I am currently reading the book Professional Capital by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to take the time. While reading this book I began to think about my current school’s culture and the impact it has on teacher and student growth. I also began thinking about what kind of culture I would want to have in my building. If you have read any of my previous blogs you know that I am all about learning. Learning is essential for anyone and any organization to grow. Why you and your employees or colleagues learn, is probably the most important question to be asking yourself.
Let’s think about that for a second. Many people are focused on WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW everyone will be learning the next Professional Development or whatever it is that we are teaching our class the next day.
How often do you stop and think about why you learn in general? Do you learn because you have been told you must learn a specific topic? Do you learn because your friend or colleague has learned it, and you don’t want to be left out? Do you learn because you love learning and continuously seek further knowledge? The reasons we learn are extremely important to the culture of your building, classroom, or business. I would be willing to bet, that even in the educational setting, most people are learning because they have been told they must learn by someone of authority. What happens in these organizations when there is no pressure to learn something from the higher ups? In most cases the learning STOPS!
Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan are strong promotors of a different culture. A culture where all of your colleagues, employees, and employers are learning because everyone is pushing them to learn, or better yet because they want to learn for their own personal reasons. In a culture like this, people are constantly either pushing each other to get better or pushing themselves. These are the highest functioning cultures of learning and what every organization should be striving for.
So, how do we create such a culture in the educational setting? I believe the best way to create this culture would be through a healthy balance of personalized professional development for all teachers and using a framework for teachers to collaborate and support each other around improving their instruction, assessments, and student produced work. By personalizing the PD for all teachers you are giving them the freedom to learn about the things they feel are important to them and treating them as professionals. By using a framework for teachers to collaborate and support each other a culture of learning will be created where the employees are holding each other accountable by pushing each other to be better at all times.
Currently at Callanan Middle School we are working towards creating just this. With the help of some vital people from the district office we have created a rubric that scores tasks that our teachers create for students. These tasks are scored on 5 different hallmarks. The hallmarks are Prior Learning, Cognitive Level, Integrated Skills, Relevance, and Authenticity. We then created a framework to guide the conversations our teachers have around improving each of these hallmarks for the tasks they have created. Our next step would be to create a rubric and framework for improving our student work and instruction. But first we must build a culture of trust so teachers feel comfortable sharing their instruction and receiving feedback to improve from each other.
To personalize the learning for each teacher we are using Marzano’s Instructional Framework and coaches to support our teachers. We ask that teachers pick a couple of areas to focus on improving. After they have chosen the areas in which they would like support in improving, the coaches will go into the classroom and provide specific feedback on what level they are currently at within the categories of their choice. They will then coach them through a conversation on how they can improve in these areas and offer support in finding resources for them. Although I do not feel this is a perfect way to personalize the learning for each teacher, I do believe it is a step in the right direction.
What are the next steps for you? What are you currently doing that is not supporting the culture or learning you want? What do you need to do now to begin supporting this culture?