Finding the balance…

Had an interesting experience last week.

Our school leadership team had the opportunity to finalize our school improvement plan and meet with our Superintendent of Schools to discuss next steps.

We had been provided a list of guiding questions that our SO used during a rich 1.5 hour  focused conversation. A number of voices were invited around the table to ensure multiple perspectives were represented, and people spoke very frankly about the progress, challenges, and work that still remains to do to improve student achievement in a few areas as identified from a variety of different data sets. At several points, it did not even feel like a meeting; rather we were discussing educational change very honestly and openly. People listened, opinions were welcomed, colleagues offered support and extended ideas, AND some even disagreed agreeably. Nice!

When it came time for the rubber to hit the road and define our immediate next steps, the need to differentiate teacher professional learning offerings became more apparent than ever. As I am sure is the case on many school staffs, we have people at very different professional learning comfort levels. As the co-facilitator of our weekly TLCP sessions, I have also come to appreciate that there is the work that teachers feel needs to be done based on their perspective, and then there is the work that admin feels is required to move students and teachers along in our critical thinking and mathematics journey. While some might feel they know what the nature of the work is that needs to be done next… teacher buy-in is not a given. The Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) research of Hall and Hord has taught us for decades that unless we value the need for the perceived change, change will take longer to achieve and chances are it will not stick…

The good news is we have SEF days to access. Now we need a professional learning menu that offers choice if we really want to empower teachers to self-direct their job-embedded learning.

There are some excellent online resources available through our district online training and learning repository, PLUS this Fall, the Ontario Ministry of Education came out with some incredible monographs and webcasts DVDs that align directly with our areas of focus. So, the WHAT TO LEARN? syllabus is already there… at our finger tips actually.

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So here is the balance challenge:

I suggested allowing teachers to experience inquiry-based learning by having them sign up for their own professional learning focus and then, based on a set agreed-upon schedule, they would meet with those colleagues interested in the same topic to design their own learning adventure. We could assemble a variety of applicable learning resources from which they could read, discuss, study…

However, members of my leadership team feel this is too open-ended and teachers need more direct instruction and facilitation.  Hmmmm??? At what point do we allow teachers to experience curiosity and inquiry on their own without direct-facilitation from others?

I want to read the recent Natural Curiosity publication from the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (Natural Curiosity) OISE to find out more about instilling meaningful inquiry and curiosity in play-based early years programs.

Maybe everything we need to know, even about facilitating meaningful job-embedded teacher professional learning, does stem from Kindergarten?

Would love to hear what others have done or think…

8 thoughts on “Finding the balance…

  1. Wow, Tania, there are so many different ideas going on in this post, and it really has me nodding my head in empathy. The conversation around “At what point do we allow teachers to experience curiosity and inquiry on their own without direct-facilitation from others?” is one that has become all too familiar for me, you, and so many others.

    We just don’t model patience very well in the staff inquiry process. By suggesting that teachers (professionals, by the way) cannot fid and pursue their own path for growth and learning is in direct conflict with hat we so eloquently suggest students should be doing. That disconnect between theory and practice is never going to get anywhere.

    I think we have to assume, even though so many things tell us otherwise, that all teachers can learn in a self-directed and collaborative manner. I don’t see how we can expect it of the kids if this isn’t the case.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more Royan!

      If teachers aren’t able to navigate their own inquiry, they will never become self-directed learners. I believe as teacher leaders we can point colleagues in the direction of some worthwhile resources, but we cannot ‘make them drink’. In the end, they need to be the ones to ‘own’ the inquiry to truly embrace the learning and eventually change the practice.

      Being more patient (and persistent) is another 21st C skill hat we need a lot more practice doing in today’s classroom.

      In the words of Karen Hume, let’s meet learners where they are first, and build from there. this includes teachers as learners too!


  2. Glad to have connected on Twitter – enjoying the blog. We mentioned the EdCamp model in the #ntchat suggesting that some teachers like it, and some want more direction. Reading your post, and reflecting on the chat made me wonder if the EdCamp model couldn’t still meet both needs. It allows for more passive participation, but models and encourages active participation and contribution.

    • Miles-I have to thank you for bringing me back to my blog with your reply. Your comment about #edcamp offering the best of both worlds is so true, and I do think we are making gains in terms of teachers having more of a voice in directing their own pd. Over time, hopefully they’ll feel more accustomed to allowing the learning to flow out of the experience. The idea being, the more they experience ‘edcamp-esque’ type learning for their personal professional inquiry, the more apt they may be to planning spontaneous student-driven inquiry in their classrooms.
      Ever since I made the switch from the classroom to the secondment in the corporate world, I have found myself in blog limbo.
      I am so grateful for the #ntchat hosted by Lisa Dabbs that I participated in tonight because I think it’s a wonderful way for new teachers to connect with others and feel less isolated in those first few crucial year of the profession.
      There have been so many blogposts brewing in my head over the past 6 months, and there’s not enough room for them anymore. And the fact that I finally finished my doctorate has freed up some space for me to write them down and engage again in the activities of my PLN that I so love.
      I AM BACK!
      Seriously… thank you 🙂
      PS. Sidenote to @shareski, “Hey look… I’m blogging again!”

      • Congratulations on your doctorate – what an accomplishment! Looking forward to continuing the dialogue.

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