that trust can be developed without creating opportunities for teachers to see each other teaching and to see the results of their teaching, which in my mind means student work.

Steve: 08:02 That’s the piece that builds trust. So I’m pretty sure that professional growth plans are probably strongest when they’re developed by some kind of team that’s learning together. Or if a teacher is on a more individualized growth plan, that the teacher is using his or her colleagues as peer coaches to assist within that growth process. So here is a backward framework that I use to drive all of my work. So I use this framework, whether I’m coaching with an individual teacher, whether I’m working with a a PLC, whether I’m working with a school leadership team, a district team and in the case of of Georgia, I worked with a statewide team looking at professional growth and development at the state level. Everything we’re doing at the bottom of this diagram has to produce increased student learning at the top of this diagram.

Steve: 09:21 And I believe the way that you make sure that happens is to plan backwards. So the first thing that I’m suggesting happens is that we identify on a student outcome, a student growth, a student success, that is to be created by the work that we’re doing down at the bottom. And then we plan from that student growth, that success, we plan our way down this process and then we implement coming back up the process. So I want to be clear that in student outcomes, for me, that’s a very broad set of of of possibilities today. So certainly it’s those academic areas that historically have been tested and identified as important. It certainly is all of the what have been called 21st century skills or soft skills or student success skills. I do a lot of work with international schools and people develop profiles of skills they want students to have.

Steve: 10:36 Those are all critical and should be considered as areas for us to be building professional growth plans as a teacher around. For example, I just working with a school district right now that has identified increasing student critical thinking as an outcome. So that’s the outcome that starts at the top here and now we plan our way backwards. Now, as you plan backwards, the next step was the one that was the biggest change in my thinking and my work. And that was my identification of what I called student learning production behaviors. And what I found was frequently happening is that teachers were looking at an outcome in student learning and then the next question they were asking is “what should I do as a teacher?” So if this is what students are supposed to achieve, then what is it that I would tackle as a teacher to make that happen?

Steve: 11:46 And the more I focused in on that, I really locked in on the phrase that teachers don’t cause student achievement, students cause student achievement. And the people who really helped me with this were your performing arts instructors and your athletic coaches. And it’s real clear to them. I can’t teach you how to play the flute. I can’t teach you how to play soccer. I can teach you how to learn. The critical issue is the student has to take on the learning production behaviors in order to reach those learning outcomes. So, for example, during the quarantine, I really locked in on that component, that with the push to go online quickly and survive that process, there was a tendency to put a lot of things up for kids to do. And then as people began to get some time and began to think through, the focus really needed to come back to whatever we’re putting online, what is it that it’s going to cause students to do? So that what the students are doing is now going to create those learning outcomes.

Steve: 13:08 I actually started a podcast during that time for parents and getting parents to understand that schools weren’t asking them to be teachers. What we were asking them to be was learning coaches. But parents couldn’t be learning coaches unless we could communicate to the parents what the learning production behaviors were. And I had a real concrete example of that when my granddaughter came home and I happened to be visiting the first day that she came home with a flute and she opened the case and said, “pop, pop, I need to practice. Will you help me?” Well, I have no idea about how to play a flute, but fortunately, all she did was take out the first little mouthpiece, she didn’t put the instrument together. And she said, “my job is to get it to make noise for 10 seconds. Can you time me?”

Steve: 13:59 So you see how I could step into my coaching behavior. We knew what she needed to do was get noise to come out the mouthpiece. And my job as a coach was to be able to tim her, tell her she’s at five seconds. Now you’re at eight. Now you got to 10 let’s celebrate. Whoa, can you go past 10? Can we get to 12? And that’s what’s causing learning to happen. Well, we need to be doing the same thing as we look at mathematics or history or sciences. And that is be able to communicate what are those learning production behaviors? Now take it back to the next step then. Now I’m ready to look at teacher behaviors and teacher planning for learning. And what that means now is that as a teacher, I’m ready to create the activity that will the student in those learning production behaviors.

Steve: 14:54 So now when you’re looking at the growth plan, the purpose of my growth plan is to identify and learn and internalize teacher behaviors that generate the student behaviors that generate the learning outcomes. As we get further, along in this session, I’ll get into more detail in mapping that out. But I find too often, people are writing a goal only around the learning outcome or they’re writing a goal only around a teacher behavior. And the issue that I want to stress is that the teacher’s professional growth plan should be broken out into the pieces so that we’re looking at how they’re connecting and we’re learning through that process. So now when I get down the bottom, coaching professional development, working in professional learning communities, all of those should be supports supporting my professional growth plan.

Corey : 16:04 I wanted to take a minute just while we’re here and you may cover it. So we might come over later, but Kelly had a great question in the chat. What can we do to help teach student learning production behaviors? And that’s so – I think everybody’s saying, yes, students have to take ownership, especially in an online or a remote environment, but how do we teach them those behaviors?

Steve: 16:27 You used the right word. We need to teach the behavior. So whether you’re back in the classroom or whether you’re online, you need to teach the behavior. And I’ll give you two quick examples. First one, I was observing in a kindergarten classroom very early in a school year. And the teacher had students seated in pairs. They had a little worksheet that had the numbers one to six across the bottom. and they had a they had a sight word above each of the numbers. And their task was to roll a die and whatever number came up, they had to read that sight word, and then they needed to color in the box. And then the next one would roll a die and they’d go back and forth. Well, as I observed the activity, I picked up rather quickly that the kids weren’t reading the sight words, they were just rolling the die in coloring in the boxes.

Steve: 17:24 So when I sat down to have a post conference with a teacher, I’m thinking about how I’ll bring up this topic to the teacher. And so I asked the teacher, what did you notice as you walked around the room? And she said, I noticed that none of the kids were reading the sight words. And I thought to myself, oh, thank God. She knows. And she quickly said, but that’s because what we were learning to do today was to roll a die and not have it go three groups over and get an argument. To roll a die and not have it go underneath the counter the cabinet and have to get the yard stick to pull it out. So this is really critical – three weeks later, you go into that kindergarten teacher’s classroom and she’s got a she’s got a guided reading group off on the side, and you see these five year old kids working independently in the room. That didn’t happen by accident.

Steve: 18:20 She stopped and taught those behaviors. Well, countless times I’ve shared that example and I have had high school teachers who told me they actually start teaching without having thought through whether or not the kids know what the learning production behaviors are. So I wrote a blog when I was working with the school that was using station rotation where kids worked independently, they worked collaboratively and they worked in direct instruction. And so I identified what the learning production behaviors were for each of those spots. You can find that in my blogs if you just search station rotation. But when I published that blog, the first response I got to it was from a community college professor who said, I will be sharing your blog the first day of class because I believe I’ve many college students who aren’t clear on the fact that the day they come to a lab, they need a totally different set of learning production behaviors than the day that they’re coming to hear a lecture. So the idea that we have to stop and teach kids what those are and going virtual, it created a very critical problem. And it’s what also led me then, especially for the younger kids, the parents didn’t know what those behaviors were and why we were asking them to implement them.

Corey : 19:52 So true. And that’s so important as we move into looking at some at-home learning or fully remote learning. Steve, real quick, Peggy asked in the chat to clarify our student learning production behaviors the same as success criteria?

Steve: 20:08 No, the success criteria, at least this is my interpretation – success criteria are outcome behaviors. So I separate for people, outcome behaviors from learning production behaviors. So for example, I’ll say to a teacher in a coaching session, “what’s the most important thing you need students to do in class today?” And the teacher will say to me, “I need kids to understand.” And as soon as the teacher uses the word, understand, I call time out. Okay, understand that’s the end of the lesson. So kids are coming in the door and not understanding you want them to leave understanding. The I’m asking is what do kids who don’t understand do that produces understanding? That’s the learning production behavior. So success criteria, in my vocabulary – success criteria tells you that the standard has been met. The learning production behaviors are the things you’re doing that cause you to be able to meet the standard.

Steve: 21:13 So as I began to look at how people would differentiate with this, first on the left hand side, I set my goal. And my goal is that in a classroom, I’m looking to have the largest number of students spending the greatest amount of time engaged in the most appropriate learning production behavior. So in my head, that’s what drives differentiation. And so, as you’re looking to plan for that differentiation, a couple of items to consider. First of all, is where is the student at, in their readiness and appropriateness to learn the task that I’m tackling here. So there’s a group of students I’m calling ready over there on the left hand side, looking at our yellow area. Then there’s kids who are going to need scaffolding on previous skillsets in order to engage in this learning. And then there’s a group of students who are advanced and I actually need to figure out what the goal is for those students during this upcoming unit of study.

Steve: 22:25 Now, once I’ve decided where students are and that lays out what learning production behaviors they need, now I can look at, am I going to be providing those opportunities in direct instruction? How might I provide them collaboratively? How might I provide them for independent? And now swing over to the other side, we’ve now got the, the element to to mix in here of what makes sense to do synchronous? What should be done asynchronous? How does a blended model fit in? How does live model begin to fit in? So in my head, teaching and learning is extremely complex and I have no thought of ever wanting to make it simple because that takes too much away from it. But I wanted to show that you could work with it.

Steve: 23:28 And so I’m suggesting similar to being twisting that Rubik’s cube, if I have a learner, I have an assessment of where they’re at. I know the goals that they’re working towards. I now, if what I’m doing, isn’t working, is there a way that I can twist the cube, which allows me to look at other options to bring that about for learners. Just putting this whole conceptual framework back to work, think about that you’re planning from the top down. So what is it that I want students to gain? And now I’ve got to plan backwards in this process, and then I’m going to build from the bottom up. So we’re going to move into a little more detail as we move ahead here as to what this looks like, laid out in a professional growth plan, but it gets planned in this backwards model. So top to bottom and then gets implemented from the bottom to the, to the top.

Steve: 24:25 So for example, my big question for teachers in PLCs is whenever we’re looking at student work, whenever we’re looking at student learning, the question that we as teachers are asking is what do the kids need us to learn? So if we’re not getting the outcome that we wanted to get, my assumption is nobody’s piking. Nobody’s holding back. If we knew how to get a different learning outcome from kids, we’d have done it. So when we look and we aren’t getting the learning outcome, we want, that means we as educators need to learn something, that’s going to move us closer to getting that learning outcome.

Steve: 25:08 Setting the stage for professional growth plans, to bring about a improvement in student success and student learning and student achievement by working backwards, identifying changes that students will need to make, changes that teachers will need to make to get those necessary student production behaviors. And then how do instructional coaches and administrators and school leaders work to support teachers and bring about those changes. In the following podcast, we’ll explore the role of hypothesis and evidence collection to maximize learning for teachers within their professional growth plans. Thanks for listening.

Steve [Outro]: 26:02 Thanks again for listening, you can subscribe to Steve Barkley, ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

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