This year our district is implementing professional learning communities (PLC's) as a process to use for our ongoing, job-embedded professional learning. We are using a book study for the first semester, On Common Ground, to lay the foundation for our work. Book study teams are made up of 5-7 people and each has an administrator as a support person. Each team must keep a running log of group reflections and discussions, and each team is expected to meet twice a week from 7:30 - 8:15am. The intent of our PD is to provide more structured learning at the beginning and tapper off as the year progresses, so teachers are confidently operating as collaborative teams in the PLC model by the end of the school year (focus on learning, focus on results, collaborative culture).
From this initial teaming, a piece of our vision has emerged. Teachers are clamoring for individualized learning. Teams are in different parts of the continuum regarding professional learning communities and collaboration and some are ready to move beyond the book. Without using the terms, what did they ask for within a month of school starting? They want a standards-based approach to professional development.
We have created the standards for professional development that all teachers will demonstrate before the end of the year (see below). We are starting to prepare for the supplemental and intensive professional development (should it be needed) that those who have not met the standards will be part of starting in January. No one will fail to meet the standards. All teachers will succeed. Some will meet them with little help from me or other administrators. Some will get to know me well over the course of standard-specific help sessions. Some will wish we could go back to the old way of "learning" where we didn't look at whether a teacher (or student) learned as long as the information was taught.
Honestly though, I don't think there will be one teacher in our district that will want to go back to the old way of sit-and-get PD where no one cared if you could demonstrate anything back in your classroom. I am convinced that teachers are learners not dissimilar from their students. They want to know what the target is; they want to know if they are hitting the target; they want to know they are held accountable for their learning, because that means it's important to learn. If we want this for students, we have to want this for our teachers. We are going to walk the walk for personalized learning starting with our teachers.
Standards for Van Meter Professional Development 2010-2011
Describe the difference between a focus on teaching and a focus on learning
Explain the purpose of a collaborative team including reciting the 4 DuFour guiding questions
Offer suggestions of ways to deal with negative behavior in a group
Describe ways groups can build consensus
Explain the role of discourse and conflict in a collaborative team’s success
Describe the big shifts in professional development in PLC model from PD of the past (traditional model)
Write SMART goals focused on student learning that should be considered for future work
Maintain focused, on-task discussion
Hold the group accountable for established norms
Give descriptive versus evaluative feedback
Give examples of discussions appropriate for Van Meter collaborative teams
Share examples of data you would use to discuss learning
Share thoughts on how collaborative teams will improve student learning in Van Meter
Defend a priority for common formative assessment development in your content area, grade level, or cross-curricular team