Implementation of Common Core calls for shifts in instruction to increase rigor and better prepare students for college and career. If we want classroom experiences to be different, teacher learning needs to reflect that. Over the course of the past year, PSESD has been engaging in work that leads to a deeper learning experience for teachers.
1. Teachers play an active role in leading the learning
Who better to lead professional learning experiences than teachers themselves? Teacher leaders play a pivotal role in the change process because they understand current classroom realities and can challenge the status quo when necessary. This year, PSESD hired a cadre of social media teacher leaders. These accomplished educators have created a powerful community of practice where they learn with and from one another. They write a group blog about their successes and challenges implementing Common Core, lead Twitter chats and facilitate face-to-face learning experiences. Recently, the teacher leaders organized and led a Tweet Up for and by teachers. This event featured a short presentation on how to use Twitter to connect educators, a live Twitter chat for participants to apply new skills and a discussion by a panel of distinguished teachers from across the region sharing how they approached Common Core.
2. Authentic, job embedded learning opportunities
Providing opportunities for teachers to learn and apply new tools to adapt materials to reflect the instructional shifts called for in the Common Core has provided relevant learning experiences and has led to immediate changes in classroom practice. Puget Sound area educators have been working together to create modules (units of study) using Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) tools. LDC assists teachers in creating Common Core aligned literacy instruction across disciplines. The LDC Guidebook states, “LDC allows teachers to build content on top of a coherent approach to literacy. This is drastically different than past, less structured notions of ‘adding’ reading and writing when possible to the teaching of content.” LDC not only affords a chance to retrofit existing text with instructional practices aligned to new standards, but provides opportunities for collaborative analysis of student learning and peer feedback.
3. Balance collective and personalized learning
While participating in a LDC cohort is a powerful learning opportunity, whole group learning is just part of the equation. Instructional coaching is one effective strategy for personalizing learning for teachers as they implement LDC. While employing full-time LDC coaches can be expensive, virtual coaching offers another promising alternative. This solution has afforded us the ability to connect master LDC teachers from across the nation with teachers in classrooms throughout the Puget Sound region. Best of all, this solution offers teachers the convenience to schedule coaching sessions at a time and location of their choice.
Platforms such as Twitter provide unlimited opportunities for educators to build a professional learning network and a venue for personalized learning. The power of Twitter is that it opens up learning to outside the classroom and it encourages teachers to do the same with students. There is no shortage of chats that provide opportunity for inquiry and collaboration on all things Common Core 24/7. One example is the monthly #WATeachLead Twitter chat moderated by Social Media Teacher Leaders which have helped educators in Washington State and beyond make meaning of the Common Core.
If we are to create rich learning experiences for students, we must also provide rich professional learning experiences for educators. Simply providing passive learning opportunities that don’t lead to changes in classroom practices won’t move the needle when it comes to student learning. Our teachers and students deserve much better.