Professional Learning should be personalized. Allie Rodman, author and founder of The Learning Loop, identifies ways that teachers can maximize the value of their ongoing learning in the post pandemic setting. How do you tap into, direct, and personalize your learning opportunities?
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Steve: 00:30 My professional learning: How do I make the most of what I’ve learned during virtual and hybrid teaching? On today’s podcast, we are joined by Allie Rodman. She’s the author of, “Personalized Professional Learning: A Job-Embedded Pathway for Elevating Teacher Voice,” and she’s also the founder of The Learning Loop, an organization that designs facilitates and coaches professional learning. Welcome Allie.
Allie: 01:00 Thank you, Steve. I appreciate you having me on the show.
Steve: 01:03 I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about your background and what led you into focusing on educator professional learning?
Allie: 01:13 Certainly. So I have experience as a high school teacher and instructional coach and a school leader. And one of the things that continued to bother me in the professional development space is that as much as we were nudging and pushing teachers to design differentiated and personalized instruction for students, we were still offering a one size-fits-all, sit and get PD for them. And I knew that we could and we had to do better as a profession. So I have been spending my work really focused on the coaching of leaders as well as facilitators to ensure that that process is more personalized than what it is presently.
Steve: 01:54 So on your website, Allie, you talked about the importance of learner voice, co-creation, social construction, and self-discovery as it applies to professional learning and I’m wondering if you could kind of take those each one at a time and if I’m a teacher, how do I reach out and look to build those things into my own learning as an educator?
Allie: 02:26 Certainly. So these concepts come from Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda’s work focused on personalized learning for students. And I wanted us as educators to think about how we might apply those through an andragogical or an adult learning lens to support our work as facilitators, but also as learners ourselves, to ensure that those experiences we’re engaging in, feel more personalized and are meeting us exactly where we need to be with the content that we need. So when we talk about learner voice, I want to that teachers feel empowered not only to have a say in the topics of professional learning that they are selecting, but also the types of activities that are a part of those sessions and the ways in which they are engaging both during and after the session itself. And that’s what really led to this piece around co-creation. Learners should be there side by side with the facilitator, establishing what the learning goals for the professional session are, as well as what the success metrics are going to be.
Allie: 03:33 If I’m doing this practice, if I’m engaging in this work effectively in my classroom, what should it look like? What should it sound like? What should it feel like? So I want to make sure that the teachers feel as though they have that voice, not only in that part of the process in selecting the topics, but also in the co-creation process as well. Then as a teacher, once you get into that professional learning session itself, whether it’s synchronous in a classroom or asynchronous in a Zoom room, you want to ensure that you have time and space to get messy with the other learners in the room to socially construct around the concepts and the content together so that you’re not only thinking about and planning around what it’s going to look like in your classroom, but you’re also pushing one another to troubleshoot there in the moment so that you’re able to kind of poke holes and find solutions together while you’re in that space with your peers. And then finally, I want to ensure that our professional learning leads to self discovery. So that as a learner, you’re not just kind of tying a bow on that individual session, but that it’s leading you to new questions and a desire to continue exploring and pushing your practice forward.
Steve: 04:48 Allie, I know that you had in your background experience, you spent some time as an instructional coach. And as I was listening to you, I was thinking about what an instructional coach does to support those things. But now I’m also wondering if I’m a teacher and there’s an instructional coach in my building – instructional coaches available to me, or if not, and I’m looking at my colleagues as peer coaches, how best would a person reach out to available coaches to build and support the kind of learning that you’ve that you’ve just described?
Allie: 05:28 Yeah. So Steve, as a coach, one of the things I always used to share with my teachers was invite me into your most challenging section. Take me behind the curtain, show me the messy stuff, because that’s where we have the opportunity to grow the furthest and the fastest together. If I’m able to be, you know, have the opportunity to see those messy points, that’s where the learning is going to get real and we can develop a truly authentic relationship that that pushes practice forward. So as a teacher, you know, communicating with their coach, that would be my first piece of advice is to, invite them into, you know, all the messy stuff, let them see that. And then second, it would be to have a willingness to take risks and to try new things. So even if it’s outside your comfort zone, don’t shut down a suggestion or a practice simply because it doesn’t feel exactly aligned to your typical teaching style or practice, but instead see it as an opportunity to stretch yourself and to grow.
Steve: 06:32 A word that hit me as I was listening to you go through the learner voice, co-creation, constructions and self-discovery is reflection seems to be a critical element. Thoughts or comments on building increased reflection into this process?
Allie: 06:57 Certainly. So I think that’s one thing that the pandemic left us with, right? That I hope doesn’t go away, is more space for reflection in that we weren’t caught up in the busy-ness of classroom changes and, you know, hallway transitions, but instead we’re able to kind of step away at certain points and think about what was working, where did we need to improve? What practices should fall away and where should we perhaps dig in more deeply? So my hope is that we take that with us as we transition back to physical spaces and that that becomes a part of our new normal, is that increased time and space for reflection.
Steve: 07:37 So maybe as a teacher, I actually have to look how to create that for myself, if I’m in a system that isn’t creating it.
Allie: 07:47 Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I had my moments as a teacher where I would during my planning period, go into my room, close the door, turn off the lights and sit on the opposite side of the room so that no one knew that I was there, right? I think in some ways, we need to empower ourselves to make those choices even if they feel a little misaligned at times with what’s happening in the busy-ness of what’s around us, being busy doesn’t always equate to being productive or being effective and we need to give ourselves permission to create that reflection space for ourselves even if others aren’t crafting it for us.
Steve: 08:25 Allie, what do you think teachers may have discovered about their own learning during the quarantine that while they were teaching virtually in hybrid, that they might want to carry forward with them even if it means the doors are opened up and we’ve got the students back in front of us?
Allie: 08:46 So I think we all discovered that we’re stronger risk-takers than we ever imagined we could be, right? You know, come the shutdown, we were all first year teachers, first year coaches, first year administrators. There was a lot we needed to figure out, but in that sink or swim type of environment, I also feel as though at all levels of the system, we found a bit more resilience than perhaps we realized we had. So for teachers, I would just encourage you, keep exploring, keep trying new things and taking those risks and failing not only forward, but through because it has truly empowered, not only our adult learners in the system about where they can stretch their capacity, but you’re modeling that learning for our students and that is something that we just cannot put a value on.
Steve: 09:38 Exactly. The number of teachers who were reaching out and asking their students, in effect, for coaching feedback. You know, “I tried something I’ve never done before in our Zoom room today, so how did it go?” To build that into our our constant ongoing growth process would be a powerful piece to take away.
Allie: 09:59 Yeah, absolutely.
Steve: 10:01 Well, Allie, I’m wondering, are there some resources that teachers might tap into through your website if you tell them a little bit about that and how they can connect with you?
Allie: 10:12 Certainly. So the one thing I want to encourage teachers to do is first and foremost, maintain a reflection space for yourself. And I think sometimes we default to that always being a journal. And I’ll tell you, I am not a journaler. I have tried so many different versions of it, and I just can’t find one that works for me. I like voice recording, right? Others like vision boards or having kind of a sketch pad, but I want to make sure that teachers as model learners have that reflection space for themselves in whatever form it might take. And then on my website, I have some guiding questions to help teachers think about their own points of recovery. So how are they ensuring that professionally, as well as physically, they’re giving themselves the opportunity to not only recharge, but actually recover? And the nice thing about those questions is that they’re framed in such a way that teachers can take them to a coach or take them to a leader as an entry point to facilitate that conversation at a broader level than just the classroom level.
Steve: 11:13 Oh, that’s great. And how do they find your website?
Allie: 11:16 So my website is www.the learningloop.com and you can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at the learning loop.
Steve: 11:27 And we’ll we’ll put all of that into the into the lead-in to this podcast. Thank you so much for for sharing your thinking as you were describing the reflection piece there. When I started blogging, people told me I would learn from doing it and I didn’t believe it, but I did. And the same thing has come over to the podcast. So yeah, creating as many ways for educators to stay involved in that possible. So I’ll look forward to another chance for us to connect.
Allie: 11:56 Thank you so much, Steve. I appreciate you having me on.
Steve: 12:00 You bet. Take care.
Steve [Outro]: 12:03 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love 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.