The following guest blog post was written by Elisabeth Stock, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of PowerMyLearning. PowerMyLearning is a grantee-partner of New Profit that helps teachers team up with colleagues and families to design engaging, personalized learning experiences for students.
Why does teacher professional development (PD) get such a bad rap?
Not only is it derided by teachers, but it is one of the first targets when budget cuts are called for ( NPR). Even former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ridiculed PD, saying that when he asked teachers whether it was improving their job their response was either to laugh or cry. They were not “feeling it.” ( U.S. News)
But how can this be true if we know teachers are made, not born? How can we help teachers improve their craft, if not through PD?
At PowerMyLearning, we are very interested in this question about PD because improving teacher practice is core to our work. At PowerMyLearning, we use a triangle to guide everything we do. This triangle includes students and the adults that matter most – teachers and families. The arrows in the triangle highlight the core learning relationships or interactions that, when fully realized, enable students to master rigorous content and own their learning.
What interaction do we hope to “see in the arrows” so that students become successful learners? We hope to see teachers using evidence-based teaching practices to personalize student learning in the classroom, teachers and adult family members working together as a team, and adult family members participating as active learning partners with their children at home.
Teachers can be the main drivers of all of these interactions and thereby enable all of their students to become successful learners. But how?
This bring us back to the question of PD: How can we help teachers drive the interactions in the triangle if PD is so loathed?
Let’s first look at what comes to mind when teachers hear the expression “PD.” Often teachers think of a one-and- done workshop: sitting with 50+ other teachers in a big air conditioned windowless room with a PD provider (who often has limited personal teaching experience) talking at them for hours on end.
When I was a teacher, I dreaded these workshops. I found it insulting that anyone would expect me to be able to go back to my classrooms and implement “this next new thing” with no tools and no ongoing support.
Yet the reason teachers think of these workshops when they hear “PD” is because, unfortunately, these workshops represent a large portion of how PD is currently delivered.
But what if we look at other forms of PD – like coaching and professional learning communities – what do we see then? Does a different story take shape?
A study by McKinsey & Co. that analyzed what the world’s best schools were doing right found that “developing teachers into effective instructors” was one of the top three drivers of school quality. This study highlighted two effective approaches to professional development that high-performing school systems used to develop their teachers: (1) providing coaching, and (2) enabling teachers to learn from each other (or collaborative learning).
This is what we are doing at PowerMyLearning to help teachers effectively drive the interactions in the triangle. At PowerMyLearning, the PD we offer is coaching and collaborative learning via professional learning communities (PLCs). And surprisingly, not only is this type of PD more effective (as the McKinsey study shows), it also evokes a very different like/dislike response from teachers. At PowerMyLearning, 84% of the teachers we coach say our PD was among the most valuable of their careers. As one teacher shared, “having a coach from PowerMyLearning was GREAT for my sense of purpose and morale, and it made me feel more connected to my colleagues."
An important reason why teachers get so much out of our coaching and PLCs is because we have built both experiences on top of our PowerMyLearning Framework for Teachers. This Framework was designed to help teachers develop the expertise they need to drive the interactions in the triangle. It can be used by teachers and their coaches to map and monitor growth and to understand the tangible evidence of exemplar practice. Our Framework was field-tested over multiple years and incorporates research evidence about the best practices in teaching and learning. It includes the following six domains:
A story about Rebecca Chen, a teacher at Nava Academies in Los Angeles, helps bring the utility of this framework to life. Rebecca had the opportunity to participate in our job-embedded coaching program and in a PLC that we helped run during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. As part of both experiences, Rebecca and her coach (Katie Roth from our team) worked together to create bite-sized goals that were tied to our Framework and could be accomplished in a week or so. Katie then provided Rebecca with short “to-dos,” or actions that could help Rebecca achieve each goal.
“Especially for new teachers, it’s so helpful to have a coach and to work with colleagues in a PLC,” Rebecca said. “Setting weekly goals encouraged me to take accountability for my instructional growth and professional development.”
The structure of the PLC also fostered a collaborative environment, in which Rebecca and her colleagues could identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and measure and report on progress.
“Sometimes you have great ideas but you’re not sure how to implement them,” Rebecca explained. “Bouncing ideas off of Katie and other teachers provided a channel for others to give their tips and tricks for similar ideas that they have tested.”
Throughout her time working with Katie, Rebecca adopted new practices aligned to all areas of the PowerMyLearning Framework and made the most dramatic growth in data-driven instruction, defined as targeting instruction to directly address students’ learning needs.
I for one am not surprised that when PD is delivered as structured coaching and collaboration (instead of one-and- done workshops), teachers like Rebecca thrive. As a country, we must move away from the type of PD that gives PD a bad rap and move over to the type that McKinsey describes in their study and that teachers actually enjoy – coaching and collaboration.
Dear Reimagine Learning Community,
In October, we gathered over 150 members of our cross-sector network in Boston for the 2017 Reimagine Learning Convening to reflect and build on the momentum we have created as a community and celebrate the impact we have collectively achieved over the past five years.
Our vision – that one day, all students will be in learning environments with the capacity to adapt to meet their diverse needs and capitalize on their diverse strengths – ran through the convening conversation. From dynamic panels of adult and youth change agents to experiential learning that put attendees in innovative learning environments and in-depth breakout sessions, participants had the opportunity to engage in rich conversation with other leaders in the field about how we can all contribute to bringing educational equity to life at every level of the K-12 education system. Jody Cornish, co-lead of Reimagine Learning, reflected on the convening and the role of our community during this critical moment in time to transform teaching and learning in the U.S. Read her reflections on the convening here.
The theme for the convening was Momentum: Toward a Tipping Point in Transforming Education. We invite all of you to help us build on the momentum we have created as a community by taking one step: watch and share this video produced by YouthBuild USA's Young Leaders Council sharing their journey with Reimagine Learning to reflect on their own learning experiences and articulate their vision for what school could and should look like to better serve all learners. Debuted at the convening, the video reflects our collective commitment to positioning students at the center of this movement to reimagine learning.
We invite you to watch the 2017 Reimagine Learning Convening highlights video here. We also are pleased to share summaries and highlight videos of the convening sessions below so that our full community can engage with and learn from the conversations that we had together in Boston. We also invite you to explore and share photos from the convening here.
We are enormously grateful to the speakers and session facilitators, the 150+ convening participants, and all those in our network who are hard at work on behalf of young people and who enrich this vibrant community every day.
Tags: Reimagine Leaning
Congratulations to Millennial Impact Fellows Tony Weaver, Jr. and Ashley Edwards for being named to Forbes 30 under 30 in education and social entrepreneurship!
Tony Weaver Jr. is Founder and CEO of Weird Enough Productions, a new media production company dedicated to creating positive media images of black men and other minority groups. After training with the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, the Youth Ensemble of Atlanta, and the Acting Program at Elon University, Tony recognized that there was a severe lack of positive roles for black men. Volunteering with black males in his local community showed him how widespread this misrepresentation was, and the devastating effects it was capable of having on minority groups. With the intention of changing the media narrative of black men, Tony founded Weird Enough Productions at age 20. Tony has been the recipient of the Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellowship, the Camelback Ventures Fellowship, and the NBCUniversal Fellowship.
Ashley Edwards, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MindRight, holds a Master of Business Administration and Master of Education from Stanford University. Through her education nonprofit, MindRight, Ashley works to leverage technology to make mental health support accessible to all children living in poverty. Her work as a social entrepreneur has led to her recognition as a 2017 New Profit Millennial Impact Fellow, Camelback Ventures Fellow, Halcyon Incubator Fellow, and 4.0 Schools Fellow. Ashley graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s in economics where she was awarded the Yale Franciscus Fellowship in Entrepreneurship. Prior to Stanford, Ashley served as founding Director of Operations of the first "blended learning" charter school in Newark, NJ. She developed the school’s operations and data management system from launch to 300+ students. She has additional experiences working in venture philanthropy at Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and developing innovative school models in Bangalore, India through her work with Ekya Schools.
See the full Forbes 30 Under 30 lists for Education and Social Entrepreneurs.
Creative expression and the arts have provided powerful fuel for social change throughout history. The Civil Rights and LGBTQ movements in America, as well as many others, have been buoyed by a wave of music and written and visual art. So was the fight against apartheid in South Africa and the ongoing effort to combat extreme poverty and famine around the globe. Art provides energy and inspiration through challenging times and helps build the collective outcry and will for change.
Over the last few years, more than ever, we’ve found that New Profit’s community of social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, staff, and other changemakers are making dynamic use of arts and creativity to keep momentum in the fight to break down barriers to opportunity in America. Our community is at the heart of many important social movements that have taken root across the country and art will be an indispensable tool as we continue to build these movements. That’s why we’re launching a new campaign - #SocialCanvas - to highlight the creative expressions of artists and friends of New Profit that we believe are powerful fuel for social change.
Every day with #SocialCanvas, we aim to highlight and inspire dialogue about how creative people in our community and beyond are using arts, music, and creative expression to drive social change. Our focus will be on a few key issues that are top of mind for all of us during this challenging moment in our country: keeping joy in our work, advancing diversity-equity-inclusion, and driving systems-level change. To do that, we will look back at ways that arts and creative expression have helped us tackle these challenges in the past and exploring art and ideas leading our work to address these issues today. Here is a preview of some of the artists and creative pieces that we will share as a part of #SocialCanvas over the next few months:
In November 2017, we launched a new campaign - #SocialCanvas - to highlight the creative expressions of artists that we believe are creating the soundtrack and canvas for the social movements that have taken root across our community and country. Every day with Social Canvas, we aim to inspire dialogue about artists in our community and beyond who are using arts, music, and creative expression to fuel social movements and drive social change.
Today we are highlighting Janine Kwoh, an Associate Partner of Portfolio Performance & Support at New Profit and greeting card designer, and her work inspired by a quote about joy from Aimeé Eubanks Davis, Founder and CEO of Braven, a member of the New Profit's Women's Accelerator.
Tags: Social Canvas