Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A Tiered Approach to Teacher Growth and Development

At Greenwood College School, we have developed a tiered approach to teacher growth and development that offers support with coaching and mentoring during the first three years. One of the Standards for Teacher Growth and Appraisal relates to the school’s core principle of personalized learning. We expect teachers to demonstrate an increasing capacity to: Understand individual learning needs and how to accommodate them by setting high - but not uniform - academic standards/expectations for all students.

But how does a teacher in their first year do that?

Interestingly enough, I have found that the way to support a teacher in this standard is to apply the same standard to the teacher. I see the first term as a pre-assessment of the teacher’s ability. Frequent visits to see how teachers work in the classroom at different stages of a lesson provides a great deal of information. Follow-up conversations with the teacher also allows me to learn about the teacher’s strengths and areas for growth. I also learn how coachable the teacher is and how open they are to collaboration and to growth. The feedback from the class visits can be seen as formative assessment.

We have a built-in schedule for professional development for all teachers. During the first term we have two or three sessions where teachers are divided according to their length of service … which allows me to meet with first-year teachers as a group to deliver professional development that is pertinent to their needs.

This could be seen as similar to creating homogeneous groupings in a class based on students’ readiness for learning.

The first summative assessment comes in December when the first-year teachers undergo an evaluation. Administrators provide feedback on how the teacher performs in duties and responsibilities outside of the classroom. Students complete course and teacher evaluations through a standardized survey, and in a meeting with me, the teacher reviews all the data and we set goals for further growth.

From this point on, the professional development becomes more personalized as the first-year teachers will now have different needs. It is still necessary to group them according to their needs as would be the case with students in a class, but with just a few exceptions, the weekly professional development, and the focus of class visits and follow up conferences will be personalized.

My job is to relate this process to the classroom so that the teacher can see how the experience she is having can be replicated in the classroom for students.

Jennifer Walcott
Director of Teacher Development

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