Tag Archives: PLG

Appraisal 2017

31 Jan

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Do you find often “appraisal goals” are scribbled out in 15 minute meetings with your appraiser, then “revisited” at the end of the year as a kind of autopsy. What would happen if we flipped this model on its head? What if instead we created a teacher-centered, always-on, and social approach to teacher improvement? One that connected them with dynamic resources and human communities that modeled new thinking and possibility, and that crucially built on their strengths? Here some thoughts to guide you as you make your PLG  inspired in 2017.

  1. In Term One establish a compelling big idea –then stick to it

This can be thought of as a mission or theme, but it’s really more of a tone and purpose. These heading are the same as the students hence reinforcing the idea of a learning community. Each of the goals are linked to the dispositions of the school in our case Ako, Manaakitanga and Wahine Toa. Time is made in Term one for authentic and robust conversations to eek out these goals. This is done collaboratively. Then–and this is the critical part–refer back to that constantly as you make decisions that might impact the inquiry. This is like a lighthouse. You can revise as necessary, but be careful not to drift too far away.

  1. Set the ground rules

You could probably call this a policy, but it’s the non-policy policy—just some basic rules and a common language to make sure everyone is starting and finishing at the same point.

The inquiry does not have to be come up with an answer but it does have to link to school goals.

  1. Diversify professional development sources

This is the anti-program program. Less about experts and more about staff capacity. To achieve a self-sustaining, always-on program, this is also where our Café style PLG kicks in. The grounds rules again must be clear. Everyone must contribute. It is not enough to turn up and be ready for a chat.

  1. Create a pilot or template that works for teachers

Pilot it in one department or grade level at first to work out the bugs, the factors you didn’t consider, and to better understand how it might work yourself. You may find this new open approach to PD confuses folks, and that’s okay. Simply go back to steps one and two.

  1. Connect teachers

Connect teachers from different schools to not only improve the diversity of resources, but naturally expand professional learning networks in the process. These connections will catalyze the effort as you move on. Relationships and curiosity will take a teacher further than a policy or minimal requirement. The point of this whole thing is staff capacity, not corrective training.

  1. Focus on student learning

The whole point of the PLG focus on strategies, tools, and thinking that ends up in pedagogical change, curriculum, assessment, classrooms, teacher-student interactions is ultimately “student achievement.” If it is not then what is the point?

  1. Let us celebrate teacher strengths & interests

Teachers need to see themselves as a crafts-person that is skilled and passionate. Strengths could be collaboration with colleagues, assessment design, classroom management, curriculum development, or other traditional educational pillars. This again can be done in the PLG Café or by cross-pollination.

So from the beginning, everyone should be aware that PLD and PLG is all a work in progress—just like the profession itself. Perhaps the greatest potential here is in the chance to personalize professional development for teachers.

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The Lost Art of Reflection

6 Dec

The Thinker

Reflection is a lost art in classrooms. With the push to cover more content and standards, teachers often make a choice between coverage or pausing for reflection. Reflection comes in many forms: reflective journals, group work, whole class, silent reflection, reviewing yesterday’s work, reflecting on an essential question, or creating a product that shows your thoughts on a previous lesson or understanding.

How often do students feel like the pace of schooling is rushed? Once a unit is finished, the teacher moves to the next unit. Reflection involves slowing down to share what we learned. In the absence of reflection, it is unlikely that a classroom is a Culture of Inquiry. How do students reflect and make meaning out of their experiences?

Learning takes place when inquiry is present. This year as Faculty’s met every Wednesday to develop lessons and assessments, analyze the amount of time students have to question, talk with their peers, and reflect. This inquiry is a step towards reflection. May it continue in 2017.

PLG: Gifted and Talented

30 Jun

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For the past two weeks in our PLG time I examined Gifted and Talented students in class or more specifically the concept of Acceleration. This article by Tolan got me thinking a great deal. I have many friends and many relatives that are gifted and so this is an interest of mine.

Gifted children themselves are highly diverse.  I can tell you, knowing what one gifted child looks and behaves like is not going to give you insight into recognizing all gifted children. Personality and level of giftedness plays into how an individual child expresses his or her giftedness in public and in private.

So, how can we recognize a gifted child who isn’t performing highly and how can we avoid labeling all high achieving children “gifted and talented?” The ability to create new knowledge and ways to put things together rather than just skilfully master the prescribed curriculum is a sign that should not be overlooked.

Gifted students are artists: capable of synthesizing seemingly unrelated information and creating new ways to approach the material. This flair for the novel approach may not show all of the time especially in an underachieving gifted child, but it is there if we know what we are looking for.

Using Stephanie Tolan’s cheetah analogy, if we are aware that we are looking for non-retractable claws and unusually long legs not just top speed, it becomes easier to correctly identify the cheetahs as the gifted children as opposed to inaccurately calling the fastest lions gifted when they are simply fast lions not cheetahs

 

Learning as Inquiry

23 Oct

Just a quick thought on my departmental PLG this year. The best aspect about working collaboratively with the team was that by the time we presented we knew each other’s thoughts and ideas so well that it meant that if there was something that one of us overlooked then the other could simply jump in and elaborate. Instead of delivering a summary of what we had already done we could be flexible and it became an authentic PLN. Focusing on the Year 9 and 10 curriculum, we bounced ideas off each. After growing our presentation together, the challenge we set for others was to continue these conversations outside of PLG time.

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