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Chapter 4: Professional Learning by Design

Anne E. Conzemius Solution Tree Press ePub

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.

—W. EDWARDS DEMING

Learning Forward published its “Definition of Professional Development” in 2009: “The term ‘professional development’ means a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement” (Learning Forward, 2010). If we consider PLC work through the lens of the definition of professional development, the connection is clear. Professional development is learning through reflection on collaborative practice.

In the busy world of schools, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the daily practice of teaching and learning holds the most potential for professional learning. The promise of such collaborative work toward the shared responsibility of student learning cannot be overstated. Oversimplification of the complexity of teachers’ work leads to the misconception that learning from their practice is something teachers do in addition to their real work or that they need others to tell them what to learn and when. School-based professional learning needs to be systematically designed into collaborative structures and processes while being articulated specifically over time until “professional development that fosters collective responsibility for improved student performance” is the new norm (Learning Forward, 2010). In this context, plans for professional learning should be:

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Chapter 5: Impact and Implementation

Anne E. Conzemius Solution Tree Press ePub

If gold represents the vision, then platinum represents the implementation.

—DOUGLAS B. REEVES

While helping schools and districts master the SMART goals process, we discovered that we needed to provide assistance way beyond training and coaching. Districts need support to help them situate SMART-goal writing and its use within the larger context of their work. Goals themselves don’t drive improvement; they must be aligned to the school improvement process, curriculum, instruction, assessment practices, mandates, and professional development. In order for goals to gain enough traction to have an impact, there must be a system that keeps us continuously focused on them. Indeed, unless we’re seeing short-term gains and increasing clarity regarding how we can work smarter, we soon become discouraged and move off course. It takes discipline at the beginning of new learning to stick to the methodology to gain momentum. This not only produces results but also increases our energy and excitement to see just how successful we can be.

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Appendix B Reproducibles

Anne E. Conzemius Solution Tree Press ePub

Random Number Table

Template for Organizing Staff Research Findings

Template for Planning Professional Development

The SMART Schools Self-Assessment

Team Charter

Meeting Agenda Template

Meeting Evaluation Form

Meeting Record

Meeting Skills Self-Assessment

Decision Matrix

Responsibility Matrix

Worksheet for Computing Control Limits

Collaborative Action Research Guide

 

A random number table is a survey tool for helping select a sample from a population so that each member of the population has an equal opportunity to be selected. By using a random number table, you can have greater confidence that the results you receive from the sample are similar to those you would get if you sampled the entire population.

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Chapter 6: Engaging the Mind, Body, and Spirit

Anne E. Conzemius Solution Tree Press ePub

Never lie to your horse.

—CHRIS COX

There is an emerging philosophy about the relationship between humans and horses called joining up. Once thought to be one of master and servant, the relationship is now viewed as a partnership.

At a recent joining-up clinic for horse owners, Anne watched a gentle cowboy work magic with one feisty steed after another. He began by removing some of the constraining equipment that has traditionally been used to control the horse. This was perplexing for the owners. After all, they had come to the clinic because they had been ineffective in controlling their horses; to remove the only control mechanisms they had seemed odd, if not dangerous.

The next step was to get the horse to move with the cowboy, not away from him. He gave the horse a gentle nudge in just the right place to signal the horse to move in one direction or another. Most people try to move a horse by pulling on the reins and halter. But the horse is bigger and stronger than the human, and when he decides he’s not going to move, jerking his head is only going to make him mad. The cowboy told the gathered owners that the day he realized that he had to work with the whole animal—body, spirit, and mind—was the day he became an effective horseman. He went on to say that, as the owner, you’ve got to work with the horse, get him to move by engaging his body, and then build a relationship by engaging his mind and spirit.

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Part Three: Implementing Effective School Improvement

Anne E. Conzemius Solution Tree Press ePub

The farmer in James Bender’s epigraph for this chapter illustrates a principle that’s known as systems thinking, a focus on optimizing performance for the system as a whole, often by working across traditional boundaries. We know from research that higher-quality learning and teaching result when schools operate like a system rather than a heap of pieces (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Hirsh & Hord, 2012). Schools achieve more when teams—not just individuals—are learning together, when the school as a whole is focused on a common mission and vision, and when professional learning is aligned and congruent with that focus. We know that for most schools the ability to be effective is directly related to the larger district’s effectiveness and efficiency. In short, we know the power of thinking and acting like a system.

The principles, tools, and methods we describe in this chapter and throughout this book lay the groundwork to help your teams start thinking like a system. A system is a collection of parts that interact to function as a whole. One truism concerning a system is that it cannot be divided to get identical separate parts; alternatively, a heap of parts can be so divided. For example, a pile of sand can be divided, and you will have two piles of sand. A horse, however, will not be two separate horses if divided!

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