What learning are you proud of? | Steve Barkley

What learning are you proud of?

I follow Allison Rodman, the Founder and Chief Learning Officer of The Learning Loop on LinkedIn. Allie recently shared a piece titled, What’s Posted on Your Refrigerator?

She identified that this time of year, any of us who are parents have the refrigerator covered with all the recognitions, certificates, and prizes that schools and teachers award as the year ends. Generally, as adults, we tend not to post our indicators.

Allie wrote, “When I think about the points of recognition that adults openly post and share, it’s never about the badge or the medal. It’s about the journey, connecting with other folks along the way, and the opportunity to ‘level up’ that follows. We want to share our stories of challenge and triumph. We want to find common ground with those who have achieved similar accomplishments. We want to apply the experience to run a longer race, learn a more difficult skill, pursue the next degree, seek out a different job, or simply set a new personal challenge.”

The journey, connections, challenges, and triumphs

Last year Allie joined me on a podcast, My Professional Learning, where she suggested that learner voice, co-creation, social construction, and self-discovery are as important in educator professional learning, as they are for student learning.

Allie: “So when we talk about learner voice, I want teachers to 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 they are a part of, and the ways in which they are engaging, both during and after. Learners should be side by side with the facilitator, establishing what the learning goals are, as well as what the success metrics are going to be.”

Allie ended her post with this challenge to educators, “Consider how you might amplify one another’s stories, facilitate connections across your networks, and give each other a power boost to level up. That’s the real recognition we crave.

Teachers at Skyline High School meet with community partners to plan work-based learning opportunities for students.

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

A good example of the type of professional learning that would align with Allie’s challenge comes from the American Cooperative School in Tunis. They just finished their first year of implementing a professional growth plan (PGP) process based on teachers forming a hypothesis around increasing student learning. They then executed the plan and collected evidence along the way around changes in teacher actions, student learning behaviors, and learning outcomes. This PGP process was designed by a task force of teachers and administrators.

Marina MacDonald, their director of teaching and learning, joined me on a podcast as the year ended and shared the following:

With your [Steve’s] advice, which I really appreciate, we didn’t provide very much structure. We provided a lot of ideas and a lot of time. And with that, we said, ‘do it.’ From that was born so many wonderful ideas from the staff. At the end of the year, they’re saying, ‘I really love this and next year, I’m hoping that I can meet together with a cohort of teachers regularly so that we get to really know each other’s work and we can observe each other.’ They’re really getting excited about that.” [ACST also introduced optional peer coaching workshops during this year]

We started to see that teachers were learning so much from each other and that the PGP projects or journeys were overlapping in so many places that we wanted to provide an opportunity for people to celebrate the journey that they worked so hard on. We dedicated a Friday afternoon to what would be similar to a teachers- teaching- teachers professional learning day. Teachers presented for 10 minutes to a group of five or six teachers; their hypothesis, their evidence, their student evidence, the research that they found, some of the things they learned and actions that they took throughout the process. They shared what happened with student learning and achievement, and what their conclusions were. We had 12 presentations happening at a time and then at the end celebrated all 60 plus presentations.”

When there was a slide deck or a video of some sort, we linked it into the schedule so that now we have over 40 professional learning opportunities available for one another. You might read someone’s hypothesis and open their presentation and see what they learned, what books they read, or what they tried. This resource can be a catalyst for brainstorming for years to come. We can read each other’s resources and ideas in a document and have kind of an ongoing professional library in-house.

Hope you are finding opportunities to share your learning journeys.

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