July Blog - Designing for Next Year

2022 Jul 06, 2022

Recently, I was in conversation with a group of neighbours at the end of the driveway. It was the time of evening when the light was soft in the sky and the worries of the day seemed to have faded away. Two of us were educators and the rest held jobs in both the private and other public sectors. Part way through the conversation, one of the neighbours said that it must be great to work in education, as we had two full months of vacation in front of us; he continued by saying that it must also be very relaxing to not have to think about work for that length of time. The other educator amongst us – a principal – replied that one would think so. However, for him, thoughts of his staff were never far from his mind. He took this time to reflect, make connections, and plan. 

 

Most people who have been teachers share that sentiment. It is hard to “turn off” from our students or those whom we lead. We see a fossil imprinted in a rock along the shore and we wonder how we might weave it into a science lesson in the fall. We watch an inspiring TED talk and we think about how we might use it as a provocation to a class discussion. We come across a quote on Twitter and we immediately consider how we can connect it to our opening day staff meeting. 

 

So, whether you are just beginning to enjoy a school break or quickly seeing it come to an end, we know that you are thinking about creating next year’s learning spaces so that everyone can thrive. Over the last few weeks, we have been talking with school leaders about what thriving and flourishing will look like in relation to professional learning. We have been invited to share these key messages:

  • We continue to read about all of the learning that has been lost, so, when planning professional learning, consider what your adult learners already know. What is present? What experiences have they had? This allows our planning to be oriented from an asset mindset, rather than a deficit one. Additionally, it signals that leaders value what their adult learners know, understand, and can do. In other words, the leader uses the principles of assessment for learning – knowing what you want or need to learn, identifying what you already know, and developing the path to close that gap – support an active construction of knowledge.
  • Check for your own modality bias. Do you believe that your adult learners require the same learning experiences in the same way at the same time? As we write on page 47 of  Transforming Schools and Systems Using Assessment: A Practical Guide, “Effective professional development must respect different entry points, strengths, needs, and preferences. Learning opportunities need to be multi-layered, and differentiated.” What we now know is that the careful blending of synchronous and asynchronous learning can speak to those multiple entry points. So, as you plan for professional learning, consider what aspects of that learning can be done online, either independently or in a group, through a course, recording, or webinar. How, then, can that learning connect to powerful and engaging face-to-face strategies, like the World Café or a jigsaw? As leaders, we can set aside our modality bias and invite those whom we lead to see themselves in the opportunities that lie ahead. In this way, varied learning styles and multiple paths address the uniqueness of each adult learner and enable choice, while affirming the common destination.
  • We build on the notion of multiple pathways by framing learning with questions and experiences that push beyond single answers or a best practice. How professional learning is structured can suggest possibilities and opportunities that respect the varied experiences, cultures, values, and unique challenges that all students bring into the classroom. As Dr. Anne Davies often says, “Adapt. Not adopt.” Many teachers find energy and joy in examining a breadth of practices, while contemplating what that practice could look like in their context; professional learning that converges on a “right” strategy robs teachers of their creativity. So, as a leader, look for professional learning that invites divergent thinking and, simultaneously, a deep recognition of their learners – particularly in light of the pandemic and its far-reaching effects on learning and well being. 

 

As we design and implement professional learning, we are reminded to keep adult learners in mind – their strengths, experiences, and learning styles. Leaders can provide them with choice, opportunities to learn and practice, as well as instructional methods that fit their way of constructing knowledge. A cohesive and textured plan that encourages sustainability of thought and practice reminds us all that professional learning is worth our intentional and deliberate planning – even in small moments during our well-deserved time away from work. 

 

Remember that we are here to support you as you build those professional learning plans for the next school year. Whether through online courses, live or recorded webinars, an extensive online resource library and community, print or e-books, or face-to-face facilitation or coaching, Connect2Learning can personalize the learning experience for you and your colleagues. Take a moment to look at our website and to see our extensive offerings or connect with Nick Christofis, Educational Resource Consultant, by phone (1.888.945.9888 Toll-free North America or 1.416.270.7753) or email at [email protected].  We would be happy to help!