Monday, October 22, 2012

What Counts?

Over the past couple of months, many of you have had conversations about what counts in your classrooms.  Fall is a time when we establish those routines and build the community that will sustain us through the year.  I have overheard and participated in many diverse conversations including:

  • What counts in lining up, cleaning up or sitting on the carpet?
  • What is important to us in working together?
  • How do you choose a just right book?
  • What kind of classroom community do we want to be?
  • What counts in taking care of our classroom library?
  • What counts in thinking like a reader, writer, mathematician... ?

As you co-construct these various criteria with your students you start to define quality for the year.  Quality in terms of the ways you will take care of each other, the ways in which you will think and learn together and quality in the way specific tasks and activities are done.

I no longer work on a daily basis with children.  I work with you.  Together we form communities of learners.  In many of our school-based professional learning communities (PLCs) we have co-constructed criteria for what counts in a PLC.  There are many variations but the following list gets at most of them.

What counts in a quality professional learning community?

Safe Place

·       Feeling safe to share ideas/concerns
·       Saying what you want…without ridicule
·       Taking risks
·       Encouragement

·       Time to reflect
·       Risk-taking
·       Provide safe, loving environment
·       Comfort in participating
·       Supportive and welcoming
·       Review/reinforce/reflect

·       Respect for each other
·       Mutual respect for ideas
·       Respect others opinions

·       Passion for learning together
·       Collaboration – ask questions, share ideas
·       Collaboration
·       Humour
·       Collaboration and teamwork

Goal Oriented
·       Must have a clear goal
·       Relevance
·       Must be purposeful

Open Communication
·       Open communication
·       Active engaged listeners
·       Everyone has a voice

I have also done some reading into what research has to say about what contributes to quality professional learning.  Here is my list so far.

Quality professional learning :

  • is responsive to teachers' needs and goals
  • is sustained over time and involves a substantial number of hours
  • is focussed on group participation; professional learning as a community and in a community
  • is job-embedded: integrated into the daily life of the school
  • is directly linked to student learning
  • provides opportunities for teachers to become actively engaged
  • is connected to a wider context: school goals, divisional priorities, provincial curriculum, validated practices
  • encourages communication between teachers
  • enhances knowledge and skills
  • leads to change in classroom practice

My professional growth plan goal this year is to collect evidence that I facilitate or contribute to quality professional learning.  Before I can start collecting evidence, I need to clearly define quality. My professional inquiry questions are:

What counts in quality professional learning?
Which criteria apply to me as facilitator and co-learner?
What evidence might I collect to self-assess?

My next step is to look at the criteria various PLCs have created, consider what researchers have had to say, and then, categorize my final list.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.  If you know of something I should read, or if you want to pass on something that I should add to my list, please comment here or send me an email or tell me the next time I see you.