Sunday, July 2, 2017

standards and professional learning

After reviewing the Alabama Quality Teaching Standards and the Standards for Professional Learning from Learning Forward, what are the most important aspects of designing professional learning activities that are meaningful to the teachers but also aligned to standards?

I've heard the horror stories of professional development: hours at boring meetings that have no point or are not at all applicable to your students or the worst, when it feels like a sales pitch for a new and improved  product where the only parts that are new and improved are the addition of the words "new and improved."

The there are the memes:

One of the first things that jump out about professional learning, is that teachers do not find them meaningful. Teachers loathe when students ask "Why do we have to learn this?" yet when it comes to training, teachers turn around and ask administrators the same thing! If the teacher doesn't find the training relevant, then the teacher, just like his or her student, tunes out.

This is where the standards come in, just like it does with our students. As adult learners, we are goal oriented. As teachers, our goal should be to help our students. We help our students by continuing to learn. Students change every year. Technology changes. It isn't realistic for teachers to think they can stop learning just because they've finished a degree or have a certain number of years in the classroom.

It is also important to recognize teaching doesn't take place in a vacuum. Teachers are part of large and small communities with a variety of experiences. One of the best training sessions I attended was with all teachers in my content area who taught grades 6, 7, and 8 (all grade 8 students attended a separate school from grades 6 and 7). The purpose was to show how the standards built upon each other and transitioned between grade levels. It allowed us to discuss why certain skills were critical as they were key to mastering later standards. We were also able to have a frank discussion about what skills we didn't prioritize and how that impacted future success on the standards. This professional development experience showed us our "collective responsibility," in addition to extending our support network.

This could have easily been a session where everyone pointed the finger at another grade level for not teaching, but instead it was used to show the teachers how we could better build upon each other. It also encouraged us to look at the 9th grade standards to make sure we knew what we had to prepare the students to do.

When teachers know and understand why we have to attend the meetings and what benefit those meetings are to ourselves and our students, we become invested. We give our students standards and goals to increase their investment  in their education. As teachers, we expect the same.

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