Showing posts with label Professional Development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Professional Development. Show all posts

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Collaborating to Learn

Historically, teachers often worked in isolation. When offered, professional development took place outside of the school on ‘PD days’ and at conferences. Since its inception, Greenwood has adopted a progressive approach to teacher development and has focused on job embedded PD that happens within the school on a weekly basis every Wednesday morning.
Research supports the belief that teacher collaboration is a powerful component of teacher growth. Rather than working in isolation, our teachers gather regularly to share their expertise or work on school-wide initiatives. By working in this manner, we have developed a professional culture in which learning together is a fundamental value.
Here is an example of our teachers working on the implementation of our new age and stage framework. Teachers first meet in grade level groups to determine how to incorporate elements of the framework into their classes and then re-group to share their thinking with the larger group so that all teachers have a sense of the overall framework.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Ensuring Continued Growth: Greenwood's Expert Teacher Program

Expert teachers Tony Costa (pictured left with teacher Alex Hurley) and Amanda Lester
provide conversational coaching to teachers who have been at Greenwood for 4+ years.

How does Greenwood stay on the leading edge of customized learning? Ongoing professional development is a big piece of the puzzle. Expert teachers Tony Costa and Amanda Lester work with experienced Greenwood teachers to ensure their continued growth.

What is the Expert Teacher Program?

Working out of the Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning, Tony and Amanda - both accomplished Greenwood teachers - work with colleagues who have been at the school for four or more years. In addition to providing conversational coaching to these teachers, Tony and Amanda are a professional development resource for all teachers. They also meet weekly with Mary Gauthier, Executive Director of the Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning, which supports their growth as expert teachers.

Why become an expert teacher?

For Amanda, the expert teacher role seemed like a natural next step. “I had already been a subject team leader and a mentor for newer teachers,” she says. “I really enjoyed collaborating with teachers, so this opportunity really excited me.”

In Tony’s case, he saw the potential of the role and wanted to be a part of shaping it. “I felt it was so important that this position was conversation-based, and that it was a two-way exchange of information,” he says. “Amanda and I are always learning, too.”

Supporting Professional Growth for 4+ Teachers

In keeping with Greenwood’s customized approach to learning, the coaching Tony and Amanda provide is tailored to each teacher’s specific needs. “Depending on where people are in their careers, they may have very different goals,” Amanda says. “We work with teachers to mutually identify areas where there is opportunity for growth.”

Some examples include:

  • Refining the use of our Learning Communities
  • Using assessment to drive learning 
  • Finding new ways to incorporate technology in the classroom

After goals have been set, Tony and Amanda observe teachers as they teach; based on these observations, they provide suggestions on how teachers can incorporate new ideas and approaches into their lessons. It’s important to note that teachers are not “assigned” to one expert teacher; they can choose to meet with either Tony or Amanda, and have either expert observe their lesson. “Having two people involved adds richness to the conversation,” Tony says. “Amanda and I have different perspectives and see different things.”

Amanda and Tony observe teachers in the classroom several times throughout the year. At the end of the year, teachers will reflect on their growth and set goals accordingly for next year.

Celebrating great teaching is also key to the expert teacher role. “So many teachers here are doing amazing things,” Amanda says. “We want to ensure that their work is supported and celebrated.”

Providing & Developing Resources

Our expert teachers act as a resource for all teachers, no matter how long they’ve been at Greenwood. If they’re looking for an outside perspective on a lesson or wondering about a new classroom management technique, Tony and Amanda are there to help. They also contribute to Greenwood’s Wednesday morning professional development program - for example, they most recently ran a session on relational teaching. In delivering these PD sessions, they consistently model effective teaching practices.

In addition, Tony and Amanda regularly send teachers resources - including articles, videos and podcasts - that are targeted to their specific goals. “We don’t want to inundate people with information,” Tony says. “We want to send them resources that we know are going to be useful.”

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Apprentice Teachers Deepen Knowledge of Customized Learning

During their time at Greenwood, our apprentice teachers get to know our students -
and how they learn - incredibly well.
Customized learning is at the heart of Greenwood, and it’s one of the main focuses of our Apprentice Teacher program.

By working with experienced teachers, coaching sports teams, supervising outdoor education trips and service learning initiatives and completing on-calls, our six apprentice teachers get to know our students - and how they learn - incredibly well. These quality relationships between students and teachers are integral to supporting a truly customized program.
“The Apprentice Teacher program is a win-win,” says Mary Gauthier, Executive Director of the Greenwood Centre for Teaching and Learning. “Teachers new to the profession have the opportunity to learn about all elements of the school community, and to connect with many different subjects and age groups; in turn, Greenwood benefits from the many ways apprentice teachers support the program, from coaching school teams to supervising weekly community service activities.

Apprentice teachers meet with Mary one per week to explore a topic connected to
customized learning.

OISE Certificate Program

Earlier this fall, Mary approached the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) about creating a course connecting research in customized learning to the Greenwood experience – and OISE readily agreed. This course is run out of Greenwood's Centre for Teaching and Learning; it is unique to Greenwood, and will earn each apprentice teacher a certificate in “Teacher Induction: Applying the Research to Design and Deliver Customized Learning.”
Once a week, our six apprentices meet with Mary to discuss a topic connected to customized learning – whether it’s the teen brain, grouping students by readiness or relational teaching. At the end of the year, our apprentice teachers will reflect on their own practice through an action research project on designing and implementing customized learning. In keeping with Greenwood’s approach, they can choose the form their final project will take; options include a research paper, an article, a presentation or a video.
“The OISE certificate brings even more value to the Apprentice Teacher program,” Mary says. “In addition to gaining hands-on experience both in and out of the classroom, these teachers can also further their professional credentials.” 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Challenge and Support: Greenwood's Centre for Teaching and Learning

Greenwood's Centre for Teaching and Learning will support teachers in taking full
advantage of our new learning spaces.

We often forget that teachers are learners, too. Greenwood’s new Centre for Teaching and Learning ensures that our teachers are challenged and supported throughout their careers, whether they’re in Year 1 or Year 10. The Centre is also dedicated to identifying and implementing best practices in customized learning, and to supporting teachers in taking full advantage of our new learning spaces.

As its inaugural executive director, Mary Gauthier will drive the work of the Centre throughout the school year. Here’s a quick introduction to what drew her to Greenwood and her hopes for the coming months.

Mary Gauthier

Q: What brought you to Greenwood?
A: I’m drawn to schools that are very clear on their mission - where it is evident that the community lives it every day. Greenwood is one of these schools. I also really admired the commitment to innovation, and to valuing and developing the expertise of teachers.

Q: What have you learned in your time at the school?
A: I’ve been so impressed with the high level of teaching expertise at Greenwood. Teachers have already been making great use of the new spaces to increase customization in the classroom.

Q: What are your hopes for this year?
A: Much as we encourage curiosity, creativity, initiative and perseverance in our students, these qualities are also key to great teaching. I want teachers to take inspiration from all of the new spaces available to try new things. We’ll also be sure to gather and value student voices - as owners of their learning, their feedback is critical.

Be sure to visit our blog throughout the school year to see how we're turning these hopes into reality.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Customization and Optimization: Making the Most of Our New Spaces

This new Learning Community is one of the many new spaces at Greenwood that
is designed and furnished to facilitate fluid transitions between types of teaching.

Two key initiatives in our new strategic plan involve establishing a Centre for Teaching and Learning to help teachers advance their use of customized learning and ensuring that we optimize our new spaces to build learning and community. Throughout this year’s edition of our school blog, we will share examples from teachers of how they are working with students in the new spaces on these initiatives. We will also examine how teachers collaborate with one another to enhance their professional growth.

One key principle we want to illustrate with our new classroom spaces is how they promote individual, peer-to-peer and whole group learning. Physical settings make a significant impact on student engagement. Greenwood's spaces are designed and furnished to facilitate fluid transitions between types of teaching and ultimately, should enable students to take greater control of their learning. These spaces also feature technology that supports vertical and horizontal surfaces that can be used for projection, display and interactive learning.

Besides classroom learning, our new spaces are also designed to enhance the social, physical and creative culture within the school, all of which contribute to the development of character. So, we want to show you how students are using the Learning Commons, the second gym and the new arts spaces. Ultimately, we hope that students are engaged and enjoying life here at Greenwood.

Allan Hardy

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning

The participants from our first Summer Institute
for teachers shared how they have tapped the
power of personalized learning this year.
In Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning (2016), James Rickabaugh defines effective personalized learning as “an approach to learning and instruction that is designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs, and interests. Learners are active participants in setting goals, planning learning paths, tracking progress and determining how learning will be demonstrated (6).”

Throughout this year, the participants from Greenwood’s first Summer Institute for teachers have shared how they have tapped the power of personalized learning. Our Grade 10 history team outlined how their program allows for choice and connects with the power of student interests. Our French teachers have demonstrated the importance of creating authentic learning contexts as a way of addressing student needs and readiness. Our science teachers have illustrated how they have used technology to provide instantaneous feedback, which allows students to track their progress. And finally, our Grade 7 and 8 teachers describe how their integrated projects allow for students to demonstrate their deep learning about such important issues as sustainability.

These are just a few of the many exciting examples of Greenwood’s ongoing efforts to make learning something we do with students. In doing so, we are helping prepare students for the world in which they will live and work.

Allan Hardy

Friday, 9 October 2015

Integrated Projects: Learning Through Cross-Curricular Programming

Grade 7 and 8 students learn best through meaningful and rich experiences that connect to real life, incorporate multiple disciplines, give students choice and provide time for experimentation.  

In June, a diverse group of Grade 7 and 8 teachers met to brainstorm and develop integrated projects to improve how we address these students' needs. These week-long projects meet expectations for social studies,  English, science and math.  Each grade will have the opportunity to participate in two projects this year.  The first project will run during the school year and the second project will be implemented during the culminating period.  

The themes for the first projects are:

  • Grade 7 - Designing for Disaster:  In teams, students will design a device that will help a literary character survive a disaster.  They will need to use their scientific knowledge and understanding of how humans acquire, manage and use natural resources based on their environment to help them achieve their task.

  • Grade 8 - WAPT (Water Action Project Toronto):  In teams, students will create a proposal for Toronto City Council that focuses on improving water sustainability within the city. In creating the proposal, they will investigate the various ways people impact the physical environment and sustainability of water resources in Toronto, and use statistical data to support their ideas.

The integrated projects are developmentally appropriate, sensitive, and encourage critical thinking skills. These projects are piloting an integrated approach for the Grade 7 and 8 program that could be extended into the flexible spaces in the new building in the future.

The opportunity for teachers to meet as a team for extended periods of time during the Summer Institute allowed for efficient and innovative programming to be created. Grade 7 and 8 teachers are excited to continue planning and building an authentic cross-curricular program for our students!

Elysia Jellema and Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Teachers

Friday, 18 September 2015

Greenwood’s First Summer Institute for Teachers - Collaborating to Develop Personalized Education

The teachers at Greenwood strive to create a personalized program for students through the use of technology-rich resources (blended learning) and innovative programming. The development of forward-thinking approaches to education takes collaboration, time, and support for teachers. To achieve this goal, we recently launched our week-long Summer Institute.

Science teachers Julie Way, Nancy Clarke and Vanessa Floras
developed technology-rich lab activities for students during the
2015 Summer Institute.
Teachers were enthusiastic about this initiative: we received 18 proposals from 30 teachers, which accounts for half of our teaching staff. Nine of these proposals were selected and 19 teachers participated in the Institute, using devoted time to collaborate with colleagues and develop curriculum to support personalized and visionary education

Listed below are the projects teachers worked on:

  • Developing a curriculum that integrates Grade 12 English (ENG4U) and AP English (ENG4UO) using a team-teaching approach within one learning space.
  • Developing blended learning materials for Grade 11 Biology (SBI3U) to provide a student-centred learning approach.
  • Designing the WWII unit in Grade 10 History (CHC2D) to integrate blended learning, community service, and experiential learning opportunities.
  • Generation of teacher expertise with Vernier Lab Equipment. Expert teachers spent time developing technology-rich lab activities for students and training modules for teachers.
  • Redesign of the Grade 10 Core French (FSF2D) course to integrate project-based assessment and more personalized learning activities.
  • Development of blended learning materials for Grade 10 Careers (GLC2O) to allow for personalization of the curriculum.
  • Development of integrated, cross-curricular projects for students in Grade 7 & 8.
  • Visionary investigation and planning for an enhanced Grade 7 & 8 program. Teachers looked at the new classroom spaces that will be ready in September 2016 and how these can be used to provide Grade 7 & 8 students with age-appropriate and integrated learning opportunities.

Having a week to work together and to focus exclusively on curriculum development was greatly appreciated by all participants. The school is fortunate to have the resources to provide these teachers some additional compensation for their efforts. This work also provided teachers with an excellent, job-embedded professional learning opportunity.

This work will support the transition in the fall of 2016 to the new learning spaces in our expanded campus and advance our ongoing, personalized learning initiatives.

Throughout this school year, teachers who participated in our Summer Institute will use this blog to illustrate the impact of these new teaching approaches on student learning.

Allan Hardy

Heather Thomas
Vice-Principal, Student Learning

Monday, 16 December 2013

235 Years Old and Still Innovating

Throughout the past several months, a number of our classroom teachers have used this personalized learning blog to share examples of Greenwood’s progressive approach to teaching and learning. There are several common threads within these examples of personalized learning:
  1. Teachers use student readiness and interests to develop learning activities.
  2. Technology is used as a tool to facilitate and enhance learning.
  3. As much as possible, learning is linked with real-life applications.
I was pleased to read recently that the oldest and one of the most prestigious prep schools in the US—Phillips Academy Andover—has adopted a similar approach to educational innovation. Throughout its long history, Andover has spearheaded the implementation of initiatives such as Outward Bound, Advanced Placement Testing, and community outreach. More recently they have introduced Connected Learning as a way of engaging teachers in the development of new pedagogy.

As described on the Andover website, Connected Learning is a research-based model of learning that maintains successful traditional standards and introduces new ways of doing things that tap into the potential created by globalization and technology.” As in Greenwood’s introduction of blended learning, Andover also faced concerns about technology replacing teachers in the classroom and that all teaching would be done using technology.

However, John Palfrey, Head of School at Andover, believes that programs like Connected Learning will help teachers shift from the traditional role of dispensing information, to guiding students to turn information into knowledge and apply it to real-life situations. In a manner similar to that being used at Greenwood, Andover is using its year-long professional development program to have teachers work together to develop examples of Connected Learning. Andover is also exploring the online approach to learning used by the Khan Academy to see how it may influence their approach to Connected Learning.

Palfrey’s hope is that Andover will be a centre of excellence that serves as model for other educational institutions and leads the way in the transformation of education. We have similar aspirations at Greenwood and look forward to sharing more examples of personalized learning with readers in the months ahead.

Allan Hardy

Many postsecondary institutions, such as Queen's University and U of T, have also recognized the value of personalized learning - and specifically, blended learning - for enhancing student learning and engagement. An increasing number are making this approach a part of their postsecondary program. On February 4, Greenwood will host a panel discussion, featuring blended learning experts, on what this approach looks like at the postsecondary level. Click here to learn more and to RSVP.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Professional Growth Focuses On Personalizing For Student Readiness

On Wednesday mornings, the teachers at Greenwood College School are given time to engage with each other through meetings or PD sessions. This week we began a series of professional growth sessions.

One of these ongoing sessions focused on the development of personalized lessons based on student readiness. To start the group off, we discussed personalized learning as a concept, developing the understanding that to personalize, one must first understand the students’ individual strengths, weaknesses and interests. Personalizing for readiness involves allowing students to work either at their own pace or to build on a skill once they have mastered initial concepts or both. We looked at a learning cycle that could be linked to the practice of personalizing for skill readiness.

When students are learning a certain skill such as writing paragraphs, solving equations or shading to add contour, a teacher who is personalizing their experience would first assess the students’ proficiency with the skill. Based on this pre-assessment, the teacher would identify what needs to be worked on in order to reach the end goal. For example, a teacher working on paragraph writing might follow these steps with a student:
  1. The student writes one or two paragraphs.
  2. From this writing, the teacher would see that the student needs practice with sentence structure.
  3. The student practices creating sentences with proper structure and concise ideation.
  4. The student is asked to write another paragraph for the teacher (re-assessment).
  5. The teacher gives feedback about sentence structure and if there is sufficient improvement the student is given new next steps. For example, the next steps could be that the student needs to work on good opening and closing sentences.

This cycle would continue, each student working on skills specific to their needs until the evaluation for this skill is reached.  The assessments can be the same for each student, but the teacher would focus on the individual student’s next steps at that time when assessing. Alternatively, the assessments vary from student to student if this better assesses individual student progress. The idea is that each student gets individual feedback and practice in order to improve their skills in their area of need.

In the professional growth group that I worked with, each teacher will use the cycle described above to create lessons that are personalized for the student based on their readiness and then share these lessons with their colleagues. As teachers practice these methods in their classroom as well as dialogue about their experiences, we are hoping to build on the culture of personalized learning here at Greenwood College School.

Heather Thomas (formerly Rigby)
Director of Personalized Learning

Friday, 27 April 2012

Is the PD Day Broken?

A recent article in the National Post, “Is the PD Day Broken?”, posed some interesting questions about how schools help teachers adapt to the future of education. This article made frequent reference to a report by Professor Bill Whelan for the Prince Edward Island Ministry of Education. Whelan was the co-chair of a provincial commission responsible for making recommendations about how the province could modernize its school system.

One of the commission’s 48 recommendations urged schools to “take a long hard look at professional development (PD) days as their effectiveness is questionable at best.” What the commission - as well as many parents and educators - object to is the isolated or random nature of PD days. In many cases, solitary PD days rarely connect to student learning or student improvement. In other cases, PD days focus overly on the latest fad or trend in education.

Whelan and his team concluded that the ideal professional development model “would see teacher training ramped up and built right into the school week.” Whelan adds that collaboration between master teachers with beginning teachers on a weekly basis should be an essential component of professional development. This collaboration would be enhanced if beginning teachers had time to observe the teaching practices of their more experienced colleagues. In his opinion, given the proper support, this type of job-embedded professional development would replace the traditional PD days.

So, what does this discussion about PD days have to do with our ongoing dialogue about personalized learning? Well, as has been observed in previous blog postings, the success of any personalized learning program is directly related to the training and development of teachers. Breaking the hold of the century-old, one-size-fits-all approach to classroom teaching is a monumental task, as it represents a fundamental rethinking of the way schools work. Change of this magnitude requires a systematic and sustained approach.

It is refreshing to hear that educators in other parts of Canada are arriving at this conclusion. More importantly, it lets us know that the innovative work being done here at Greenwood has merit and meaning.

Allan Hardy

Monday, 2 April 2012

Teachers Need to Focus on Deliberate Practice

The term following March Break is the one where I begin to reflect on what I have done to increase student learning. This is the last opportunity for me to really help students show growth, and so I have to think about which students are well on their way, and which ones need something else from me to help them improve their performance.

Because this is the frame of mind that I am in, I was curious to join a webinar put on by the Marzano Learning Centre on March 30, 2012 on “Becoming a Reflective Teacher.”

Marzano is a respected leader in the field of teacher development, and his research has influenced my development over the years. One of the things he spoke about in the webinar is how teachers need to focus on deliberate practice and select three specific things to work on each year in order to improve.

In a previous posting I noted that my work with teachers at Greenwood College School is similar to my work with students in my English class in the way that focusing on specific areas for growth is more effective than trying to look at everything at once.

In this article from Educational Leadership, Marzano writes about how a teacher might find areas for growth from the behaviours that he considers essential for the classroom.

I had made it a goal to increase the ways I personalize instruction this year, and as I reflect now on which students need more, or different types of, instruction, it is with the goal of personalizing so that each can achieve a high level of performance, at or near his or her capacity.

Jennifer Walcott
Director of Teacher Development

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Adapting to Meet the Needs of Personalized Learning

Those of you who have been following our blog on personalized learning will have observed that in order to meet the needs of personalized learning, the role of the teacher must evolve.

As Heather, Jennifer and Kyle have described in their entries, the shift in ownership of learning from student to teacher is at the heart of personalized learning. Aside from creating course content, teachers work closely with students on a range of learning needs. A teacher’s understanding of these needs relies heavily on the use of ongoing assessment, as the emphasis is more on student mastery of learning rather than coverage of content.

This change in emphasis is one of the more pronounced differences between personalized learning and a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather than staging evaluation in timed intervals (i.e. at the end of a unit), teachers instead assess student progress on an ongoing basis. These results are used to determine day-to-day student programming, with the student playing a far greater role in deciding what to do next.

Schools intending to move towards a personalized learning approach will need to ensure that teachers have the necessary time and support to refine their knowledge and skills, as the demands upon teachers to keep pace with this rapid pace of change will be significant.

Blended learning provides an opportunity for a more sophisticated type of personalized learning. By placing the direct teaching and/or guided practice part of a typical classroom lesson online (as is the case with the Khan Academy videos), teachers free up class time for rich face-to-face activities which can be completed in groups or independently. Clearly, it takes a high level of teacher expertise to create these online videos and higher-order thinking activities.

Schools intending to move towards a personalized learning approach will need to ensure that teachers have the necessary time and support to refine their knowledge and skills, as the demands upon teachers to keep pace with this rapid pace of change will be significant. Schools may find as well that some degree of specialization within its teaching cohort is a more efficient way to proceed.

Presently, we are utilizing this approach at Greenwood. Our expert teachers are developing course content and teachers in the early years of their career oversee the face-to-face component of the classroom. Thus far, this approach has provided those teachers involved in the program with a great opportunity for dialogue and collaboration.

You can learn more about how the changing role of the teacher by listening to this NPR broadcast which examines the use of blended learning in Northern California.

Allan Hardy

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

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Our Teachers Grow with Personalized Learning

Personalizing the classroom requires a shift in the teacher’s role. This shift can feel unnatural as traditional education aims to meet the needs of students performing at the middle of the class. At Greenwood College School, our goal is to have personalized learning occur in all of our classrooms. We recognize that meeting this goal requires teacher training, so we have dedicated a series of professional development sessions to the growth of our teachers in this area.

We want our teachers to use their classrooms as laboratories. We encourage them to test personalized learning approaches with their students. Last week during a PD session, we had the opportunity to share the many successes and obstacles encountered as we try to personalize our classrooms. I believe both the successes and obstacles are important to discuss - perhaps the obstacles more so at this stage. Discussing these challenges helps teachers grow further and pushes us to think creatively as professionals. I will outline a couple of the conversations that the teachers had in this session.

The Grade 8 Social Studies teacher is nearing the end of a water unit which combined traditional lessons and technology-based resources so that students could complete the unit at their own pace. He found that self-pacing worked well for students who are self-motivated, but many other students did not complete the unit in the time allotted. This led us to discuss the management of a self-paced personalized approach.

We saw that students need:
  • firm intermediary deadlines
  • to be assessed or involved in individual conferences with the teacher at regular intervals
  • to be provided with a timeline indicating the slowest acceptable pace

About a quarter of the class completed the unit early. The teacher initially saw this as an obstacle, but we discussed how self-pacing will leave time for enrichment and further study for some students.

With the help of his colleagues, the teacher came up with a plan for these students. As they complete the unit, students finishing early will be given above grade-level texts on the topic and asked to run a seminar with the rest of the class.

The Grade 10 French teacher used blended learning tools to help personalize her grammar units. She began the unit with a pre-assessment and moved students into a program based on their individual needs.

Students who achieved over 80 per cent on the pre-assessment began a video lesson covering new material. The concepts learned from the video were then applied to reading, writing and oral dialogue. Some students mastered the new content very quickly.

To challenge them further, they investigated pronoun use in an authentic Francophone scenario of interest to them (article, television, movie). These students then shared their findings orally and in writing with the rest of the class.

By setting up her classroom to allow faster students to progress independently, the teacher had more time to work with students who scored below 80 per cent on the pre-assessment. She retaught and reassessed this content in various ways until each student showed a strong enough understanding of the base concepts to be able to succeed with the new content.

When this understanding was demonstrated, the student proceeded to the concept video lesson and application activities. The French teacher shared some of the things she learned through the development and implementation of this unit:
  • creating a personalized experience requires a lot of front loading and pre-planning
  • the pathways need to be structured and clear enough for students to easily follow
  • allowing for self-pacing gave the teacher time to work with each student until she was sure that they had the foundation needed to be successful with the new material

The personalized learning PD session last week is one of the many ways that the teachers at Greenwood College School are growing to further meet the varying needs of their students.

Many teachers are still exploring what personalized learning means and how it will work in their classrooms. This session gave them a chance to ask questions and help each other push further into personalizing the classroom experience of their students.

Heather Rigby
Director of Personalized Learning

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Personalizing Teacher Growth

Personalized learning is an approach to teaching and learning that focuses more on the learner and tailors the what, when, where and how of learning to an individual’s interests and readiness.

At Greenwood College School, we are committed to life-long learning for our students and for our teachers. We have developed a tiered model for teacher growth and appraisal which provides intense support in the first three years of teaching at the school - and then allows greater self-direction from the fourth year on.

Teachers in this latter group are encouraged to personalize their growth in the profession by setting annual learning goals aimed at increasing student learning.

What does this mean?

Well, this year, one teacher has set a goal to see how she can use portfolios in science. She will read about and experiment with different portfolio formats to determine which is most effective for students to collect, reflect on and store their work.

The most important aspect is developing a process for students to reflect on an assignment and set learning goals. The teacher will then use the reflection to personalize instruction based on the student’s goals and readiness.

Another teacher is exploring co-operative learning structures and how to use these to help personalize instruction. Different co-operative learning structures can be used in a classroom based on student readiness. Some students could be exploring new material because they are ready to move ahead, while others are using a structure that has them reviewing different material to develop mastery before they move on.

In this phase of the growth plan, teachers select a peer with whom to share and check in on the process. We are moving toward sharing all teachers’ progress and learning at the end of the year to celebrate their growth. In our weekly professional development sessions on Wednesday mornings, teachers share new ideas or tips on things they have tried.

For example, we have learned how a course calendar can be used to allow students to work ahead, how to upload and mark assignments in Moodle, and how to use cellphones for quizzes to check for understanding.

Jennifer Walcott
Director of Teacher Development