A few years ago I purchased my dream car: a 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS, bright orange with a black racing stripe and chrome details. I was in heaven. As summer rolled in, I lived to get that car out and take it for a ride on the country roads and hear the engine purr. As summer turned to fall I soon discovered a few things that hindered my ownership of this new love. The heating system didn’t quite work, and there was some undiscovered rust under the driver door; which meant I could no longer drive it in the rain. My dream car had to rest in the garage until some more work could be done. Unfortunately, there are no mechanics in my family, so the time and money it would take to begin the repairs would soon be discovered to be more than anticipated. After a year, the Chevelle was sold. The dream car seemed to be just that...a dream.
Professional Development for teachers can be like that dream car. We join the webinar, attend the conference or training and we are ready to roll! Then, we head back to our classrooms and try to keep the engine running. All too soon, there are starts and sputters, an engine light comes on and the task of maintaining is too overwhelming. Where are the mechanics in our school family to help us out?
As districts contemplate budget cuts, the role of Instructional Coaching has been on the chopping block. Strategic, job-embedded coaching actively impacts student learning. This role of “IC Mechanic” can drive successful instruction, and offers a tool box of support to improve our schools. We have learned that students learn better by doing and as others have pointed out, teachers are much the same.
Three years ago, as the Instructional coach in my building I wanted to work on a professional development engine that we could maintain and get us to the ultimate goal of impacting student learning. I wanted to take the PD road less traveled and be in classrooms with teachers during their teaching day. I playfully called it “PD on the GO!” As we have traveled the highways of this job embedded PD journey, we have taken the time to do regular oil changes. Our PLCs have weekly share outs of lesson enhancement protocols based on PD on the GO sessions to allow for more cooperative work among teams. In turn, student improvement data goals have been developed by PLC teams to reflect the goals that PD on the GO can support. Further reflection of assessments related to these goals have shown instructional improvement and student success!
OSPI’s Menu of Best Practices and Strategies clearly outlines that in order to strengthen student educational outcomes, professional learning should be job embedded. What does job-embedded professional development really mean? What does it look like? According to the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, Job-Embedded PD (JEPD) is “teacher learning that is grounded in day to day teaching practice and is designed to enhance teachers’ content-specific instructional practices with the intent of improving student learning.” Ineffective “sit & get”, “spray & pray”, “drive-by” PD needs to be replaced with an action based, on-going, supportive structure that teachers can count on to continue the work! This is the heart of PD on the GO.
The manual for success is outlined by these three important steps:
CHECK THE INDICATOR LIGHTS
First, I need to check with teachers to see how their engine is running. Based on data, that helps us clearly see the needs of the students in his or her classroom, what will we start to focus on together? To streamline this, I do some work prior to each school year by giving a survey to teachers, PLC teams and administrators about overarching needs reflective of school improvement plans. This allows me to create a menu of professional development job embedded topics for teachers to choose from. It also allows for groups of teachers who are working on similar goals to team up and collaborate together throughout the process.
2. MAKE SURE THE PISTONS ARE FIRING CORRECTLY
Next, I need to help teachers set some clear goals for the work ahead. These goals need to be student centered with clear outcomes that are aligned with WSLS. This is where we dig a little deeper to make the learning come alive for both teachers and students. It is one thing to know that an indicator light tells us to do some checking. It is much more to actually get under the hood and understand what needs some maintenance. This is where our planning for instruction gets detailed. Here are some examples of questions that may surface during our planning conversations:
● What do you want students to leave thinking/feeling/able to do?
● How will you know you are successful? What will that look and sound like?
● What are some strategies you have used before that might be successful with this group?
● What is most important for you to pay attention to in yourself?
“It’s not about a magical intervention to help the kids this year; it’s about helping teachers make decisions based on the level of understanding of all students. That’s how you close the achievement gap.” - Dr. Dylan William
Once the pistons are all firing its time to . . .
3. MAKE SURE TO HAVE THE KEYS TO IGNITE THE ENGINE
This is where I offer some specific tools that might help teachers reach these goals. Some of these tools might be in their own tool box, and they just haven’t utilized them in a while (they were those forgotten tools on the shelf from sit & get PDs of the past). Either way, it is important to take the keys and practice turning them in the ignition while stepping on the gas pedal. This practice is done by implementing routines and strategies in a way that gradually releases the responsibility and allows teachers to have the flexibility to make these choices in THEIR classroom with THEIR students. To do this, I set up a 4 week coaching cycle that includes:
● Week 1 & 2: Modeling
● Week 2 & 3: Co-Teaching
● Week 4: Teacher Solo Implementation with Coaching Reflection
In addition, when teachers complete a cycle they can then sign up for collaborative lesson planning times for an additional 4 weeks to sustain the work and collaborate with both myself and other teachers who have been developing some of the same tools for instruction. These keys not only ignite the engine, but they offer the support and accountability to keep it running.
As teachers, we have that “dream car” of instruction that hums along the road to student understanding. We all want to jump into that vehicle and take a joy ride! However, if we don’t have the mechanics and a manual to support professional growth, our engines will stall and our students will suffer. Job-Embedded Professional Development with a clear vision can offer the support to keep teachers and students on the road to success.
● How do you use job-embedded professional development to keep your learning engines running?
● What roadblocks seem to get in the way of sustaining the work?
- best practice
- instructional coaching
- instructional planning
- job embedded professional development
- Professional Development
- student centered learning
- teacher support