A holiday recipe for new teacher professional learning success

The holiday season is all about celebrating family, friends and community.  In that spirit, I would like to share some inspiration and a good recipe for professional learning success. Take a moment to join me for a conversation with Shannon Terry, Director of Professional Learning for Arlington Independent School District, that will light up your holiday season.

Positive.  Passionate. Purposeful.

These are the three words that epitomize this 2018 Learning Forward Academy Patsy Hochman Scholarship award winner.  Selected for her commitment to growing as a district-based professional learning leader in Texas, Terry is working with fellow 2018 Academy Class member Kelly Hastings to collaborate on building stronger professional learning communities as one strategy for advancing teacher agency and collective efficacy as a districtwide priority.

Terry is excited to join Learning Forward in bringing about a transformational shift in professional learning, and she tackles a seemingly monumental task by distilling it down to a beautifully simple equation:

New Teacher Induction Program
Teacher Agency
Collaborative Culture, Collective Efficacy & Attainment of Individual & Systemwide Performance Goals

Teacher agency through induction

In Arlington ISD, they are focused on advancing teacher agency through a new teacher induction program.  Through looking at research on how professional learning should be driven by teacher agency to advance collective efficacy, Arlington ISD is focusing on scaling teacher agency to a new term they have coined “EDUgency,” where every stakeholder in the system is equipped to exercise agency so that the system itself provides the infrastructure to allow each stakeholder to maximize (relevant, timely, on topic) agency and be responsive as consumers of professional learning opportunities.  Each level within the organization exercises agency (district leadership, campus administrators, instructional support staff, teachers, students, etc.) to create synergy around the work of improving student learning.

The results have been empowering.  Content leaders design and deliver professional learning opportunities that model the way we want students working together (no “sage on the stage”) so that new teachers engage as facilitators of their own learning.  This leads to effective teaching and learning practices and professional confidence.  How do you foster teacher agency in new teachers?  Shift the way they are learning and celebrate along the way!  Take a look at @aisdlearning on Twitter and consider the #kidsdeserveit materials that served as a catalyst for leveraging social media to promote agency.

The new teacher program attendance from last year to this year has grown tremendously.  You know the material and the facilitators are inspiring when new teachers choose to come after their work days to continue their learning.  Check out the induction topics, data analysis and emerging questions that Terry has compiled in her resource packet.  In creating this professional learning community, she found that by learning and being vulnerable together, trust builds, connections form and growth mindsets result.  Terry even brought one of her own challenges she was working through and actually participated in the Problem of Practice process, which is also is very similar to conducting Action Research.  What a powerful way to build teacher agency through collaboration by having new teachers share their fresh perspectives and contribute to solving the problem.  Researcher Brené Brown talks about The Power of Vulnerability and why authenticity and caring what others think matters in her popular TED Talk.

Social networks + continuous improvement

Aligned with Learning Forward’s work, A Bridge Between Worlds:  Understanding Network Structure to Understand Change Theory shows that your organizational structure does not change just from focusing on outcomes.  What transforms education in a meaningful way are the social networks and the density of those relationships.  The importance of central office to the work of the reforms is all based on network structures – the denser they are (frequency and points of contact) – the faster the transformation occurs.

Terry and Arlington ISD are igniting the spark of power of collaboration and meaningful work as they build personal learning networks and blend them together purposefully with a continuous improvement mindset: Everything around you is an opportunity to learn.  Check out these “bright light” resources for collaboration:

  • Group Map – an online collaboration tool that allows you to use T chart, plus delta, brainstorm, elevator speeches, prioritize, etc. to get immediate data.  Participants can see what is happening collectively while they are participating individually.  It helps leaders to quickly assess needs.
  • Answer Garden and Word Clouds can be used to see what is trending with teachers.
  • Take the Today’s Meet transcript and put it in a World Cloud to see what comes up as top areas of concern or focus.

Collective teacher efficacy

The Challenge:  How do we build an infrastructure to be responsive to, or create, the conditions for teacher agency, that considers new teachers’ developmental characteristics, and builds instructional knowledge and skills aligned to campus and district priorities?

The Solution:  With collective teacher efficacy.

According to John Hattie, the largest effect size related to student achievement is collective teacher efficacy. (Here is a link to Hattie’s Ranking of Effect Sizes.)  In Visible Learning for Teachers:  Maximizing Impact on Learning, he shares that great things happen once teachers know their own roles, seeing learning through the eyes of their students. That is the focus in Arlington ISD – All stakeholders understanding their roles combined with the appropriate action will equal positive change throughout the system.  Terry acknowledges that, “with teacher efficacy the challenge is not necessarily content (we have that) – it is how to design systems teachers can navigate/access (face to face or virtually) as they exercise agency.”

“Think of the power if our new teachers’ first experiences with professional learning is their first point of departure to developing teacher agency. This could frame how they facilitate, inspire and lead learning over the course of their careers as educators.  If we figure out how to do it correctly at their point of entry, what a powerful thing that will be in terms of accelerating the work of transforming traditional school systems into true learning organizations!” effuses Terry.

With the department mantra of “We have the mind for the future with the future in mind,” we can’t wait to see how the key ingredients of teacher agency, professional learning, density of relationships and collective teacher efficacy create a recipe for success in Arlington ISD!

Learning Forward Foundation Scholarships

The Learning Forward Foundation scholarship contest encourages educators to put their good ideas into action and apply their research and creativity to impact education’s most profound challenges. Learn more or donate to the Learning Forward Foundation scholarships and grants.

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