It is not a secret that professional learning is often the mechanism used to build excellence in educator practice. Ensuring that the professional learning actually translates into improved student outcomes is easier said than done. Often whole school or individual professional learning plans are vague and poorly communicated. Clarity begins with school leaders and teachers intentionally co designing professional learning plans with consideration to these 5 key components of building clarity.
1. Gap closing goals
Goals should communicate the gaps we want to close. What are the ‘gaps’ for our students and what tells us so? Who knows not only what the goal is but WHY it is the goal? Too often goals become the knowledge of leaders, living on plans and pinboards.
Who knows about your gap closing goals?
2. Communicating quality
Too often, the quality of practice required to close the gap is assumed, vague or left to chance. How clear are those working to close the gap about the quality of practice most likely to do the job? Continually communicating this quality can include:
- Co-constructing what is meant by quality by drawing on teacher expertise and research to ensure there is fidelity to impactful practice,
- Modelling, exemplars, observation protocols and feedback,
- Creating continuums of practice, acknowledging by their existence that not everyone is at the same place in the journey, and
- Embedding this shared understanding of quality in professional goal setting and cycles of feedback.
Who knows what quality looks like?
3. More than minding the gap
It is one thing to know about the gap but another entirely to close it. To achieve the goal can seem a long way off and the gap can sometimes feel more like a chasm than a hairline fracture. Keeping everyone on the journey motivated and challenged is no mean feat. Have you considered:
- breaking the goal into milestones using a Logic model?
- how often and how much professional development will occur that aligns with the quality of practice?
- offering differentiated professional learning opportunities that respond to the diversity of current practice and next steps?
Who knows how you are moving beyond minding the gap to closing it?
4. Knowing while you’re going
Welcome to the game show ‘Closing the Gap’. You have a goal and a plan and everyone is clear about it. Ding ding ding! (think game show buzzer when you get the right answer) Now, sit back, relax and check in when the next report is due or someone asks how it is going. BZZZZ (think game show buzzer when you give the wrong answer). That quality of practice that you so carefully co-constructed and the short terms goals you communicated now need constant checking. There are many ways to monitor the extent to which the gap is closing including student voice collection, ghost walks and moderation processes. What is most important is that your monitoring processes and cycles of feedback align with the criteria for quality practice. Stick to the plan! And if you have found out more about quality practice as you practice…add that newer thinking!
Who knows how you are going WHILE closing the gap?
5. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate
Winners are grinners! What are the ways you can celebrate the gap closing wins along the way? A teacher has improved the quality of practice as shown in a self-assessment and observation. Celebrate! The whole staff have a consistent approach to a practice as a result of multiple staff meetings and cycles of feedback. Celebrate! Learning is not easy, especially if the goals set are challenging and motivating.
Who knows the gap is closing through the celebration by both individuals and the collective?
Don’t leave it to chance- build CLARITY in Professional Learning.