William Penn Charter School
Team Members: Ruth Aichenbaum, Sheila Ruen, Vicki Miles, Judith Hill, Lorre Gifford, Carol Sukoneck, Michael Moulton
Community: ADVIS Year 1, 2010-2011
We envisioned creating a professional development model where each PLP cohort member works one-on-one with a teacher interested in incorporating 21st century skills into a lesson that would enhance student learning. We called this project the C3 Model-a Culture of Curricular Coaches. Our focus question was: How do you use 1:1 mentoring as a professional development tool to 21st-centurize Penn Charter? Nine faculty members were selected to partner with a member of the cohort to develop and execute a project or lesson and then Pay It Forward by sharing what was learned with at least one other colleague. Lessons would foster development of students’ 21st century skills such as inquiry, collaboration and critical thinking. We employed the Critical Friends Group (CFG) model to receive feedback and suggestions on our project by presenting it to Penn Charter’s Committee on Teaching and Learning. We also solicited comments from our “mentees” and created a video summarzing our work that was presented at an all-school faculty and staff meeting in April as the individual projects were finishing up.
- Problem, Issue, or Possibility
- Objectives and Assessment
- Implementation Plan
- Evaluation and Results
Although release time was approved for both the cohort members and their partners, it was not used as most partners found they could take advantage of free periods in their schedules. Nonetheless, finding face-to-face time for the cohort to meet and to meet with their respective “mentees” was one of the the more challenging aspects of the project. The collaborative projects turned out to be very organic, developing over time. While most of this year’s projects will conclude during this last trimester, some of the projects involving Skype and contact with students in other countries will not be completed this year. We hope to fully implement the lessons next year. One of the most important findings to come out of this project was the need to better define expectations, establish rubrics, and have the “mentees” provide some sort of final review or assessment.
Team member Sheila Ruen represented the PLP cohort in the CFG meeting and members of Penn Charter’s Committee for Teaching & Learning provided thought feedback and suggestions for enriching the C3 model. The PLP Cohort, working with the Committee for Teaching & Learning, will continue to look for ways to broaden and strengthen the C3 model. The cohort presented the C3 collaborative projects to the entire faculty in March and a number of faculty members expressed interest in participating next year as part of a Penn Charter Cohort. Since then, other faculty have also expressed an interest in also participating as a Pay It Forward “mentee.”
We will not know if our Pay It Forward model will be successful until some time in the coming year; however, interest in next year’s PLP program seems to be a good indicator that this kind of “grassroots” professional development model could be successful.
Some lessons learned doing the project…
– Progress isn’t linear: My partner and I would have a string of meetings where we focused on the same part of his project taking the time needed to learn skills needed to make it work. There were times where one meeting would jump us way forward in how the project was shaped. – Presenting focuses attention and leads to sharing – My work with Bob got added focus when we knew that the PLP team was presenting to the full faculty and when he was getting ready for a Math Dept meeting. – Web shifts can be a barrier to progress and stability is a support: A leading web tool looked liked the best one to use for our project but news about it possibly being shut down spooked my partner and we ended up taking us a different direction that was less innovative but more likely to stay working over time. – Partnering over time made a safe and ongoing space for learning skills: My partner didn’t have to be self-conscious about asking the same question the number of times he needed to learn a skill. He knew I would answer and be around to answer again if needed. This way key to the way he was able to master difficuly, multi-step techniques key to making his project work. – My own ideas for solving problems can inform my partner but need to take a back-seat to his ideas to be a productive partnership.: It took careful listening and asking clarifying questions to make sure the project met my partner’s needs rather that be something built the way I would build it. The more it met his needs, the more motivating it was for my partner to continue with it. – Success leads to more success: As my partner found success with his project, it led to him applying for and getting sabbatical time to continue his work.
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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