Be sure to read Creating a Predictable Structure for Professional Learning by Michelle Morris Jones as a precursor to this blog entry.
By 4:05 in the afternoon, everyone had formed groups and started to respond to the question, “How are you feeling about being here today?” Within minutes, the groups mixed among one another, and new groups responded to, “What intrigues you about our text and our study?” Once more the groups rearranged and answered the question, “In what ways do you promote understanding and engagement?”
In the span of 15 minutes, teachers and leaders from four schools had come together as a community, interacted with other study group members, and engaged with our essential questions. For the next five months, this study group would always begin with the same opening structure—a routine that allowed group members to transition from their busy roles as teachers, coaches, and principals to learners.
As a staff developer with the Public Education & Business Coalition, my colleagues and I have many opportunities to facilitate and support instructional leaders with their planning of professional learning. The planning process can be daunting, yet we have found that a core set of reminders help us effectively and efficiently build agendas that support our learners.
In this two part blog series, I will share these five reminders to assist in the day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month professional learning process.
Create Rituals and Routines
Classroom teachers spend a lot of time in the beginning of the year setting up the rituals and routines that serve as the skeleton or infrastructure of their classrooms. Eric Jensen’s educational research demonstrates how a predictable structure for learning allows learners to expend more energy on learning new information and skills.
Of course, this makes sense for adult learners as well—how often have you stepped into a meeting, in-service, or class and wondered what are we doing? As facilitators of professional learning it is beneficial to establish rituals and routines for adult learners. Ask yourself:
- How will each professional learning opportunity open and close?
- How will the space be designed and utilized?
- How will the group create and maintain public agreements?
- What rituals will you incorporate to highlight accomplishments and milestones?
Create a Standard Agenda Template
A standard agenda template eases the burden of planning by creating a structure that can be utilized repeatedly and archived electronically for easy reference and digital collaboration between teammates. When creating an agenda template be sure it reflects your desired rituals and routines as well as those elements of best practice that your staff or group is studying.
For example, if your school or district is utilizing the workshop model as the basis for instruction and requiring teachers to write learning objectives, be sure to utilize the workshop model and to include learning objectives as much as possible. This is an example of parallel pedagogy, in which adult learners experience best practices in-conjunction with in-depth study of those practices.
- What planning templates are already in use in your building that could serve to support planning or does one need to be developed?
- Are the outcomes, targets, expectations, etc. clearly named?
- Is the time going to be managed realistically and effectively?
In part two of this blog series, I’ll share additional reminders to use as you establish your school or district’s professional learning program. Read part two here!