Tag Archives: Personalisation

Working Towards Personalised PLD – Part 2

Right oh, so in the last post I shared some of the underpinning thinking behind an emerging approach to professional learning for staff. To quickly summarise, I would like professional learning to:

  • is personalised (voice, choice, interests, passions, ownership…)
  • incorporates ‘play’
  • moves towards smaller self-directed groups
  • mirrors what we want to see happening for our learners
  • empowers teachers
  • provides conditions for innovation and creativity
  • aligns to our school vision.

As I started thinking about this more I started sketching out a diagram of where my thinking was headed. This is what shape it started taking.

I will attempt to explain what is going on.

  1. Central to the approach is the school vision & values. This drives everything we do.
  2. Stemming out from the vision are inquiry streams. These relate directly back to the vision and values. The streams are co-constructed by the staff and could be a new approach or idea they want to investigate further, an extension of one of our strategic goals, a passion or interest area, a hunch, known review area…
  3. Each stream has staff members who opt in to it. This group of teachers is currently referred to as a professional learning group (PLG). These are characterised by:
    • being self chosen
    • having their own budget with which they can spend as they decide (e.g. to release teachers, to engage outside expertise, going on school visits, purchasing professional texts)
    • defining their own structure/approach (e.g. the roles within the group, responsibilities, protocols and expectations, professional inquiry model, where and when they meet)
    • having a coach assigned to them to work 1-1 with each PLG member
  4. Each PLG develops a set of agreed upon expected outcomes. These clearly show how they see their inquiry impacting on the group, the members, and the learners, and will serve as a review & monitoring baseline for measuring the impact of the inquiry.
  5. It is anticipated that the members of the group will:
    • be in control
    • be active and engaged
    • highly value the professional trust placed in them
    • engage in rich professional dialogue.
  6. The coach assigned to the PLG will:
    • respond to individual and group needs
    • make links to vision and values, effective pedagogy
    • promote deeper thought and reflection
    • guide and scaffold thinking
    • not be a subject expert
    • be supported in their own development as a coach.
  7. The idea of flexible membership is explored. By this I mean the ability to be a member of more than one PLG, or the ability to drop out of one PLG and join another if you are no longer gaining anything from it.
  8. The time line for an inquiry stream is noted. At this stage this is deliberately open ended to remove any constraints of either having to start/finish within set dates. If a PLG is in the flow I want them just to keep to on inquiring to when the cycle has a natural end point.

That’s it in a nutshell. I have shared this concept with my own principal PLG, the leadership team, the staff and the Board. I have drawn it on the wall in my office so I can ponder more over the structure and implications.

In doing so what has emerged are ongoing thoughts re the place of the learner agency tool (described in Part 1) as a possible tool for supporting any measure of the impact of the streams.

When sharing the concept, there are plenty of questions thrown about and interestingly no matter what the audience the questions are the same. Some of these are shown in the image on the right. These have been great and have helped clarify how the whole approach could work.

Perhaps one of the biggest ah ha moments has been the perceptions of what leadership is all about in a school. I think that there is still a string voice that outlines how school leaders are all about managing and administration. I challenge this notion and see developing people to be the most effective they can be as the core job of a leader. Question 4 below is a reflection of this.

We are revisiting the concept as a whole staff in a couple of weeks. In the interim I have asked them to reflect and have a think re the following questions:

  1. What questions do you have?
  2. What fears do you have
  3. What development streams do you think there should be for next year?
  4. How does the concept of leadership being about coaching others first, rather than the more traditional role of admin and organisation?
  5. If you could design your own professional learning pathway, what would it look like? How would you spend your money?

The general feeling though is one of excitement and support. Looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Working Towards Personalised PLD – Part 1

One of my goals for next year is to promote teacher agency through the implementation of a personalised approach to professional learning and development. This is an area that I have increasingly felt strongly about as I have read and reflected and had my thinking prompted by some key people.

When the goal was set we outlined the following expected outcomes.

  • PLD is personalised & involves teacher choice and voice
  • Teachers have more ownership over their own learning
  • Teachers ability to coach & facilitate conversations with each other is enhanced
  • Teacher collaboration is enhanced
  • The opportunities for teacher creativity and innovation are increased
  • Teachers articulate that their professionalism has been valued & that high trust exists
  • Outcomes from inquiry contexts will inform the focus for 2019

And while these have been set relatively recently, I am already wanting to add in another to acknowledge the relationship between classroom learning and professional learning. Something like:

  • PLD mirrors our beliefs about learning and teaching in our school.

This one is perhaps more of an underpinning philosophy, where the beliefs that drive what learning looks like for our student learners should be the same beliefs that drive learning for our adult learners.

Right let’s move on… the purpose of this post is to outline all of the influences that currently guide my thinking.

  1. The school’s vision
  2. Learner agency
  3. Personalised learning
  4. Conditions for innovation & creativity
  5. Personalised pathways
  6. Whole staff → Group→ 1-1
  7. Play based

The School Vision

Our school vision is;

Empowering agency, innovation and leadership.

This is the starting point for all that we do; reviewing, decision making, strategic direction, resourcing, budgeting, appointing staff… and as such must be a driver for and be reflected in our approach to professional learning. Thus empowered teachers, the conditions for innovation and the opportunities for for staff to lead their own learning must be present in any approach to professional learning.

Learner Agency

Our school was privileged to recently lead a Teacher Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) project  which focused on developing learner agency. One of the outcomes was the development of a learner agency self-assessment tool, derived from a matrix, which outlined the skills and dispositions of agency.

As we discussed how we could use this tool to capture data about our learners  to show progress of groups or individuals, and also review how we were providing the conditions for agency to flourish; (after all, this is critical, it is one of the key strands in our vision), I kept asking myself and then later my colleagues a question. Could this tool also be used for teachers to measure their own agency? If we change the RSS Kids in the middle to RSS Learners, would the characteristics of agency be the same for both students and adult learners?

Personalised Learning

I have found Make Learning Personal: The What, Who, WOW, Where and Why a great read. Particularly useful has been the table on the inside cover that outlines the differences between Personalisation, Differentiation and Individualisation which looks a little like this:

As a principal I don’t have a class of learners but I do have a staff of learners. So rather than looking at this through a teacher’s lens, I am looking at it through the lens of a principal. That changes it up a bit and puts me in a position where I ask myself a range of reflective questions.

For example, with a desire to personalise learning for my staff, am I providing the conditions where:

  1. Teachers are driving their own learning?
  2. Teachers are connecting learning with their interests, talents, passions and aspirations?
  3. Teachers actively participate in the design of their learning? etc

Conditions for Innovation & Creativity

Another book I am constantly going back to is George Couros’s The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. There is a whole lot of material in here that is influencing my thinking and personal learning. Let’s take this graphic for instance that outlines the 8 things to look for in today’s classrooms.

Once again I don my principal’s hat and ask myself a similar range of questions related to what I should be looking for in our school for my teachers;

  1. Do they have voice and choice?
  2. Are there opportunities for them to be innovative?
  3. Do I give value to and provide time for reflection? etc.

Also, recently George posted about the 4 Questions for Administrators to Promote a Culture of Innovation. The first question struck me as it is almost a carbon copy of my own underpinning philosophy recorded above.

1. Are your professional learning opportunities mirroring what you want to see in the classroom?

Often we ask teachers to do something different in the classroom, while we continue to do the same thing in professional learning. The best way for teaching practice to change in the classroom is for professional learning to look different as well. We create what we experience. If teachers are not excited about the learning opportunities that are offered, why would we expect them to create engaging and empowering environments for students?

Model what you seek.

Personalised Pathways

A recently new discovery of mine has been the work and thinking of Katie Martin who has a wealth of work been writing about a personalised professional learning approach. There is some great stuff on her blog that I encourage you to check out such as her 5 part series on the 10 Characteristics of Professional Learning that Shifts Practice. In Part 5 she outlines where professional learning has clear goals and allows for personal pathways:

  1. Develops skills and knowledge based on the needs of the learner
  2. Builds on strengths and interests
  3. Allows for creativity and passion to drive diverse learning experiences
  4. Honours individuals and allows them to progress from where they are
  5. Models desired teaching and learning

If you have taken note of everything else above then you can see how easily the points here dovetail with the other influences on my thinking re professional learning. Additionally when you do look at the full 10 characteristics there are many other ideas that align with my thinking including; inquiry based, collaborative, personalised and purposeful. Also I am really interested in investigating further the Create Your Own Adventure approach – that appears to have great potential and value.

Whole staff → Group→ 1-1

My thinking in this area has been influenced strongly by my own involvement in smaller more intimate professional learning groups supported by 1-1 coaching. I know that this has a much greater impact on my personal development than attending a large group professional learning opportunity. Based on this premise then my belief is that staff will also greatly benefit from small group professional learning supported by 1-1 coaching.

Play Based

I have previously reflected on my thoughts in this area as it also compliments my current thinking in personalising PLD. Again, looking at the approach from a principal’s perspective as I attempt to create an environment where the professional learning is personalised for teachers.

So what now?

OK so that is a quick overview of what is influencing my thinking. I have a plan forming in my mind about what shape it might make which I will describe soon after I have talked it through with a couple of key people.

Getting to know my learners – DISC Profiles

One of my professional goals this year is to investigate a personalised approach to how I work with my staff with a particular focus on communication. Personalised as in getting to know them better, understanding their learning and teaching styles, their personality traits and preferences for such things as how they like to receive feedback, school admin communication and engaging in professional learning. I am after them be self-directed and empowered as a professional and because I know them better I can provide the environment that enables it.

There are a couple of reasons why this is important to me and more importantly, to the staff.

  • Firstly it is all about supporting a culture of trust and honesty within our school, understanding each other to a deeper level will help facilitate that process.
  • Secondly the anticipated benefits of improved communication between myself and the staff and between each other will improve as we will better understand how staff prefer to interact in such areas as mentioned above as well as; meetings , coaching/questioning, face to face, email, systems, documentation.
  • Additionally it is an attempt to mirror what we are working on and investigating as a staff, to make learning more personal for our learners and elevating the place of learner voice and choice in their learning. I don’t have a class so my learners are are the staff – I want them to have more voice a choice in their role as a teacher and self direct and take control of areas such as their professional learning.
  • Ultimately with enhanced communication and personalised approaches that suits everyone style, combined with empowered teachers will lead us to the end goal and our baseline measure of improving outcomes for our students.

To date this term I have been very open and honest with the staff, explaining to them my goal and the reason and thinking behind it.

One of the strategies or data gathering steps I have taken is to ask staff to complete a DISC Profile. This is something I have completed previously when I worked for CORE Ed and something I found useful. Although when I completed the DISC the first time round I was quite sceptical about the accuracy of the system to capture who I was. However, the outcome was pretty good, not perfect in every aspect but overall captured me accurately and made me understand myself better as a person, learner and leader.

Staff completed DISC online and their profile report was available straight away to download. 

Individual profiles place you on the DISC map then outline what this means and summarise the characteristics related to this profile. Additionally they outline how someone with this profile relates to the other quadrant and profile types which is very helpful when understanding what others preferences are and what you can do to adapt your ways of working with them.

You can also request a group report where all staff who participated are mapped and the group culture is discussed.

I have made the time to share my profile with the staff, going through it and acknowledging my style and preferences, the parts that captured me perfectly and those that I didn’t think were quite right. I wanted to model this process with them with the aim that they would also want to be open and honest about themselves and sharing their profile with others.

I have been processing this information and I am really intrigued as to how it is going to develop and where my inquiry will lead next. There are emerging questions, not necessarily related to the DISC profiles, which already challenge my existing mindset. Here are a couple of examples.

  • A much more experienced principal once gave me some advice about how ‘close’ to get to your staff. In their practice they deliberately maintained a distance between themselves and the rest of the staff but as you would expect, stayed professional at all times, took an interest in their life outside of school but did not dive right into it. I wonder if this approach hinders a leaders’ ability to really get to know their staff, to a point where there are no ‘filters’ applied in any context or discussion?
  • My second question relates to what I would have called an active participation in discussions whether at staff meetings or PLGs. I do, rightly or wrongly, currently have the expectation that all staff will contribute to our professional dialogue. However if in the act of getting to know my staff, I recognise there are a couple of teachers who have a strong preference for not participating in discussions or don’t like being asked questions directly? Yes there are different forums and groupings to gather their response in other ways, but a PLG potentially falls apart if people do not engage in the process.
  • Another question are the implications if, for example, the staff/leadership/teaching team you are currently part of, where all members had similar profile maps. Is this a positive that we are all ‘on the same wavelength’ and look at situations in a similar way, or is it more advantageous to have a blend of all profile types so that the lenses the group has on a situation covers all perspectives? From where I sit now, I can see a mix of profiles being the preferred option.

There are many more examples as I think about how best to personalise my approaches with staff. Important to acknowledge too that the use of DISC outlined above is only one way that I am gathering ‘data’ about everyone, as the ongoing observations and conversations of their work and life greatly contribute to what I know about them.

Where to next? I have yet to sit down and discuss with each staff the outcomes of their profile. This will allow them to have the ability to agree and disagree as well as clarify what they do prefer, especially in regards to communication which is the central focus of my inquiry. I know too of other principals who have spent a lot of time in this space so connecting with them will be a great way of providing additional insight on the direction this will take.