Garrison Forest School
Team Members: Chris Shriver, Dana Livne, Rachel Herlein, Lana Conte (team leader), Beth Ruekberg, and Renee Hawkins.
Community: Dublin-Dallas Community Year 1, 2010-2011
In order to build a sustainable model to meet the professional development needs of a 21st century faculty, Garrison teachers need to embrace active learning and professional sharing. We define active learning as taking responsibility for one’s own process of learning, asking what do I need to know; where might I go to learn; how can I apply what I’m learning? We define professional sharing as being faculty-driven, with opportunities to discuss pertinent topics relevant to the interests and needs of faculty, sharing an expertise, a learning experience, or bringing back information from an outside professional development, opportunities to seek guidance or advice from colleagues. Huge challenges face today’s educators which can only be overcome with an intentional plan to develop as professionals through a Personal Learning Network and a Professional Learning Community. Operating from the principle of “you learn better what you can teach others,” Garrison teachers are moving to become a community of experts who can teach and share a variety of skills and expertise with one another. We believe we can set a high bar on our own and support one another in a collaborative, professional way to achieve our objectives.
Feb 18th, 2011 PD Day from GFS LoDi on Vimeo.
- Problem, Issue, or Possibility
- Objectives and Assessment
- Implementation Plan
- Evaluation and Results
While Garrison supports faculty professional development by generously funding participation to conferences and workshops, and by providing teachers with the necessary release time, there is little opportunity for professional sharing in our community. Our classrooms are closed off and teachers who want to share have few opportunities to communicate what they learned to the broader faculty. New initiatives and innovative thinking often withers on the vine without a forum to move beyond an individual’s classroom. Our community isn’t making good use of the wide range of experience and expertise in our faculty, or finding practical, consistent ways to grow professionally.
- The Lower and Middle School now have a weekly gathering of teachers called “Breakfast Boosters” where the main focus is learning about and discussing innovative teaching practices and instructional technology. Faculty sign up to present on an area of expertise;
- The Upper School has a weekly gathering called “Food for Thought” where a topic of discussion in announced in advance and teachers come prepared to discuss;
- Instead of bringing in a paid speaker for the all-school Professional Development Day, teachers from all three divisions planned and implemented workshops in an area of expertise for which others could register to attend;
- A workshop is being planned for teachers outside of the Garrison Community to attend where GFS faculty will teach effective uses of Moodle, our online curriculum management system.
Encourage sharing in the Garrison Forest School NING:
- After being presented and discussed at the opening faculty meeting, Breakfast Boosters and Food for Thought, 85% of GFS faculty are members of the Ning;
- Resources and follow up discussions from the Lower Division’s Breakfast Boosters and Upper School Food for Thought meetings are placed on the NING;
- Contributions to the NING have not yet reached the desired level, but anecdotal we know teachers are visiting while not contributing;
- In a poll taken in early May 2011, clear evidence indicated improvement in faculty sharing since the start of the year (see below).
Create a network of faculty “experts”:
- The summer prior to beginning our PLP experience, teachers gathered for a “Moodle Moot” where faculty “experts” led training workshops for their colleagues, sharing their knowledge and expertise with educational and technological tools;
- Faculty who have volunteered to present at Breakfast Boosters and at the all school Professional Development Day are identified as teacher leaders;
- Highlighting the effective use of technology in the classroom and giving recognition to teachers pioneering technology initiatives at the Professional Development Day helped the faculty to put a face to the colleagues they could approach with questions;
- Teacher leaders created resources which are housed on Moodle that colleagues use to review what has been learned during PD opportunities.
- Faculty ARE willing to share, learn, and collaborate;
- We all need more time to share, learn, collaborate and implement ideas in our classroom;
- Teachers are more open to sharing, and we see evidence across divisions that teachers are using digital tools in the pursuit of improved learning outcomes; but it is hard to measure if they are actively learning;
- Teachers are returning to our MoodleMoot and February PD Moodle course pages to review resources on their own time;
- They visit the GFS Ning to review what is shared during Breakfast Boosters as well as posts linking to videos and articles;
- It is imperative to have programs, professional development, and sharing times in place so that teachers are more inclined to want to share;
- Professional Development does not mean that paid outside experts have to be brought in; actually it has been beneficial to have in-house professional development so that teachers can go to their colleagues on their own time to learn more about what is presented;
- If discussions are too open-ended and not directed by research-based information, articles or videos, or concrete examples, the sharing does not move us forward in practice;
- Some faculty fear that sharing means they have to use technology. Once we are able to get them into settings where the focus is on learning, their resistance eases in many cases;
- We have incredible faculty with amazing ideas. It has been a true gift to open many of our collective doors and share our experiences and ideas.
- Develop a Professional Development Task Force, working in coordination with Division Heads and the Head of School, to design thematic learning opportunities for teachers;
- Schedule time for full faculty collaboration, interdisciplinary, and cross-discipline curriculum development.
- Instruct and support teachers in finding experts in their own disciplines and how to develop their own PLN;
- Continue to use our faculty as resident “experts,” taking advantage of what they learn in their own independent professional development;
- Create the expectation that learning that takes place “outside” of our community, be brought back to our community with scheduled opportunities to share with other teachers;
- Support the increasing use of digital tools by promoting the teachers and students using them;
About Action Research Projects
Action research is a process in which Powerful Learning Team members collaboratively examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully. Action research is:
- Disciplined inquiry into a problem or possibility within the school or classroom
- Collaborative and usually takes place in a community of practice
- Meaningful, positive, and reflective
- Data-driven, action-based, improvement-focused
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