Posts Tagged With: PLC

Reflecting on Digital Literacy

In an effort to support my teachers in reflecting more deeply on their practice I’ve been using this teacher self-assessment tool since September. It is based on our provinces Teacher Quality Standard (TQS), which applies to teacher certification, professional development, supervision and evaluation, and which is supported by descriptors of selected knowledge, skills and attributes (KSAs) appropriate to teachers at different stages of their careers. We believe the tool is an excellent reference point for teachers to self-assess, reflect on, and engage in a professional conversation about their practice. So we set time aside in our monthly staff meetings to do just that. In small groups, the month’s KSA and it’s elements are discussed and in doing so strengths and areas for growth are identified. As part of our school improvement plan, teams of teachers are then offered release time to complete capacity building projects and improve current practice. 

We focus on one KSA at a time, as to not make the process overwhelming for our teachers. I’m acutely aware of the many important responsibilities competing for their attention each and every day. But this is important. If teachers are going to be expected to keep pace with the ever-changing education landscape, they must be given the time to review, discuss, and reflect on their current practice. Reflection, in my opinion, is underrated; and when combined with safe, respectful professional conversation with peers, is the single most important activity in support of continual growth.


Looking at the TQS you will notice that the KSAs relate to competencies that have always been important in teaching. Things like the ability to plan effectively, an understanding of curriculum, solid classroom management, and relationship building. And, of course these will continue to be important in the future. What appears to be missing, unfortunately, is that whole area of digital literacy. The TQS, which guides teacher practice, has yet to be updated to include digital literacy.

So for the month of February our teachers have been reflecting on digital literacy and to what degree it’s been present in their daily practice. The tool below (click on it to see the entire tool) has been guiding their reflection. At next weeks staff meeting, when we come together for our monthly professional conversation, I hope my teachers identify the need to place a great deal of emphasis on this going forward. 



Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

We Need to Disagree Better

We’ve all done it.  The moment someone retweets our thoughts, we head straight  to their profile and click the follow button.  Why not?  They obviously like the way we think and that’s good for our ego and self-esteem.  If we follow them, and they follow us we will have one more person entrenching us in our way of thinking.

As a matter of fact, teachers in most schools tend to connect and work with colleagues who see the world through the same eyes as them.  It’s so much easier to collaborate with others who are on the same page.  Even when hiring, leaders look for individuals who are going to fit the best with their philosophy and way of thinking.  In general, human beings don’t like to openly disagree with the ideas of others. There just seems to be too much work involved with it, and more often than not it leads to some level of conflict.  Why engage in conflict when it can be avoided?  If things go wrong it also may affect our standing within our school or organization.  So most of us go through our careers never giving ourselves the opportunity to learn from people who might challenge our way of thinking.

It’s my opinion that this kind of thinking supports the status quo and will slow us down significantly in efforts to transform education.  Not only do we need to do a better job of connecting with those who see things differently, we also need to approach conflict not as a roadblock but as working toward a solution.  We must listen to the ideas of others and be prepared to change our minds.  When approached in this manner, spirited collaboration can produce some of the most creative and innovative solutions and ideas.

Last week, at my opening staff gathering  I shared this Ted Talk by Margaret Heffernan called Dare to Disagree.  In the conversation that followed, all agreed that if our collaborative efforts are to make a real difference, we need to be more willing to disagree and bring conflict into our processes.  All agreed to make this effort in the year that lies ahead.

I encourage each of you in my PLN to engage, both online and in person, with passionate and caring individuals who challenge your way of thinking every day; and even with a few that think the same way as you.

Categories: Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Don’t Forget the “Little Picture”

As an administrator I’ve always had to keep my eye on the big picture. At least that’s what I’ve always told others when they asked why a particular initiative had been undertaken or a decision had been made. After all, everyone must know that if we spent all our time tending to the needs and concerns of individuals we wouldn’t get anywhere. There has to be a big picture. That’s what a vision is and any good leader has a vision for their organization, right?

Well over the past few years my thinking has taken a 180 in this area. In Kouzes & Posner’s The Leadership Challenge they describe a good leader as “someone who is able to be in the balcony and on the dance floor at the same time.” You see, we’ve got to look beyond the big picture if we hope to move our schools forward. With each and every system wide or school wide change there are many individuals who are each affected in their own way. It is our job to understand this and work with those within our circle of influence to assist them in better understanding and moving forward.

With society and education changing faster than ever, there has been no more important time than now for leaders to see the little picture. Excellent teachers are being called upon to transform a pedagogy that has been a mainstay in our educational institutions for decades. Leaders must paint a vision and enlist individuals to join them in bringing it to life. Transformation will happen, but it will take place one teacher at a time, in their own way and at their own pace.

So think big and push the envelope, but don’t take your eye off the little picture.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Assisting our Teachers in Finding Their Way

In their 2005 book School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results, Marzano, McNulty, and Waters differentiate between first-order and second-order change. They characterize first-order change as that which fine-tunes the system through a series of small steps. Second-order or ‘deep’ change, on the other hand, alters the current system in fundamental ways, offering a dramatic shift in direction and requires new ways of thinking and acting.

Departing from the current educational model is not an easy move for educators who have become accustomed to certain pedagogical practices for their entire careers. That is why most second-order change efforts fall short. They require a complete paradigm shift, and a large amount of time, effort and open-mindedness from those involved.

Daily interactions with my PLN lead me to believe that this paradigm shift is possible and beginning to take place. Most teachers already understand the need to teach differently today and for that reason we are in the midst of deep change. Fine tuning practice is what is needed. Teachers will respond more positively to a step by step process where new teaching pedagogy evolves in small amounts and over time. School leaders should allow teachers to choose 21st century initiatives that appeal to them. By giving them this level of choice and control over their own growth, there is a much better chance of success.

Given the time to collaborate, implement, and reflect teachers can slowly build a level of confidence with new initiatives. By building an effective Professional Learning Community teachers will learn from one another and move forward together. Setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals, teachers need to work interdependently with colleagues to incorporate 21st century competencies into their teaching. Those who find it easy to change will lead the way for those who are hesitant. There is no stronger form of professional learning than committed colleagues working together.

School leaders play a very important role in this process. The ability to develop a trusting tight-loose relationship is imperative in order to stay the course with any transition. They need to strike the right balance between the need for change and the pace of change, bringing teachers on board with strong support, and empowering them to lead the way.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Capacity Building – The Best PD – Period!

“When teachers recognize that knowledge for improvement is something they can generate, rather than something that must be handed to them by s0-called experts, they are on a new professional trajectory. They are on the way to building a true profession of teaching, a profession in which members take responsibility  for steady and lasting improvement. They are building a new culture of teaching.” (Hiebert & Stigler, 2004, p. 15)

This year we are directing all our professional development budget to “Capacity Building Teacher Projects.” It’s a move away from sending teachers to conferences or workshops and bringing presenters into our school. It’s also a move toward utilizing the experts among us as teachers work together to improve instructional practices. Here’s how it works:

  1. Each project needs to align with our school improvement plans, which were determined by our teachers and others within the school community. Our current focus is on “Engaging the 21st Century Learner.” 
  2. Each project takes place on site.  Release time is provided.
  3. Each project must include at least two teachers.
  4. The results of the project are shared with others. This can be done through a presentation, a handout, moodle, our staff Wiki, etc.

The Hiebert & Stigler quote from their article in the Journal of Staff Development really resonates with me. As I watch with amazement all the wonderful capacity building that is taking place at my school this year, I really do see this as the best form of teacher growth. There is so much untapped knowledge, experience, and expertise in our own teachers. We just need to give them an authentic opportunity to share it.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Skip the Staff Meeting – Create A Wiki

Today was the first day back after the Christmas break and as is the tradition in our school division, early dismissal and staff meeting was scheduled.  That’s right; as the teachers are just getting back into the swing of things we hit them with a 2 hour staff meeting.  Is this really the wisest use of their time?  Do they not have more pressing things to prepare for? 

Well today my associate principal and I decided to cancel the meeting.  Instead, we invited every staff member to join our newly created Wiki and then take the rest of the time for whatever they felt was needed.  I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that this went over very well.  Everyone happily signed up for the Wiki, which took about 2 minutes, then worked on their own “to do” list.  What a win-win.  The staff was happy and we had 55 individuals on the Wiki, the tool we plan to use for much of the staff communication and interaction in the weeks to come.  Already, teachers have engaged one another in relevant conversations.

As administrators we need to take advantage of the wonderful tools we have available to us today.  Used effectively, they can enhance the relationships that currently exist in your schools.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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