The Monthly Recharge - March 2015, Re-invent the PD Wheel
About L+D

Leadership+Design is a nonprofit organization and educational collaborative dedicated to creating a new culture of school leaders - empathetic, creative, collaborative and adaptable solution-makers who can make a positive difference in a rapidly changing world.

  • We support creative and innovative school leadership at the individual and organizational level.       
  • We serve school leaders at all points in their careers - from teacher leaders to heads of school as well as student leaders.
  • We help schools design strategies for change, growth, and innovation.    
  • We bring creativity, collaboration & co-creation, empathy, a "yes, and..." mindset, and experiential learning to all of our work.
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Upcoming Programs:

L+D Bootcamp, NOLA

April 17 + 18

Tulane University, New Orleans


Learning Adventure in Design Thinking

This two-day bootcamp provides participants with the opportunity to experience a real-world design challenge and to practice Design Thinking in the context of school. 


Registration is open.  


L+D Bootcamp, SF 

May 2 + 3
Mithun-Solomon, San Francisco

Interactive Leadership Bootcamp

This two-day bootcamp is for school leaders wanting to think creatively, work effectively, and build innovative school cultures through Design Thinking.


Registration is open.


Traiblazer:  The Innovative Leadership Conference

June 22-25, 2015

Watershed School,

Boulder, CO


Registration is open.


Wonder Women! Uncovering Your Superpowers and Signature Leadership Presence

July 8-11, 2015

Emma Willard School

Troy, NY


Registration is open.


Santa Fe Seminar

November 11-14, 2015

La Fonda on Plaza

Santa Fe, NM


Registration is open.


Collaboration Cards

Order your deck today.

This card deck is a tool to enhance group work. The paradox of group life exists in any group - those that form in places of business, schools, churches, sports teams and even families.


As human beings, we crave group life and we also find it to be hard, messy and complex.  Groups that have tools to identify and manage conflict, to get "unstuck" and to move forward, are more productive and also more joyful. 


These playful L+D Cards offer over 70 suggestions for managing group life, increasing productivity in groups and deepening the connection between collaborators.


$25.00 per deck + Shipping and Handling. Click on the icon below to place your order.




L+D Board of Directors

Lee Burns
Head of School
The McCallie School
Chattanooga, TN

Sandy Drew, Board President
Development Consultant
Sonoma, CA

Trudy Hall
Head of School
Emma Willard School
Troy, NY
Brett Jacobsen
Head of School
Mount Vernon Presbyterian School
Atlanta, GA
Barbara Kraus-Blackney
Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA 

Karan Merry
Head of School (Ret.)
St. Paul's Episcopal School
Brooklyn, NY 
Carla Robbins Silver (ex-officio)
Executive Director, L+D
Los Gatos, CA 

Mary Stockavas
Bosque School
Albuquerque, NM

Paul Wenninger
Leadership Consultant
Albuquerque, NM

Christopher H. Wilson
Head of School
Esperanza Academy
Lawrence, MA 
We Can Do Better
Carla Robbins Silver, Executive Director

Two weeks ago marked the closing of the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference, "Design the Revolution" and this week I have followed the SXSW Educators' Conference on Twitter.  Without question, both of these industry events provide some of the best professional networking around - they are a veritable "who's who" of the school world and if you attend, you are bound to rub elbows with some amazing educators and leaders and learn from them through informal conversation if not osmosis.  


Networking, in and of itself, is a bonafide form of professional

development. In fact, Leadership+Design takes networking into account when we design professional learning experiences. One of our passions and superpowers is our ability to connect people and to create conversations that build capacity and lead to action and innovation.  Random encounters and curated connections alike can be powerful learning experiences.


Where I find the large conference experience falling short is in the

Tools of the #hacknaisac session

 more formal professional learning opportunities - those presentation sessions that happen in those lightless, airless adjoining rooms - you know, the ones with the chairs facing forward and locked together.  Walking through the hallways of the Hynes Convention Center and peering into those rooms, I felt a world away from an educational "revolution."  There was some good content in those sessions, but from my vantage point, a lot of missed opportunity for modeling the kind of teaching and learning we want to see in our schools.  Where were the problem based, inquiry based, hands-on, collaborative sessions? Why do we limit ourselves to one- hour, 90 minute, and, at most, three hour sessions where the audience members are primarily passive participants (until the last 5 minutes of Q and A)?  Doesn't that go against everything we know about learning and about how we grow as professionals?  


Let me be clear, I am not picking on NAIS. It's the same all over. It is a huge undertaking to bring 3000+ people together under a common roof to learn collectively. It's a well organized experience that serves a purpose.  I am also aware that most adults can learn and be engaged via lecture and other more traditional presentation styles. But if we are going to design the revolution for young learners, and if we are going to choose a conference theme about revolutionary teaching, learning and leadership how can we justify "business as usual" and celebrate the status quo?


I think we can do better.


I am grateful to Amy Ahart, NAISAC Conference Director, for supporting a professional learning experiment and collaboration along with Matt Glendinning, Head of School, Moses Brown, and Greg Bamford, Head of School, Watershed School (and L+D co-founder).  Instead of being limited to a three-hour or one-hour session, we were given the opportunity to prototype a longer session that unfolded over three days. While we still faced some of the same limitations and constraints as the one hour session presenters, we had the luxury of seeing some of the same participants over the three days and engaging in deeper learning with them. We affectionately called our session #hacknaisac - because our goal was to experiment, to tinker, to play with the limitations and constraints of a huge industry conference and see what we could learn and how we might generate innovative solutions to some of the challenges.


It was fun.


We did hear from participants (and feel free to check out our Storify

stream) that they wanted opportunities for sessions that were more engaging, that they liked the sustained connection

Unlocking chairs and reimagining 
space at NAIS

with peers over a longer period, that they wanted opportunities for conversation, collaboration, and interactive learning.   At the center of well designed professional learning experiences, are solutions that are viable,

feasible and desirable - and this may look different for a large industry conference than it does for a seminar of 40 people in Santa Fe. Still,  I'm willing to take some risks, try new things, and continue to iterate. I'm willing to try and re-invent the PD wheel. And then get ready to re-imagine it all over again in a few more years.




Carla Silver

Executive Director



And speaking of professional learning - Leadership+Design has some good stuff coming up. If you want highly interactive, experiential, professional learning, check it out at We'd love to learn with you  - in Boulder, NOLA, Seattle, Troy, London, Rochester, San Francisco and Santa Fe in 2015.



Teachers Deserve Good Pedagogy, Too
Richard Kassissieh,
Academic Dean, University Prep (Seattle)

Let's play a word association game. When I say a term, note the next thought that comes to your mind. Ready? "PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT!" What first comes to your mind? Conference? Meeting? Ugh? If we understand how students learn best, then we should also practice good pedagogy when leading professional development programs.


Teachers more fully engage in learning activities that address authentic aspects of practice. What issues most commonly challenge teachers: motivating all students to learn; teaching for understanding, not just knowledge; supporting diverse groups of learners? Effective professional development activities express a clear learning goal and apply theory toward specific outcomes. For example, one might reserve half the day for teachers to explore applications, redesign instructional units, and share their products.


Effective teachers combine a variety of techniques to design learning environments and develop student understanding.
Teachers approach topics from different perspectives, promote active engagement with ideas and evidence, and make student thinking visible. In order to actually adopt a new technique proposed during professional development, teachers need to know how that idea might complement the other tools in their toolkit. Teachers are unlikely to integrate widely divergent strategies into their current practice.


Research suggests that observation and feedback have the greatest potential to improve teacher practice. So, why then are conferences and faculty meetings the most common forms of professional development? Make class observations integral to your school's professional development program. It's best if peer teachers conduct the observations, and such activities are not connected to teacher evaluation. Teachers can also video a class and study the recording with colleagues.


As with students, teachers learn best when they study collaboratively. Working in groups, teachers share ideas and build perspective together. In a gallery walk, lead teachers exhibit innovative practices and answer questions. In a faculty "unmeeting", teachers generate topics and facilitate discussions. Professional learning communities, teacher cohorts, and critical friend groups maintain such collaborative relationships over time. Teacher leadership distributes the responsibility for professional growth to all members of the faculty. Consortia and networks extend these connections to other institutions.


Why not put students at the center of professional development activities? Invite a panel of students to describe their learning to your faculty. Have each teacher shadow a student for a day. When you observe classes, document what the students are doing, not just the teacher. Ask teachers to contact recent alumni and ask them whether they found themselves well prepared for the next step.


NAIS has recognized University Prep's Individualized Teacher Improvement Program for innovation and excellence.  





For a full description of all Leadership+Design Programs and to register, visit

The Audacity of Re-Design
Timothy Vos,  Instructional Coach, Lake Washington School District and L+D Summer Program Director, Seattle, 

 I was amused last week when my daughter shared that her fellow 5th graders were circulating a petition to get the state to declare the unicorn a real animal.  Who are these kids?  I wasn't asked to sign it, and I'm not sure I would, but I had to admire their pluck.  In the grown-up world of professional learning we could use a little more of that audacity, a shameless boldness that listens less to convention and more to the voice of possibility and experiment.  We could use the courage and confidence to look for answers less often in data tables and instructional authorities and more often in the faces, words and actions of those we serve.  Professional learning could use a little disrupting, and a design thinking mindset and tools may hold the key for making professional learning much better.

For several years, I taught a four-part course on student engagement.  The course consisted of four workshops separated by two weeks between sessions.  The design was simple and intentional.  At each workshop, I would share interesting new brain research and best practice strategies around topics like motivation, building community, etc.  Teachers would converse with each other and decide what to try in their classroom.  In two weeks, they would return to share what they tried, learn about some new research and commit to trying something new in their classroom.  It worked well, and reviews were generally positive. Last year, I decided it was time for a design overhaul.  It wasn't that the sessions were stale so much as they just felt routine and limited.  Teachers were mostly engaged during the sessions but I wasn't confident the learning would be long-lasting.

This year, I decided to be bolder.  Instead of listening to the latest

A new name tag and a new PD experience

in brain research, the teachers spent most the first session designing and building name tags for a partner.  With this change, three things became clear pretty quickly.  For one, this did not feel like professional learning.  Some teachers embraced the experience.  A couple grumbled about the 'kindergarten methods'.  All wanted to continue creating the name tag after the timer went off.  Second, by spending an hour interviewing and designing for each other, many partners developed a bond with each other.  It was much more powerful than any speed-dating-like icebreaker I had used previously.  Finally, teachers began to think of themselves differently in a professional learning experience -- not as simply consumers of professional expertise, but producers as well. 

In each subsequent session, teachers were asked to examine common classroom practices and experiences that are often less-than engaging for students such as homework, teacher feedback, and group work.  In between sessions, teachers were challenged to seek to understand their students' school experience through careful observation, interviewing, and collecting artifacts.  By equipping teachers with the tools of the design process, we are not only making for a more actively engaging and delightfully unpredictable professional learning experience, but we are also helping them become more empathetic to their students. 

In a speech in San Francisco last month, Jeff Duncan-Andrade argued, 'The foremost researchers in the world are ethnographers of the people they serve".  Duncan-Andrade is professor at San Francisco State University and high school teacher in Oakland Public Schools.  Drawing from his experience teaching urban youth who live in a toxic stress environment, he pleaded that we stop looking at test scores and start looking at kids.  He argued that we have been so focused on outcome data that we ignore the process data.  As an unintentional disciple of design thinking, he suggested that we start by empathizing and seeking to understand our kids.  We should try to identify unmet human needs.  We then should generate wild ideas like 'radical healing'.  More than anything, he emphasized, "Hang on to your audacity that you can love every child that comes through your door."

My professional learning courses are constantly evolving, and the reviews are still out.  I find that some teachers are still asking for strategies and are not comfortable with the role of ethnographer and designer of student experience.  When I doubt, however, I reach for the teacher feedback that described the workshop experience as "magical".  What more can I ask for?



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