I just finished working with three international schools who were identifying the connections of teachers’ individual professional development goals, coaching, and professional learning communities (PLCs). Here are some of the issues that emerged during this work.
#1 Of course, all three should be grounded in student achievement…establishing that the outcome of energies and resources invested have payoffs in student success.
#2 Identifying the needed student behaviors to gain the desired student achievement is important. Whatever changes are made in “what teachers do” should be focused on getting the necessary student behavior that will produce the desired learning outcome. (Example: Teacher differentiates assignments leads to all students working on challenging tasks.)
#3 PLC’s can provide the reflection that identifies the focus/goals for increasing student achievement and the desired student behaviors as well as creating the options for teacher behaviors that generate the student actions.
#4 Coaching observations can create the conscious teacher practice (20-30 repetitions over an 8 to 10 week period) of a new strategy that will lead to internalization and permanence in the teacher repertoire. Coaching observations of student behaviors provide the feedback to teachers that the change they are implementing is having the desired impact on “what students are doing and experiencing”.
#5 The power of video clips from classrooms enrich the learning that occurs in PLCs, coaching, and teacher goal setting. In each experience I had the filmed teacher as well as the colleagues viewing the clip had insights and questions emerge from very short clips and coaching conversations.
Leaders need to assist time-pressed teachers in seeing the connections of these three professional growth opportunities. Too often teachers are “completing” what they see as required tasks, and like their students often do, miss the learning potential.
Consider a grade four teacher who has a personal goal of using inquiry in her teaching to reach deeper student understanding from increased student engagement. She discusses her thinking with her grade level PLC members and shares a book she is studying regarding the formation of critical thinking questions. As the team collaboratively plans an upcoming unit, focus questions are selected. As the teacher preps for her class, she decides to invite her “coaching minded” principal to observe the lesson and provide feedback. In a pre-conference she directs the principal to record her questions and the various responses of students. She takes data from the principal’s post conference back to here PLC for further reflection.
This connectedness of the teacher’s focus increases her commitment, feedback, and reflection and ultimately her students’ performance.