This week I am going to post about working with adult learners. The Common Core State Standards have turned us all into learners again and the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession has a Teacher Leadership Framework that can help us all be stronger leaders and learners. More on how this came about and a post about how the Common Core Standards meet the CSTP Framework skill, Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy is available in my last post here. The Framework includes a section specifically on the skill of working with adult learners.
When looking at this skill what really struck me was the section on the dispositions teacher leaders needed to have to be strong when working with adult learners. They are:
- Believe that teacher learning is interwoven with student learning
- Value the work of learners
- Accept and act on constructive feedback
- Posses courage to take risks
- Is reliable
Just like the conclusion I came to about having the proper knowledge and skills and the Common Core, the CCSS don’t inherently help teacher leaders work with adult learners, but they for sure force them to.
To begin with, the Common Core State Standards are a learning curve for teachers. The three shifts of the Common Core; regular practice with complex text and its academic language, reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from the text both literary and informational, and building knowledge through content-rich non-fiction, are stretches for many teachers. Each teacher will have to make a larger or smaller shift in any of the three, however it is still a measurable change for all. This is the type of teacher learning that needs support. The ability to shift the thinking of a colleague as a teacher leader will inevitably impact student learning. The end goal of the Common Core is not to have teachers understand them, of course we must understand them, but we can’t stop there. The end goal is to have the teachers use the Common Core to shift their practice in a way that students can achieve and learn the knowledge and skills. In this way it is clear that teacher learning is inseparable, forever interwoven, with student learning.
Teacher leaders need to also really value the work of learners. Teachers are some busy people. It is so important that as the Common Core push our boundaries and begin to shift our thinking that teachers feel valued and feel their work is paying off. Teacher leaders can do this in many ways. The best way I have found is to make it public when someone has some learning success. Tweet it out, or send an email to your other colleagues. Ask teachers who are learning and leading to share that with other teachers. It empowers them to feel valued and it also might just rub off on other teachers who are not so ready to jump in. The basic practice of continually celebrating little victories will go a long way.
Teacher leaders need to know that each participant is right there with them. When bringing the Common Core to adult learners there will be room for growth. Teacher leaders are still very much in the process of creating the professional development around the Common Core. Valuing the feedback of those who are in the training and doing the learning is one of the most integral pieces of moving the CCSS forward. Accepting and acting on constructive feedback from people who are in the process of the learning will be the most powerful way to make teacher leadership stronger.
As far as the disposition of possessing the courage to take risks goes, I believe being a teacher leader is always risky. Implementing the Common Core, and then making that implementation, the successes and the failures transparent, is courageous. To then stand in front of an audience of adults who may or may not be excited to be there is truly risky and bold. Teacher leaders can call upon their natural tendency to be courageous already to bring the Common Core to others and to be raw and vulnerable about it.
Being reliable is a disposition that seems important for every part of teaching. We need to be reliable for our students and parents to trust us. It seems clear that we would also be stronger teacher leaders and do a better job of implementing and learning the CCSS if we are reliable. If someone is reliable and trustworthy adult learners will be more apt, younger learners as well, to take to heart the fundamental message being presented.
It really all just comes back to the idea that it is the responsibility of any teacher leader, whether in that role formally or informally, to believe that teacher learning is interwoven with student learning, value the work of learners, accept and act on constructive feedback, posses courage and take risks, and to be reliable. This last weekend at a Common Core tweet-up at the PSESD I found myself saying that the CCSS hve not necessarily presented an answer to how teacher leaders should approach new standards but it has for sure created a need. These five dispositions presented in the framework for working with adult learners are dispositions that all teachers should work on fostering in themselves and others. While we are moving ahead in our world of professional development, collaboration, standards, and evaluations we will all be counted on to be the leader at one point or another. I can see more clearly everyday that we are all working with adult learners, teaching and learning with and from one another.
For more on the Teacher Leadership Framework or the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, you can go to the CSTP website.