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What’s Your Professional Learning Community Style?

 

Contrasting Styles Add Spark!

What do you want out of collaborative time? Has your team ever discussed the best way to use that time? One method for understanding each other’s wants and needs is to explore four overall styles that describe different ways that teachers

  • Learn
  • Communicate
  • Value forms of data
  • Benefit from support

While all of us can flex, and benefit from learning in different ways, collaboration is more effective for everyone if no one is constantly left out. 

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Does Your Professional Learning Community Have a Coaching Culture?

If your PLC is endeavoring to go beyond data analysis to deep collaboration that has an impact on student learning, establishing a coaching culture creates the necessary trust. What is a coaching culture? Here are some key markers, available as a handout at the Solution Tree site for my book Creating a Coaching Culture for Professional Learning Communities. Which apply to your team?

  • Members welcome diversity as a tool for making better decisions and use a common framework to communicate more clearly and understand other viewpoints
  • Members can ask questions, share beliefs, challenge ideas, and disagree with each other as part of their mutual commitment to adult learning and improved student achievement;
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Chocolate Chip Cookies and Instructional Coaching

How is baking chocolate chip cookies similar to implementing teaching strategies? It has a lot to do with “implementation with fidelity”–instructional coaches are often taught to look for key elements necessary for a given strategy to work. YES you need to identify those elements BUT when you’re observing a classroom, beware. They may be harder to recognize than you think. Just like a good chocolate chip cookie.

The Chef Effect

My mother taught my four big brothers and me to bake chocolate chip cookies. In education terms, we all had the same “instructional coach.” !

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Differentiated Professional Development

Besides telling me, “That was practical,” attendees at my daylong workshops also comment, “You kept us awake all day. What did you do?” Well, I differentiated.

I do my best to model what I hope teachers will do for students: “teach around” the learning styles so that the day’s activities are varied and everyone’s needs are met at least some of the time. You can learn more about how these styles apply to students in my Educational Leadership article, “Let Me Learn My Own Way”, but the styles also apply to teachers. Try planning your next professional development session with something for each style.

  • “Let me master it!” Teachers with this learning style often appreciate receiving detailed instructions for new strategies or lessons. Provide time for reading those instructions and asking detailed questions. Give a demonstration or show a film clip of a teacher using the new strategy.
  • “Let me do something!” These teachers do not want to sit still all day!
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Of Course Teachers Can Become More Effective!

A recent article proclaims that “The findings of several recent studies by psychologists, economists, and educators show that—despite many reformers’ claims to the contrary—it may be possible to make low-performing teachers better, instead of firing them.” (“How To Build a Better Teacher http://tinyurl.com/cnnl2pn)

Why would we think otherwise? How has the debate over teacher quality lost track of how excellence is developed in any field? It takes time, targeted practice, and the right support!

First, it takes 10,000 hours to reach excellence, as Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently documents in Outliers. That’s 10,000 hours–about 8 school years’ worth–with the right sort of coaching and support. Let’s be clear, too, that only actual teaching, lesson planning, assessment construction and analysis, and other core responsibilities count toward those hours, not preservice theory work (although that may guide practice).

A compilation of over 100 studies from many disciplines revealed, “When most people practice, they focus on the things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all.” [1] 

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