Most of the schools I have the privilege to work with are identified as "Priority" or low-performing schools. Sadly, one of the things I often encounter with the teachers and administrators I meet is an increasing sense of despondency. It’s not that they don’t care deeply about their students and want to do what’s best for them; they do! It’s just that there still seems to be an underlying current of doubt that things will ever actually change, or that they have the ability to impact that change. Read more
We never would have believed that the four critical questions of a PLC could create such a positive impact on our learning environment and student achievement. However, in Kinard’s PLC journey, once the teams identified the essential standards for each of their respective content areas, we were left with questions about how to systematize and coordinate the skills, dispositions and behaviors that we wanted our students to demonstrate. Read more
There is a great deal of talk in education these days about 21st Century learning. A quick Google search of this topic produces thousands of hits. Much of it focuses on 21st Century skills. These are often referred to as the ‘soft skills’ in education. According to much of the research and online discussion, these so-called ‘soft skills’ are really the skills students will be required to have in order to be successful both in school and in life beyond school. Read more
21st Century Skills require a balance of content and process. How have teaching and learning shifted to meet these demands?
James Melsa (2007) says it best, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies that haven’t yet been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know we have.” We can no longer prepare students for our past, we must prepare them for their future. But what does this mean and where should we start? Read more
Ask most teachers and they will tell you they wish they had more strategies/training/resources to challenge their students to think for themselves; to acquire and use a repertoire of strategies that will help them attack a problem or situation for which there is no immediate or obvious answer. The importance of this aspect of student learning has become glaringly obvious with the increased rigor of Common Core standards and the assessments used to measure proficiency in those standards. Read more
My experience as a teacher was amazing! I loved teaching, my colleagues, my families, and my students; but I wish I could have a complete redo on my time in the classroom. Regrettably, as a teacher I never had the opportunity to function within a Professional Learning Community. Sure, I had amazing colleagues who became life-long friends. Yes, they were willing to share their “things” that worked for their kids in their classrooms. I definitely was able to get to know “their kids," just as they were able to get to know “my kids” because we shared them for periods of time throughout the week. We even shared data! If you’re reading this and thinking, “Why is Will suggesting he didn’t function within a PLC?”, let me explain. Read more
This past month I have been working with collaborative teams to answer the second question of a professional learning community, “How will we know when they have learned the content?” (DuFour, Eacker, & DuFour, 2008). The teachers are analyzing more than how many students got the correct answer on a common assessment; they are focused on students’ depth of understanding of the content. Teams are analyzing student thinking and the habits of mind aligned to the essential learning standards. These often come from the process standards in content areas that describe the habits of mind teachers must develop in their students (e.g., ELA Capacities, Mathematical Practices, and Science Practices). (CCSS0, 2010 & NGSS, 2013). Read more