Thoughts and Tools

MCS PD Change Outline

Sometimes it’s good to go back and review your ‘Why

 

Why do I teach?

I teach so my students will discover Truth that their minds understand, hearts believe, wills embrace, and lives reflect.

 

How do I teach? 

With any means available that make Truth clearer and the discussions of Truth’s relevance and consequence richer.

 

What’s growing in your professional life?

I want to be a teacher that is growing in understanding the best way to lead students to Truth.  I want to be a professional that continues to challenge myself to replace old, rotten habits with fresh understanding and technique.  I want to find ways to integrate the new tools that are in my classroom (e.g. cell phones, tablets, laptops and SMART Boards) for my students’ growth. 

 

At Madison Christian Schools, we’re just starting on a three-year1 Professional Development journey for increasing our awareness, capacity for, and ability to effectively work with a greater diversity in our student body.  Two of our explicit, long-term goals are to:

  1. create a learning environment which clearly reflects the cultures and needs of all of our learners;
  2. integrate teaching best practices to effectively engage all learners. (Cook, 2016)

 

We currently have biweekly before-school meetings specifically devoted to these PD goals.  While I’ve already shared some of my thoughts of what might make our PD efforts more effective, I haven’t provided any specific ideas of how those changes might be implemented.  I believe that modifying the structure of the morning PD sessions would allow for a great deal of benefit.  Below, I’d like to outline some of the ways these changes might be accomplished.

 

Outline for MCS PD Improvement suggestions:

  1. Schedule a meeting with administration to clarify long-term goals and suggest modifying morning PD session structures.
    1. Identify measurable outcomes for stated three-year PD goals
    2. Identify vital behaviors that work towards these outcomes
    3. Suggest increased small group collaboration2, 3, 5 during morning PD sessions to include problem solving on improving these vital behaviors
    4. Suggest additional small group work with teachers wanting to increase the use of ICT within their classrooms.  Include an IT expert as needed in these small groups2, 4.
  2. Create survey for teachers to self-evaluate their own performance and as a possible tool for in-class observations.

 

Upacking the outline:

The outline above may seem small, but its implications are powerful.  The hardest work will be to identify real, measurable vital behaviors that will lead to the desired PD outcomes.  Once these have been identified, the basic idea is to leverage the already existing biweekly meetings to great effect. 

 

The essential change would be to move from presentations and large group discussions towards a small group collaborative model.  By breaking the biweekly meetings into smaller, self-selected groups (based on grade-level or content area), greater gains should be possible than from a one-size-fits-all approach.  These small groups would enable greater teacher choice, collaboration, active learning and accountability as groups work together to solve problems and consider new teaching paradigms or techniques.  Several faculty members are already interested in incorporating ICT in the classroom, so this would be a natural small group to form as well.  Increasing the availability of IT personnel during these meetings should help relieve anxiety and create momentum for trying new techniques in the classroom.

 

In short, by crystallizing our vital behaviors and activating the tremendous learning power in collaborative small groups, we can greatly improve the effectiveness of our existing PD structures.

 

Timeline and Responsibilities:

I hope to be able to schedule a meeting with administration within two weeks and talk through the ideas I have.  Hopefully we would be able to schedule follow-up meetings to solidify our desired vital behaviors within two months.  Even before the vital behaviors are clarified, we should be able shift some of the biweekly meetings to a teacher-directed small group format to enhance collaboration.  The ideas that I have will leverage our already existing structures and in-house expertise without increasing administrative load or financial burden. 

 

 

The footnotes above refer to the following best practices for Professional Development as suggested by Gulamhussein, A. (2013) and Wei, et al. (2009).

 

  1. Extended duration is important.
  2. Support for implementation difficulties is crucial.
  3. Active, hands-on teacher-involved learning is game-changing.
  4. Coaching and modelling is tremendously helpful.
  5. Grade-level and content-specific tailoring of content increases effectiveness.

 

Cook, D. (2016). Cultural Diversity Awareness 300 Level Classes. Unpublished internal document, Madison Christian Schools.

 

Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the Teacher; Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes Accountability: National School Board Association, Center for Public Education.

 

Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond, L., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the U.S. and Abroad. National Staff Development Council.

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Curtis White, M.S., M.C.E.
High School Faculty
Math, Science, Bible & Computers
Abundant Life Christian School
A Madison Christian School
608.221.1520
Curtis_White@limtw.net