Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Professional Learning: Fuel for Change

by Vicki Bechard, Secretary LFKS

What fuels your fire, your passion, your need for change or success, and ultimately your actions?  An old TV ad once featured the slogan, “The More You Know…”  but really it was more than knowing; it implied that the more you know, the more or better you do.  Why be good when you can be great? How does finding and utilizing our fuel help us go from “Good to Great?” 

Kansans Can is the motto that the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) promotes to encourage all Kansas educators and students to shoot for the stars, be the best they can be, and find success.  As KSDE has rolled out the new accreditation model, commonly referred to as KESA, we now see a subtle shift in our thinking and actions.  Kansans Can is forward thinking and implies we will and are able, but with the new guidelines for accreditation, our mission is now one of action or doing.  Perhaps it might look like Kansans Can Do, or Kansans Make it Happen?  While neither suggestion is as catchy as the Kansans Can slogan, the point is we are now in a time of doing rather than talking about doing.  And doing requires ongoing, effective professional learning to fuel our action.

Schools all over Kansas have been walking through the accreditation model this past year to varying depths and degrees as they clarify their status and determine where their jumping off point will be.  Some are doing it administratively or with leadership teams, while others have completely involved their whole staff.  There is much to learn about the process, and ultimately about ourselves as an educational system.  What kind of professional learning has taken place?  What will be required in the future?  What kind of professional learning will fuel our action to start and sustain the changes we will make?

KSDE defines Rigor (one of the R’s within the KESA framework) as:

“A relentless pursuit of that which challenges and provides opportunity to demonstrate growth and learning – is essential in addressing the needs of our rapidly expanding society and world”                                                                          

Professional Learning is specifically mentioned as a part of the Rigor Framework; as it should be.  Where else would we address the “relentless pursuit of that which challenges us” or “demonstrate growth and learning?”  Furthermore, it is effective professional learning that will drive the changes that are both needed and required to transform schools into places where ALL students will learn and find ways to be successful in the world beyond high school.  Therefore it is the charge of schools across the state to plan and provide effective professional learning experiences that “addresses the needs of our rapidly expanding society and world.”

William Daggett’s 4 quadrant Framework of Rigor and Relevance, demonstrates the need for professional learning experiences that take educators beyond the knowledge realm.  Initially gaining knowledge and assimilating it is a big first step, but if we want it to make a difference in our practice and student results, then we must turn our knowledge into action.  Application (doing) is the ultimate goal if we are to indeed create systemic change that can be sustained over time.  Daggett notes in his Application Model that there are layers to applying what we know:

(1) Knowledge in one discipline
(2) Apply in discipline
(3) Apply across disciplines
(4) Apply to real-world predictable situations
(5) Apply to real-world unpredictable situations

These are goals we seek for our students as well as ourselves as we go beyond being satisfied with obtaining knowledge and look to apply what we know to real world situations that may or may not be predictable.  The goal is no longer knowing, but rather one of doing.  This understanding fuels our quest for the tools to create meaningful change.

Learning Forward Kansas (LFKS) has undertaken the challenge of providing fuel for effective professional learning in Kansas.  We see our role as one of advocating and supporting Kansas Educators in these challenging times of change and limited resources.  We have developed protocol resources that engage staff around KESA and other important work.  These are available on the LFKS website.  In fact a Volume 2 of the KESA Guide will be published this fall. 

Through the Learning Forward Foundation grant, LFKS has created a video series, Inspired to Learn, that uses Kansas exemplars – featuring both individuals and schools – who are leading the way in constructing effective professional learning experiences for their staff.  The first 2 videos of this series are available on the LFKS website that address “WHY Professional Learning,” and “WHAT is Professional Learning?”  The next video currently in production, will deal with HOW effective professional learning can occur.  Resource guides accompany each video to facilitate the use of each video before, during and after viewing.

Learning opportunities are also available throughout each school year to provide knowledge and support – the fuel if you will - for creating and leading effective professional learning.  These sessions focus on topics most important to Kansas educators such as KESA, effective feedback, engaging staff in meaningful work, and achieving student success.  More information about upcoming sessions can be found on the LFKS website as they become available.

Find your professional learning fuel that will spark change, improve practice, and lead to student success.  How can LFKS help?  What more do you want to know before you can effectively do?  No matter what, begin.  Act.  Reflect. Revise.  Keep moving forward.  Goals begin with the first step. We are reminded by what Peter Drucker taught, 

              “Perhaps the best and only way to predict the future is to create it.”  

We would encourage you to fuel your action to begin the change process and to sustain the implementation of strategies that will lead to achieving desired goals and systemic changes. These actions will take you from "Good to Great" because ultimately, one becomes "Great by Choice."

Good to Great, by Jim Collins (2001)
Great by Choice, by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen (2011) – includes Peter Drucker quote

Rigor/Relevance Framework, International Center for Leadership in Education, William Daggett        

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