Shifting Practice to Shift Culture
(Excerpt from Learning Transformed, ASCD, 2017)
“You can’t add value to people if you don’t value people.”
- John Maxwell
We believe that a relationship can be seen between the quality and the types of professional learning experiences offered. In traditional professional learning models, teachers are given few, if any, opportunities for input or feedback, experiences are typically passive, and the instructional approach of the development is counter-intuitive to high-quality learning. In these settings, teachers are often herded like cattle into large group rooms and talked at for hours at a time for a contracted number of hours per year.
Evidence of a traditional professional learning model:
• Decreased teacher attendance on in-service days.
• The experience is fully planned by administration in a top-down approach, with little to no teacher involvement.
• The experience is designed with a one-size-fits-all approach.
• A mass exodus occurs when the required time is up.
• There is little opportunity for teacher feedback on the experience.
• Professional learning is viewed as a set number of hours or calendar days per year.
• Accountability is measured in hours—not in progress or outcomes over time.
• Supervision conversations focus on experiences attended and hours earned—not on the transformation of instructional pedagogy.
• Professional learning is viewed solely as a district responsibility.
In this type of model, teachers can be left feeling as if they are just a pawn in game where they have no control. Mention the words professional development time in these schools and you’ll see eyes roll and hear painful groans throughout the faculty room. School leaders often give or are assigned to give the directions for the experience and are rarely seen growing alongside the teachers. During traditional professional learning time, responsibility for the ownership of the learning often rests with the person planning and leading the experience. Culturally, this method can easily create an “us-versus-them” mindset and attitude within the staff, negatively affecting school culture.
A more personal and relevant approach to professional learning, however, can have a positive effect on a school’s culture. In these settings, ownership for the learning is assumed by everyone, with school leaders feeling an inherent responsibility to model the way.
Evidence of a personal professional learning model:
• School leaders model the desired growth outcomes.
• Professional learning is viewed as something that is ongoing and systemic.
• Diverse, high-quality opportunities are readily available.
• All learning experiences, both formal and informal, are respected and seen as growth opportunities.
• Internal capacity is built as teachers have various opportunities to lead.
• Ample opportunities exist for both teacher and administrative feedback on experiences.
• Administrators and teachers take advantage of opportunities regardless of the obtainment of hours or need for additional pay.
• Teachers have a voice in planning.
• Accountability is measured in outcomes and growth over time—not in hours earned.
• Supervision conversations focus on transformation in instructional pedagogy—not on the attendance at particular events.
• Professional learning is viewed as a district and personal responsibility.
When this type of learning culture exists, staff buy-in takes care of itself, and staff members are a vital part of the planning and carrying out of the experiences. All staff have the opportunity to lead, and a growth mindset becomes apparent. In this type of culture, districts balance the need to focus on districtwide initiatives with the understanding that, just like students, teachers have various levels of need and thus require a more personal approach. When teachers feel as if they are a vital part of the professional learning cycle, then increased ownership for the learning occurs—creating a culture shift in responsibility and passion.
You are part of the solution.
For more on Tom and Eric’s upcoming book, visit: tinyurl.com/LearningTransformed. Here’s what a few educational leaders had to share about next week’s release: