Earlier this summer I wrote a blog that touched on the lack of time that teachers have to collaborate on teaching ideas and strategies, and what’s working in their classrooms and what is not. Fortunately, there is still the faculty meeting that principals and teachers hold regularly. But is that time being used to its best advantage?
A recent blog post at The Principal Difference by Mel Riddile – Faculty Meetings: Do They Add Value? – touched on just this subject and highlighted some key components that should encompass every meeting, including:
1. They should be teacher-led
2. Choose a theme and follow-through throughout the year
3. Evidence of student learning (think formative assessment)
4. Evidence that faculty meetings met the stated outcomes
As Mel says in his blog…
In this way, our teachers saw true meaning and value in faculty meetings. Rather than viewing faculty meetings as a disconnected series of ‘dog-and-pony shows’, our teachers took the teacher-led sessions to heart and understood that there was an expectation that the learning would be applied in the classroom. Because we modeled what we expected from teachers in the faculty meetings, they came to consider the content of these meetings as serious professional learning opportunities.
In many ways, Mel’s four ingredients to successful faculty meetings mirror those we’ve discussed that must go into teacher professional development initiatives:
1. Choice – Teachers are like students; they need and appreciate choice. Choice within a given framework or focus allows teachers to determine their personal priorities.
2. Flexibility – In addition to choice, teachers need to be allowed to make modifications to make the new learning work best in their own classroom environments.
3. Small Steps – Learning is incremental. It takes time to change practice and to be lasting it must become a part of the teacher’s routine. Professional development for teachers that allows them to practice, in small steps, supports this idea.
4. Support and Accountability – Change in teaching practice is challenging and requires both support and accountability. Teacher Learning Communities provide teachers the opportunity to develop personal action plans, report back to the group what happened as a result of implementing those plans, reflect and receive feedback (support) from colleagues who are working on the same changes in practice.
One major factor for overall success of any teacher professional development program – whether it is part of a faculty meeting or not – is longevity. ‘Dog-and-pony shows,’ lectures, one day or two day seminars just don’t provide the needed time to implement what teachers learn into the classroom environment, gather feedback of its success, make adjustments to their teaching, and then collaborating with teachers to share results.