Lost in Translation: Bringing PD Back to the Classroom and School


This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original >

We often send teachers and teacher leaders to attend professional development workshops to learn best practices and share ideas—to become part of larger conversations in order to ensure innovation in instructional practice. This is a great intention and a great way to build collaboration, cultivate teacher leadership, and build reflective practice. However, there is a major pitfall that can occur even with this amazing intention. It goes something like this:

A teacher is asked to attend a workshop or training to become an expert in that area. The expectation is that the teacher will then train teachers in that practice, and that, in turn, will lead to good implementation at the team, school, or even district level.

I can’t be kind about this. This is one of the most unrealistic and ineffective practices for professional learning. The intention of providing good professional learning gets lost in translation as it is implemented. Here’s why this doesn’t work:

– There’s an expectation that the teacher, after one dive, is an expert. Teachers will become experts, but only after time—time devoted to their own implementation, design, reflection, and, of course, mistakes. Learning is a process, and to become a master, there must be an extended process of revision and reflection. The teacher must be given additional support and cultivated by a leader of that instructional practice.

– The word “training” comes with baggage that often looks like the “sit and get” type of learning. There is a time and place for a lecture, but good professional learning needs more. It needs collaboration, revision, protocols, data analysis, and the like. Expecting teachers to simply relay the content will not ensure effective implementation.

– Professional learning is being instituted in a “drive by” manner. When a teacher comes back and teaches that content in a short period, the one being taught isn’t provided with ongoing processes and protocols to learn, make mistakes, and grow in practice. Instead, schools should commit to ongoing conversations in professional practice where teachers are given the freedom to fail but also to grow.

– Teachers may or not have “the chops” to facilitate good professional learning. If the intention is to build teacher leaders, then teachers need to be given support and professional learning IN professional learning.

– This type of professional development may just be “another thing.” Often when we ask teachers to come back and share the learning, this is on top of many other initiatives. Imagine that a teacher comes back from one workshop and teaches the staff, and then another teacher comes back and teaches the staff. This could go on and on. We know that “bombardment of initiatives” does not work. Instead a deep dive into targeted learning is needed to ensure reflection, growth, and change in practice (Fullen, Michael. Leadership for the 21st Century: Breaking the Bond of Dependency. Educational Leadership. Volume 55, Number 7. April 1998. 6-10).

Sharing ideas and reflecting is different than expecting effective implementation. It is totally appropriate to have teachers come back from a professional learning experience and share their learning and growth from it. But to expect them to arm their fellow teachers with all the tools needed for effective implementation? That isn’t feasible. Let’s instead commit to professional learning best practices, where the learning is focused, ongoing, reflective, and collaborative. This will lead to sustainable improvement!

Personalized Learning Starts with Personal Relationships


This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >



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How do we help each student succeed? One promising way is to personalize learning and put each student at the center of her learning experience. Broader than individualized or differentiated instruction, personalized learning is driven by the learner. Ensuring personalized learning for all students requires a shift in thinking about long-standing education practices, systems, and policies, as well as significant changes in the tools and resources. To address students’ abilities, interests, styles, and performance, schools need to rethink curricula, instruction, and technology tools to support giving learners choices and schools flexibility.

In our last episode of the Whole Child Podcast, we discussed personalized learning in the 21st century global marketplace with professor Yong Zhao, author of the ASCD book Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization. In this episode, we take a look at personalizing learning on the ground and in schools and the importance of relationships in activating students to take charge of their learning. You’ll hear from

Jennifer Eldredge, a Spanish teacher at Oconomowoc High School whose district is a member of the regional Cooperative Educational Service Agency #1, which is committed to establishing personalized learning as the prevailing approach in southeastern Wisconsin.
Andrew Miller, former classroom and online teacher and current educational consultant, ASCD Faculty member, National Faculty member at the Buck Institute for Education, and regular ASCD and Edutopia blogger.
Beth Sanders, a high school social studies teacher at Tarrant High School in Alabama who is also the cofounder and codirector of Youth Converts Culture and was named an Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2013 and 2013 Teacher of the Year for Tarrant City Schools.

Tips to Relieve Your Common Core Pain Points


This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original >

While implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), many educators—both in leadership and in the classroom—are experiencing some bumps along the way. This is to be expected, but there are some specific “pain points” that are leading to common areas of need.

Here are some of the most common pain points we see as we work with districts and schools across the country, and a few ideas to relieve them.

Pain Point: Ensuring common practices and strategies for implementing the CCSS in the classroom

Expert Tips: Of course, we want to make sure we are all on the same page in building a common understanding of what effective implementation looks like. At the start, you should understand that the standards aren’t the whole curriculum. Then assure that your curriculum is aligned to the standards. Also, have teachers and leaders identify specific instructional practices and strategies that will be used in all classrooms. These can be schoolwide practices that are already working, as well as new practices that will support student learning. Make sure that these practices focus on teaching for understanding, and that everyone really knows how to use them with fidelity. Through modeling, demonstration and lab classrooms, and effective use of reflection and feedback, the entire team will be on the same page about what the selected practices “look like” and how to use them.

Pain Point: Using formative assessment effectively while implementing the CCSS

Expert Tips: Just as there needs to be a common understanding of instructional practices, there also needs to be a common understanding around the use of classroom formative assessment practices. Make sure teachers are integrating formative assessment for learning and checking for student understanding practices into what happens in the classroom on an ongoing basis. What the standards are requiring of students makes a balanced approach to classroom formative assessment even more important. These formative assessments should include self and peer assessment, performance tasks, projects, and constructed responses. In addition, formative assessments should support students in making the leap to apply what they have learned to new and different concepts, situations, and subject areas. Whether your state is a member of PARCC, Smarter Balance, or developing their own summative assessments, adopting a balanced approach to schoolwide formative assessments will help ensure student success.

Pain Point: Including schoolwide, collaborative, and job-embedded professional learning practices supported by teachers and leaders

Expert Tips: It is crucial that staff members are given time to learn together and to collaboratively develop units, lessons, and assessments aligned to the CCSS. These collaborative opportunities also help to build common instructional practices and classroom “look fors.” Part of making sure collaborative work is successful includes the use of selected protocols for examining student and teacher work and creating instructional decisions as a result. The use of common protocols across the school helps to build community and keep the focus on instruction and student learning

Pain Point: Integrating the use of technology effectively while implementing the CCSS

Expert Tips: It’s easy for technology integration to become fluff, rather than targeted toward effective instruction and assessment. Make sure to align technology to formative and summative assessment best practices. Use technology to increase collaboration in professional learning. Also, make sure that technology is used to enhance the common instructional practices that have been agreed upon by the professional learning community. The standards require instructional rigor that supports integrating technology tools in the classroom, so make sure you are targeting technology integration practices aligned to ensuring intentional learning. Create policies that support the use of technology as a tool for opening classroom doors, encourage collaboration and classroom visitation, and build a community of sharing and learning.

San Francisco Bat Kid: A Model PBL Project


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


We have all been inspired by the San Francisco Bat Kid! To fully grasp what happened in that city in mid-November, watch these videos. It isn’t every day that you see so many volunteers coming together to make a child’s wish come true. In truth, creating that entire scenario for the San Francisco Bat Kid was a model PBL project.

A team at Make-a-Wish Foundation was present with this project, which in turn facilitated a Need to Know:

How will we coordinate appropriate volunteers?
What scenarios can we create?
How can we craft a costume for the kid?

I’m sure these are only a few of the many questions that a team had to investigate to make the child’s wish come true. The team collaborated, and its members were given voice and choice on how to craft the day for Bat Kid. And wow, what a public audience! Countless YouTube views, webpage views, and retweets! Not to mention the people of San Francisco who showed up to cheer on Bat Kid! What can we learn from this incredible and inspirational project as we implement PBL projects in our classrooms?

Partner with Charity and Service Organizations
Many great teachers partner with local, national and international organizations that are working toward serving others in need. A PBL project can easily be designed to work with these organizations. If you are wondering how to do this, I encourage to take this simple step: just ask! Often we perceive walls that aren’t there. “That organization won’t have the time to work with me.” “I’ll never get through to the appropriate person.” Don’t let these sentiments get in the way. Send an email, call the phone number, and try to get in touch. The worst that could happen is someone saying “no,” but the best just might be an amazing PBL project that can make a world of difference, not only to whatever population the organization is serving, but also in the lives of your students.

Integrate Service Learning
There are actually specific components to service learning that you may or may not know about. Part of service learning often includes place-based learning, where students can see intersections of learning by doing authentic fieldwork and partnering with community stakeholders. In addition, service learning has a specific and targeted connection to class content. Both inform each other — the content is learning to support the service, and the service learning drives the learning content. Service learning can support and develop student empathy and promotes a social justice ethic. Extend the learning beyond the classroom with service learning.

Real World Products and Services
It’s easy to default to a fundraiser or volunteering to support an organization, and while those activities are certainly a good start, we should consider more possibilities. Ask service and charity organizations how students can actually create products that would be used. These products might create awareness about a cause or issue, target demographic groups whose involvement would be beneficial, or even express emotions from the point of view of those being served. Think outside the box as to what your students can create. Wouldn’t it be amazing if students helped design something as extensive as Bat Kid’s entire day?

Consider how we could enhance PBL when looking at #SFbatkid as a project model. We can create projects that have real-world impact, develop empathy and caring in our students, and demand collaboration beyond the physical classroom and school. Don’t let the classroom confine you. Dream big with your students! How will you take your PBL projects up a notch?

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