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Thursday / September 21

Professional Learning Protocols: A Driver for Co-Learning

It is vitally important that we integrate deep learning strategies that keep the focus on analyzing student work and the impact of our teaching while using the time we have for co-learning in flexible ways. In Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence (Corwin Press, 2016), we describe methodologies that allow us to be involved in co-learning in the classroom as well as in more flexible ways outside the classroom setting. Here are some details regarding one of the book’s protocols that does not require release time and we invite you to consider our book for more co-learning strategies:

Sharing Student Work

This protocol is designed to look at a variety of student responses to a collaboratively planned lesson to deepen our understanding. It works well for members of a teaching division or grade partners:

Prior collaborative planning to teaching

  • Establish norms of collaborative engagement (See Appendix B of Leading Collaborative Learning)
  • Establish an area of common teaching interest or concern (What does student data reveal as an area of focus?)
  • Choose a specific curriculum Learning Goal or Intention as a focus within a commonly agreed upon subject area.
  • Plan a lesson collaboratively and determine the Success Criteria that need to be co-constructed with students.
  • Determine together how prior student knowledge will be determined as a part of the planning process.
  • As a part of the planning, develop a rich performance task that directly relates to the learning goal and success criteria as a culminating event.
  • Determine how the student work will be assessed.

Individual teaching and choosing pieces of student work to share –

  • Within no more than two days of teaching the lesson, each member of the collaborative chooses three pieces of student work from the rich performance task to bring to share and discuss.
  • Choose pieces of student work that represent different levels of thinking and understanding.

Collaborative discussion – time needed 1.5 hours

  • Each participant debriefs their teaching experience and shares one piece of student work at a time. Collaborators listen to each other and ask questions for clarification or offer suggestions for next steps in teaching and what feedback would be helpful for the student involved.
  • Collaborative debriefing ends with a reflection on the process of professional co-learning.

Effective questions and good facilitation of the discussion can deepen the learning while using this protocol.  Here are some questions we might consider:

  • How do the pieces of student work relate to the Success Criteria that we felt were important?
  • What do we see as evidence of student thinking?
  • What are the next steps for learning for our students based on the evidence we see in their work?
  • What specific feedback will we give the students?
  • Who can be grouped together for guided practice and mini-lessons in responding to our data?

Reflection is a very important part of co-learning and questions on the process of co-learning are also valuable, such as the following:

  1. What did we learn from listening to our colleagues as we shared student work?
  2. What new perspectives did we gain from the experience of co-learning?
  3. What will we take back to our classrooms to try, amend or refine?
  4. How will we build on the learning?
  5. What would we change about the process and what we would we keep?
  6. When will we meet again and what kind of student work will we bring back to our learning table?

In summary, collaborative learning is a powerful learning tool for staff as well as students when we are specific and focused in our planning, teaching, debriefing and is driven by on-going assessment. The leadership needed to steer this focussed work is also specific and skills-based. We call that leadership “Collabor-ability”(p. 107)!


Sharratt, L. & Planche, B. (2016) Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence. Corwin Press – see Appendices on pages 237-243 for further details on protocols for co-learning.

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Lyn Sharratt coordinates the doctoral internship program in Leadership and Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Lyn is the former Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Services in the York Region District School Board, a large Canadian school district, where she and her curriculum team analyzed assessment data and developed a comprehensive literacy improvement program, which they launched with the cooperation of senior leadership, principals, and over 9000 teachers. The continuously improving 14 parameter program resulted in increased achievement for a diverse, multicultural, and multilingual population of over 120,000 students, and the district became the top performing district in Ontario. Lyn has been a school superintendent, curriculum consultant and administrator, and she has also taught all elementary grades and secondary-age students in inner-city and rural settings. Lyn has analyzed and commented on public policy for a provincial trustee organization, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association; has taught pre-service education at York University; Masters’ and Doctoral students at University of Toronto and Nipissing University; and led in-service professional learning in a provincial teachers’ union head office. She is lead author, with Michael Fullan, of Realization: The Change Imperative for Increasing District-Wide Reform (Corwin, 2009) and Putting FACES on the Data: What Great Leaders Do! (Corwin, 2012, published in English, Spanish and Arabic). Lyn is lead author of Good to Great to Innovate: Recalculating the Route K-12, (Corwin, 2015) with Gale Harild and Empowering Excellence: Leading Collaborative Learning (Corwin, being launched in 2016) with Beate Planche. Currently, Lyn is an advisor for International School Leadership with the Ontario Principals’ Council, is an Author Consultant for Corwin Publishing and consults internationally, working with leaders, administrators, consultants, and teachers in Chile, Australia, the United States, Europe and Canada to systematically increase all students’ achievement by putting FACES on the data and taking intentional action. There are over 200 “Sharratt Schools” across the globe, representing thousands of students. Visit her website at www.lynsharratt.com or contact her on Twitter @LynSharratt and at Linked-In where Lyn owns the “Educational Leadership” LinkedIn group which has 51,000 members. View Lyn speaking in Ontario about leadership development and system and school improvement for ALL students at www.learnteachlead.com Beate Planche is an educational practitioner, consultant and researcher. Beate is a sessional instructor in Graduate Education for the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Through her consulting work, Beate provides research, consulting and coaching for educators in the areas of literacy programming, collaborative inquiry, and inquiry-based learning for students. Beate is a former Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Services in the York Region District School Board as well as a former Superintendent supervising schools, a principal, vice principal and a co-director of a private school. During Beate’s tenure as Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Services, the department she led served over 200 schools and 9,000 teachers through their work with Area Superintendents, area Learning Networks and their work with new teachers, and teachers seeking individual support. In her 20 years in educational administration, Beate has led in-service professional learning and has supported and mentored many new administrators, as well as curriculum and teacher leaders. Beate taught elementary as well as secondary students, spending a large portion of her career in Special Education working with students identified with learning disabilities. Beate has been an adjunct professor supporting teacher candidates for York University, has worked on contract with Ontario’s Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, and, is presently on the Boards of Learning Forward-Ontario and the Character Community Foundation of York Region. Beate is the author of over 20 published articles and reviewed papers. Visit Beate at LinkedIn , on Twitter @bmplanche , or on her website www.beateplanche.com

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