Monday, March 13, 2017

Living the Dream of Effective Professional Learning: Making it Happen

March 13, 2017

By Vicki Bechard, Secretary LFKS

A year and a half ago, as we began the grant process, we were wondering how (maybe even IF) the dream of creating videos using Kansas examples to illustrate effective and meaningful professional learning would come together.  Everything was in future tense… Hopes, dreams, predictions, possibilities…  And now we are Living the Dream and have two videos completed and ready for use. 

The second and most recent video, What is Professional Learning, digs into the components, beliefs, and actions that comprise effective professional learning.  Kansas educators share their stories to underscore and illustrate the actions that lead to a quality professional learning experience rich with engagement and meaning.  I was inspired by the many educators we interviewed or observed.  I could feel their passion and commitment to this effort.  They truly believe in quality professional learning, and most importantly, they are walking their talk, putting those beliefs into actions.  I can’t wait for others to see it, use it, and transform professional learning for themselves and in their buildings! You can view both videos and accompanying resources on our website at this link.

So for a few moments, celebrate with us the progress of our work… and then know that we will quickly get back to work to make the next part of our dream happen.

Back in November, as we completed the first video on Why Professional Learning Matters, I wrote about the process of taking the skills and abilities we had, or of people we knew, and combining them, along with the many new things we had to learn, into a team effort to produce the first video.  Dream Big…and find a way to make it happen seemed to become our mantra.  Now as the second video is a wrap, I think about how much we have learned, and how many educators have become integral parts of our collaborative effort.   I can’t say enough about the work of our team to make this dream a reality and I marvel at how much we have accomplished.  Creating these videos has truly been effective professional learning in action

In reality, this was a prime example of the ups and downs of a project based learning experience.  It may parallel some professional learning experiences too.  Often we think too much about what we don’t know or don’t have instead of looking first for what we can do.  At no time did we sit in a workshop or classroom and sit through a power point presentation on how to do the videos.  We did spend lots of time collaborating, researching, asking questions, brainstorming, clarifying our vision, collecting data, refocusing, editing, and seeking feedback. We went back to the drawing board quite often. We did very little of our work in a face to face setting.  We used an online platform for sharing information, working collaboratively, editing, and storing our work.  Very long phone calls played a large role in our planning too. The point is, if we would have focused on what we didn’t know or didn’t have, we wouldn’t have accomplished this much. If we would have only worked on the days we were able to meet face to face, we wouldn’t have one video completed at this time, much less two.  Dream Big…and find a way to make it happen.

As I continue to reflect on the last year or so, I also realize that the dream has become even bigger, which means we have much more we want to accomplish as we seek to create quality professional learning experiences that lead to action and transform practices for every educator.  The next videos will focus on the “How” of effective professional learning, highlighting different ways to affect our practice and ultimately student success.  One size doesn’t fit all in the classroom or professional learning, so the “how” may change but the goals still remain the same.  This happened throughout our experience.  A single thought seemed to spark other new ideas, and we revised our plan accordingly with new "hows" that still achieved our goals.  New questions also arose like, “How might we continue this work after the grant runs out?”  Dream Big… and find a way to make it happen.

The challenge for us now is to identify more Kansas exemplars that we can feature in future videos. To make that happen, we want your help.  We are looking for educators or school leaders who can share their expertise and show that it can be done here – in Kansas – in tough economic times - in big schools or small. 

Some may be hesitant to offer or volunteer because they don’t feel deserving.  We realize that most school teams or initiatives are works in progress, but we want to highlight those who are using best practices or trying new strategies to improve the quality of their professional learning experiences and subsequent implementation of school or classroom goals.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  So, as the saying goes, “If you see something, say something!”  Please share with us great examples of implementation, processing, or teamwork that you see being used in your school or in your neighbor’s school.  We would especially love to hear from schools or teams that are focusing on teacher rounds, looking at student work, feedback for growth, collaboration, using data, and more.  We have Big Dreams and we want your help to make them happen!

Learning Forward Kansas is here to support Kansas educators in their dreams of effective professional learning and excellent teaching and learning every day.  We have resources on the website, learning opportunities to attend, and ideas to share through social media. We continue to grow and evolve in our own areas of expertise.  We invite you to join us on this professional learning journey.  How may LFKS support you as you Dream Big…and find a way to make it happen!

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