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.
- The school’s vision
- Learner agency
- Personalised learning
- Conditions for innovation & creativity
- Personalised pathways
- Whole staff → Group→ 1-1
- 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.
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?
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:
- Teachers are driving their own learning?
- Teachers are connecting learning with their interests, talents, passions and aspirations?
- 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;
- Do they have voice and choice?
- Are there opportunities for them to be innovative?
- 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.
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:
- Develops skills and knowledge based on the needs of the learner
- Builds on strengths and interests
- Allows for creativity and passion to drive diverse learning experiences
- Honours individuals and allows them to progress from where they are
- 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.
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.