A Stride in the Right Direction

Throughout the Digital Learning and Leadership program at Lamar University. I have been introduced to the idea that the end product, vital behaviors, or BHAG will only be reached if that final output receives first priority in all circumstances. The presentation that will follow, as my “What,” combined with a teacher leader presenter, will move educators within the entirety of academia to the agreement that Professional Learning must evolve with the coming of the Digital Age. We have also been instructed to develop our projects in the hopes that we will use what we are learning within our organizations. This simultaneous advancement and employment of teacher leaders across the country will expedite our field’s move to the Common Core Standards. I, originally, had my sights set on a near-unreachable goal. Once I realized I did not have to bound through my career, I adjusted my stride to accomplish a necessary step within my current organization. This presentation aims to inspire questions throughout its audience. This presentation finds its “What” in a hopeful pursuit to create the urge in teachers to take back the power of being a life-long-learner. The survey titled “How Do You Want to Learn?” will act as radar for which teachers will be enlisted to assist in spreading interest and which teachers will be targeted to develop new interest.

A Blended Approach to Professional Learning

How Do You Want to Learn?

The “How” of the presentation defines itself as all great ideas do: a collaboration of a few good ideas and less bad ideas. After viewing How Presentation Zen Fixed My Bad Powerpoints and How to Avoid Death by Powerpoint, I took to my Microsoft Office with tenacity and determination. I had my BHAG; I was going to join the worlds of K-12 public education and the world of higher education. Districts would pair with online graduate programs to provide teachers with courses aligned to eventually earn a Master’s Degree in focuses such as Educational Leadership, Digital Learning and Leadership, Special Education, Teaching English as a Second Language, and more. Great ideas also need the counseling of an outside source. After consulting with my professors, I decided that it was best to focus my presentation on achieving the goals I had set out for with my innovation plan. An upcoming outline will determine my agenda for enlisting the peers of my organization to ensure my organization takes the steps needed to implement my innovation plan and more importantly, save teachers from out-dated, ill-used professional development.

Even good plans can change

In EDLD 5305, I was asked to develop an innovation and an outline for that innovation to be implemented. My Outline for Proposal to Adopt Blended Learning Program was more than I could handle. The plan was not received well in my organization, and I knew that I needed to re-prioritize my goals to achieve the original innovation plan down the road. I aimed my sights at something more manageable. I observed that even though the bellwork plan at our school had created growth in student achievement, the bellwork plan was not working to its full potential. This led me to develop a a new innovation plan. I followed this innovation plan by developing a 4DX model of implementation. I believe that achieving this WIG foremost will provide me with the credibility within my organization to revisit my original innovation plan to incorporate a station rotation model of blended learning in my organization.

Let’s Bring Departments Together

A major reason for the lack of collaboration in my organization is the psychological separation between departments. Not only do departments section themselves off during faculty meetings, celebrations, PD, etc. they separate themselves by their content areas to the students. My goal is to role-model collaboration to the students by increasing collaboration between departments. Observation Games outlines my proposal to change the way bellwork is being observed at Heritage High School. I would like to change the amount of observations and the way observations take place. My experience with bellwork observations is as follows: an administrator arrives in your room unannounced, observes your bellwork exercise, and places the rubric in your mailbox with a few points circled and maybe a sentence of feedback. I aim to change this practice of  observation using the six sources of influence.

1) Personal motivation: Currently in our district, teachers may earn an infinite amount of compensatory time, but can only use 16 hours over the course of the year, 8 in the first semester and 8 in the second. For a teacher to observe a peer they must give up their valued planning period, so why should they not receive comp time for their efforts to collaborate with their peers? However, the ability to earn comp time does not translate into motivation to earn that time if you cannot use the hours you earn. Therefore, I move that teachers be allowed to use 16 hours of comp time a semester to motivate teachers to complete their observations and participate in the other various methods of earning comp time: chaperoning after-school functions, teacher-parent conference nights, etc.

2) Personal ability: Observations are of no use if they are not done properly. A teacher that views checked boxes of a vague and confusing rubric to receive feedback on their performance may hear the wrong message or feel they were observed unfairly or unjustly. Observations need to incorporate deliberate practice. Teachers should discuss what the observer will be observing in detail (this could happen face-to-face or through email), record meaningful feedback to give back to the observee, and feedback should be discussed between the two teachers and if possible an administrator/3rd party. Teachers will need to know what this practice looks like; therefore, it could be modeled during a pre-planning day or in-service day. Teachers will then have the proper skills to observe each other displayed for them.

3) Social Motivation: This proposal asks teachers to complete more work in an already busy school-year. There will no doubt be an enormous amount of resistance to the idea of more observations and observations of other department members. The way to combat this is to gain support from the teacher leaders within the school. These are not necessarily the department heads. Teachers that are respected within the school must be part of teaching observation skills, and the professional development sessions must include as many teachers as possible to reinforce skills taught and learned. Endorsement of observations by the teacher leaders wipes the dirt off what is an obvious way to better personal skill within the classroom.

4) Social Ability: This is where observation of different department members comes into play. I would argue social ability is the reason teachers stick to their own departments rather than the departments not getting along. It is much more comfortable to socialize with peers that have commonalities through content area, than trying to empathize with peers outside of your content area. Teachers that observe classes outside of their department will come face-to-face with the goings-on of the teachers in their school and build relationships between their peers through noticing similarities and differences that each content area poses. This strengthens the bonds between the teachers and promotes further collaboration.

5) Structural Motivation: Why will teachers want to perform proper observations if improper observations are accepted? My organization uses the professional development platform ProGoe to document peer and administrative observations. This allows the observer to simply check a few boxes, click submit, and move on to the next task. This is an efficient way to document the observations but not necessarily meaningful. While there is a place to write in feedback, I have noticed that many teachers “pride themselves” in accomplishing their observations as quick as possible; therefore, I’m assuming checking boxes is the most used practice. I propose a mandatory write-in piece of feedback for at least one aspect of each of the five dimensions included within the observation.

6) Structural Ability: If teachers are going to be mandated to give written feedback, then they better know how to give proper feedback. The collaboration that happens during the reading or listening of feedback by the observee is arguably the most crucial point of the observation. I, personally, was lost for a week or two after my principal threw me through a loop by giving me feedback for my lesson planning when he only saw the implementation of the plan. Teachers must be instructed on what proper feedback looks like and sounds like. Teachers must also be instructed on how to respond to feedback. This is something that I believe can be accomplished by demonstrations by the teacher leaders during a pre-planning day or in-service day. Teachers are tired of seeing the same PD slideshows every year anyways.

This is going to be a mountain of a hike to accomplish, but by arranging support in the right places and dedicated work it is attainable. Teachers will not easily see the obvious opportunity to better their practices and their peer practices. However, by using crucial moments to demonstrate proper skills and value of observations, teacher leaders to create a bandwagon, and speaking up against those that aim to devalue the change, schools will build a strong culture of inclusiveness and collaboration starting with the teachers and ending with the students.