Sunday, February 24, 2019

Making Sense of Snow Piles: Thoughts on Collective Efficacy

By Vicki Bechard, Secretary LFKS

Photo Credit:  Vicki Bechard
As the snow piles up in Kansas – which seems to be a real trend this season – do you sometimes feel like things are piling up in your school world too?  With redesign and the expectation to tailor our instruction to individual student needs that best prepare them for post-secondary success, it can be overwhelming when you consider how many ways we can accomplish those goals.  We know learning is best if it’s engaging, meaningful and relevant.  Oh yes, and we want it to be authentic so students can apply what they know.  Just like the big snowfall, it all looks pretty at first, but after a while, it might feel like more of the same or more than you want to deal with.  So how do we decide what’s best?  What do we keep; what do we change? In other words, how do we dig out from that snow storm of ideas and strategies so we can produce the desired result?  

Efficacy is defined as the ability to produce the desired result.  Today’s research leads us to realize that we want to empower teachers to develop the belief that they can truly make a difference in preparing our students for their future life.  This is called self-efficacy or teacher efficacy.   As learning leaders, growing teachers who believe in their ability to produce the desired result becomes our WHY.  Our WHAT involves identifying the results we want:  Students that can apply what they have learned, be adaptable, and lifelong learners so they can grow in a rapidly changing world much of which is unknown to us now.  But HOW do we accomplish this?  While self-efficacy is good, in most things, we are better together.  When teams of educators work together, believing and acting in ways to achieve these goals, they create a culture in their school that focuses on learning and growth.  Their combined efforts become collective efficacy. 

If we fail to empower teachers, all the redesign initiatives and school improvement plans in the world will be just like the changing Kansas weather, blowing through one day, piling up, and then melting, just in time for the next system to arrive.  And we may not be better prepared for future systems as they arrive.  These initiatives and goals that we worked so hard to create won’t mean a thing if those who are implementing them don’t have the confidence, knowledge, skills, resources, and support to fulfill these efforts.  The question becomes how do leaders change their culture and grow their staff to produce learning experiences that uncover student strengths and passions, and shore up weaknesses so that they can become successful high school graduates ready to face the world?  In the March 2018 ASCD Educational Leadership article, the Power of Collective Efficacy, Donohoo, Hattie, and Eells note:

When teams of educators believe they have the ability to make a difference, exciting things can happen in a school.

How do we make that happen?  Donohoo, Hattie and Eells remind us that “the greatest power that principals have in schools is that they can control the narrative of the school.”  What we think and talk about most typically becomes the focus of our actions.  Examine the conversations (those things that create our personal snow piles) in your school or team.  Are they dominated by talk around schedules, classroom management issues (i.e. student behaviors), testing, absences and tardiness, or following the curriculum?  Are we focused on compliance, or are we focused on growth and learning?  Some of the behavior issues we deal with on a daily basis may just be rooted in the kind and quality of the learning experiences we offer our students and teachers!   For so many, school is about being in your seats when the bell rings, sitting quietly unless you’re called on while the teacher does the work.  So how do we change the narrative to touch the hearts and minds of teachers so they can touch the hearts and minds of students?

Professional Learning will drive the bus on this journey to collective efficacy.  Navigating the snow piles we have created is part of this journey.  Educators want and need to have knowledge and skills to transform their instruction.  We recognize this type of systemic change takes time and deliberate practice. Keep shoveling!  As leaders we want to identify necessary resources, and provide the kinds of support required by these new ways of teaching so they can be effectively implemented. What “snow pile” if you will, needs to be hauled away or melted before the real growth can be seen?  In other words, we want to develop teacher efficacy that can be combined with others to create collective efficacy so the culture of our school is one where everyone believes they can make a difference for students in ways that will facilitate their success.

Donohoo, Hattie, and Eells drive home this point noting that in schools, “If the narrative is about high expectations, growth in relation to inputs, what it means to be a ‘good learner’ in various subjects, and what impact means, then teachers and students will think about learning in a different way.  They will believe that learning is about challenge, about understanding and realizing high expectations, and that setbacks are an opportunity to learn.  Students will also believe that coming to school means investing energy in deliberate practice.”  The snow pile will no longer impede our progress when we make this shift in our beliefs and actions.

Then and only then will we see the cycle of growth evolve so that students are prepared for an unknown future because their teachers are empowered and believe that they can continue to grow and make a difference in how they teach today’s students for tomorrow’s world.   

As the snow is swept away and new growth appears, nurture it and watch it bloom into vivid color.

Jenni Donohoo, John Hattie, Rachel Eells, “The Power of Collective Efficacy,” Educational Leadership, ASCD, March 2018, Volume 75

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mindset Matters: A Prescription for a Great Year!

by Vicki Bechard
LFKS Secretary

It’s Back to School!  How do you feel?  Are you excited?  …Do you have great plans?  …Big hopes and dreams for you and your students?  Will you still feel this way in October? December? Next Spring?  Maybe it's time for a back-to-school mindset checkup.  

Is your mindset radiating excitement and confidence for new ways to teach and learn, new possibilities, and success for all?  Is it clouded by questions, doubt, and apprehension for the changes and new expectations for educators and students alike?  Is it a little bit of both?  All responses are normal, but some are more constructive than others.  Is your mindset propelling you to great things or holding you back?  What will be your prescription for success?

Variations of this quote have floated around social media this week that might make us consider the health of our educational mindset: 

“A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot.” 
- Dr. Joe Vitale

What is your first response to that statement?  Whatever you say, that is your mindset talking.  That first reaction – knee jerk if you will – says a lot of about how you think.  The beliefs we hold, based on the experiences we’ve had, reveal themselves in the way we respond to every task, challenge, decision, or problem we encounter every day.  If we are interested or believe we can succeed, even though we may need to learn something new, our approach is viewed as a growth mindset.  However, if we believe we are being asked to go too far out of our comfort zones, that we might look bad, believe it is too difficult, or we had a similarly bad experience, then we exhibit a fixed mindset.   Mindsets are usually viewed as a continuum, rather than either/or.  We all display a range of mindsets depending on the situation. So as you examine your own beliefs and practices, what symptoms do you have?  In other words, which mindset do you exhibit more often?  And does it matter for the health of teaching and learning?

How does the mindset with which we approach everyday life, including teaching and learning, impact our potential for success?  …Or our students’ success?

With redesign of education at the forefront of our planning and focus of back-to-school professional learning, educators are being forced to reckon with many new tasks and challenges.  Thinking outside the box is a requirement of redesign and yet can produce both open doors of opportunity and possibility, and walls of self-preservation and resistance.  How do we shift our thinking to increase chances of success?  What new strategies will we try to improve our teaching and learning health?

If we want our students to exhibit a growth mindset, it begins with us – the adults.  Saying you have a growth mindset isn’t enough.  It’s about walking your talk; aligning your actions with your goals; and sending the right message for yourself and your students.  Just like we can often tell if our kids are faking it; kids can tell if we are faking it too.

Change Your Words, Change Your Mindset
Developing and nurturing a growth mindset begins by reframing your thinking and intentionally changing your words to change your mindset.  It begins with the ALL of the adults in the building and spreads to students through our instruction and modeling of the beliefs, words, and actions that represent a growth mindset.  It is a commitment, not a quick fix.  It is not something you achieve, like a test score or grade, but something you strive to live every day.  It requires a conscious effort to ensure our thinking, speaking, and actions line up with our intent.  It’s also more than a bulletin board or school slogan. It requires us to examine the work we give students, the class rules we post, the way we respond when feedback is given or an intervention is needed.  What message(s) do we send?   It is an intentional way of approaching every task, problem, or situation every day.  For some, the prescription may be a lifestyle change.

So What’s the Prognosis?  
Whatever mindset we have, we can change. Growth Mindset is more than a positive outlook or increased effort, although that is part of it.  It is a willingness to work through difficulties, plan for and deal with failures that we will most likely incur, and a resolve to focus on possible solutions rather than the problem itself.  This occurs in classrooms, faculty rooms, professional learning, accreditation and redesign efforts, as well as how we approach post-secondary success.  It starts early with kindergarten readiness.  Our mindsets are shaped by our experiences and it is up to all educators to ensure we are nurturing and guiding our students in the right direction so they can develop mindsets that lead them to be successful in school and as adults.

Even those with a growth mindset can slip back into a fixed mindset when faced with multiple setbacks, lack of support or resources, or mental/physical exhaustion.  Nurturing a growth mindset is always a work in progress. 

What We Understand
We evolve through our experiences and willingness to try or be open to new things.  We believe we can learn and grow with new understandings, practice, and a commitment to continuous improvement.  We have confidence in our ability to control of our circumstances.  We embrace possibilities and persevere through obstacles and setbacks.  We are committed to the message of hope that Dr. Carol Dweck shares in this video, The Power of Yet.   

Our prescription for a great school year, fueled by a growth mindset, is to be consciously aware of our thinking, words and actions.  Are they aligned with what we say we believe or expect?  Are we modeling and working to fulfill the Power of Yet?  What learning, feedback and support should we see in our buildings to ensure this is happening?  The side effects of a growth mindset prescription just might be the best teaching and learning you’ve ever experienced!

Doctor's Note:  Check back in 3 months so we can monitor our progress!

"The Power of Yet" by Dr. Carol Dweck
Brock & Hundley, The Growth Mindset Playbook
Mike Gershon, How to Develop Growth Mindsets in the Classroom

Monday, April 9, 2018

HOW: Climbing the Mountain of Redesign

by Vicki Bechard
Secretary LFKS

This might feel like a broken record, but KESA in general, and redesign specifically, are on everyone’s mind these days in schools across Kansas.  Accreditation visits are in full swing as schools look to redesign learning experiences to give students the skill set that will help them be successful now and in the future.  Kansans Can is not just a slogan or a hashtag, but a way of thinking that promotes action toward our goals.  Kansas educators want to learn and implement best practices for the students they serve, but there are a lot of questions about what redesign looks like.  One often hears school officials say, “Just give me an exampleTell us what you want. Show me how to get there.”  We ask these questions because it’s hard to think differently.  It’s hard to take a risk on the unknown.  We want to do it right, but educators have much to learn and adapt as we change how we do business.  We might even look at redesign as a mountain that will be difficult to climb, rather than appreciating the beauty and challenge it provides and the reward it offers in the end.

I love the mountains.  It is where I want to be if I’m on vacation.  In fact if my kids/grandkids were nearby, it would be where I would want to live.  I think one reason I love the mountains is that I initially view them from the valleys.  I look up to the majestic peaks and am inspired by their beauty, and amazed at their presence.  The journey to be in the mountains is filled with anticipation, twists and turns, and obstacles that present challenges and rich experiences.  And the view from the top is worth it: inspiring and amazing, calling me to experience the sites and take it all in.  My journey into the mountains is shaped by my purpose, the current situation, and what I hope to accomplish. It is affected by the amount of time I have, resources I can access, and the team who accompanies me.  There are many mountains in this world to view and climb, with no two the same, and as a result, no journey will be the same.

Redesign is our educational mountain.  It means change is about to occur on a large scale.  This is systemic change which will affect every educator and impact every student.   Given the different knowledge and skill sets that students will use in a post-secondary world, we must redesign our instruction and learning environments so that they are more suited to provide those experiences.  What worked before was fine.  We did our best based on what we knew, but now as we increase our own understanding, we will do better work that is relevant and targeted for not just for success today, but for tomorrow’s successes as well.  What that looks like depends on the purpose and the situation, so no one solution will work for every school.  We often point out in LFKS resources and learning sessions that “One size doesn’t fit all” and that applies to redesign as well.  But while we might not know what the best redesign ideas will look like in your particular context, we do know there are some common actions that do apply to all and will ensure successful implementation.

HOW:  Climbing the Mountain of Redesign: 

1.   Clarify communication.  Address the why, how, what, when and who questions and concerns that everyone has.  The details not only have to be worked out, but communicated clearly and in a timely manner.  George Bernard Shaw said it best:  The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  Be intentional.  Clarify.  Listen.  Check for understanding.

2.      Empower and engage people in the process.  Avoid talking AT stakeholders, but rather talk WITH them.  Include them in the planning and discussions, convey what leaders are thinking, and encourage their participation in the feedback loop.  Listening to their ideas, concerns and feedback gives all stakeholders a voice and helps get everyone on board.

3.    Allow for mourning as they leave behind favorite practices and comfort zones.  Prepare them for and encourage them when their productivity temporarily drops (learning curve).  Change (redesign) requires people to work differently and many times that change can produce reactions similar to when people experience a significant loss like a death or divorce.  Resistance may simply be a part of the mourning process because change can make us fearful and unsure of ourselves.  Grief is real even when the “death” is only “the way we used to do it.”

4.     Allow for process time.  Just as one size doesn’t fit all for the kind of redesign efforts you seek, people and teams process at different rates.  Be patient. Nurture and guide while allowing people time to learn and practice so they can find acceptance and success with the new ideas and practices.

5.  Include engaging, supportive, and reflective professional learning throughout the planning and implementation process of every redesign or change initiative.  Deep understanding comes from deep conversations.  Collaboration targeted for improved educator effectiveness and student success will be time well spent.  The kind and quality of professional learning will impact the kind and quality of implementation and the ability to sustain the redesign efforts.

KASB’s Deputy Executive Director Doug Moeckel, shared this visual and noted on Twitter recently that “Kansas Redesign is driven by these Kansans Can Principles.”

THIS is our educational mountain.  
HOW will we (re)design our journey to the top?

For more information on effective professional learning or to receive support for your HOW journey, please check out the Learning Forward Kansas website or contact us directly via email at

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Redesign – The Courage to Leave the Shore to Make Our Best Better

 February 13, 2018

By Vicki Bechard,
Secretary LFKS

REDESIGN:  We hear this word in every educational conversation around Kansas.  It is at the heart of the state accreditation process (KESA), and the “WHY” behind the Mercury7 and Gemini initiatives involving Kansas Schools.  We also hear, “What is Redesign?”  Even when the Commissioner of Education speaks he is careful to use examples of redesign in the real world, but does not specifically paint a picture of what that might look like in schools.  I believe this is intentional because if he did say "THIS is redesign" (insert your own initiative example) – that’s what many schools will race to duplicate.  So how might we attempt to clarify redesign and the role professional learning plays in the redesign process?

Meriam-Webster defines redesign as “a revision in appearance, function or content.”  Right click on redesign and find synonyms that further clarify what this might look like:  reshape, reform, rewrite, restructure, reformat, remake….in other words, indicating one must do something differently.  But redesign without purpose puts us out to sea, adrift without a destination or map to guide our sails.  That’s probably OK for a relaxing weekend getaway if we had plenty of supplies and a way to get home, but would not serve us well as the primary strategy to lead our schools and districts. 

Redesign possibilities are endless and this is not a blog about what options schools have.  In reality, where we go and what we do is dependent on the needs we uncover and the direction we want to head.  The questions we ask drive the answers we seek:  What is best for OUR students?  How can we be better educators and learners?  What do we need to do differently to give our kids the best opportunities?  What will make our best even better?

The WHY behind our redesign initiatives provides purpose and helps identify what will benefit us most as we set sail on the journey that will lead us to our destination (goal).  It tells us what to pack; what type of crew and skills will be needed; how to anticipate and navigate choppy waters; and what our destination will be.   To determine the WHY we need to examine the data to ensure our destination is sound and doable.  Data also tells us what resources we will need in terms of the vehicle we use, manpower, fuel, food, and supplies.  Surveying our crew with a needs assessment of sorts will indicate the knowledge, skills, and resources we have and what we will want to acquire, develop and utilize throughout our journey.  Studying the long term course we’ve mapped out, both prior to and during our journey, will help us target potential issues so that we are prepared to tackle them, make adjustments, and continue toward our destination.  Finally we must ensure that we know the outcome:  what it will look like when we reach our destination and whether it has been beneficial to our purpose.

Professional learning will be critical to this journey.  The standards that guide our actions can be seen in every aspect of our work.  We will see them as we gather to examine and study the data before, during, and after the trip (Learning Communities & Data).  We will find them in the leadership that plans, supports, and captains this journey (Leadership).  We will see it in action as it pinpoints our focus when designing and determining the type and frequency of the learning we need to acquire the necessary skills and how to apply them successfully in our journey (Learning Designs).  They will take the form of adequate and timely resources to support our journey as we try, revise, and try again to perfect our knowledge and skills for this journey (Resources & Implementation).  And they will be seen in the results as we determine if our goals have been achieved and reflect on how we might improve the process as our journey continues to the next destination (Outcomes).  As you may notice, the aforementioned examples underscore our premise that the Standards for Professional Learning are the framework that shapes our work throughout the redesign process.  LFKS encourages all educators to be intentional about ensuring that our work includes all of the Standards, for if we omit even one, we will more than likely not arrive at our destination as we intended.

Those who attended the recently completed LFKS Annual Conference experienced firsthand the many possibilities of redesign and heard from a wide range of practitioners on what that might look like.  In all cases we also heard how important the role effective professional learning plays into successful implementation of whatever initiative we choose to pursue.  This journey is one of promise, but will also include more than a few adjustments to our sails.  Redesign is scary and exciting at the same time, so first we must prepare for our journey so that we may leave the safety of the harbor and seek new destinations to broaden our horizons.  The reality is that what we have done up until now may have been our best work, but the future requires that we look differently at how and what students learn. 

Simply put, redesign is seeking new ways to make our best even better as we do what’s best for kids.  

As you contemplate redesign, we are eager to learn where you will go and why that journey is what’s best for your school.  Even though the metaphor for change and redesign at the state level is the space program, our sailing metaphor serves the same purpose.  The wisdom of Winston Churchill continues to inspire our redesign efforts whether we are referring to rockets flying into space or boats sailing to new horizons, “If you want to discover new oceans, you must first have the courage to leave the shore.”  

Possibilities await.  How can LFKS support you in your redesign efforts?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 LFKS Annual Holiday Letter

By Vicki Bechard,
LFKS Secretary

School is almost over for this semester…winter break is upon us.  As you leave the kiddos, colleagues, bustling halls, and familiar classrooms for homes and celebrations both near and far, we at Learning Forward Kansas wish for you the gift of time so that you may relax and appreciate all that matters, enjoy the closeness of family and friends, and rejuvenate your soul.   But we know that learning never really takes a break, so we imagine that you will also steal a few minutes to reflect on the past year and consider ways to improve instruction, implement new ideas, or spark new interest in the coming year just as we do here in our LFKS Annual Holiday Letter

Learning Forward Kansas has been right there with Kansas educators who are knee deep in navigating and implementing the KESA process, finding ways to examine current practices, and rethinking how we do school.  The State Board has asked schools to prepare students for success in the world after high school.  To accomplish this, the idea of redesign is at the forefront of our conversations.  What does that really mean?  Why is it important?  How will it help students succeed?  How will we know we got there?   LFKS is asking the same questions and uncovering possibilities for educators and schools to consider.

LFKS spent the last few years redesigning our organization from how we support schools, promote effective professional learning, and share information, to how we conduct business.  We didn’t really call it redesign when we started this journey, but we definitely did a lot of rethinking of our purpose and what we wanted to accomplish, and how that might look differently from previous efforts.  We took a hard look at our data, at our impact, and sought feedback and ideas from other educators and organizations.   Feedback was one strategy that provided us with valuable input and helped guide us as we focused our vision and mission and aligned our actions accordingly.  We listened.  We brainstormed.  We tried ideas.  We succeeded and failed, but most importantly, we kept moving forward.  We are working with and for Kansas educators to make professional learning matter as we transform our schools to better prepare our students.  Just as parents are proud of their children’s accomplishments, we are proud of the direction LFKS is headed today.

This past fall LFKS hosted the Fall Institute, a learning opportunity featuring Joellen Killion (Learning Forward) sharing her expertise on Learning Focused Feedback.  By rethinking how we might use feedback for growth, eliminate the mindset of “giving or receiving” feedback, and focus on the idea of feedback as a process for people to construct understanding, it takes on a new meaning, thereby increasing trust and effectiveness.  As schools consider redesign, how might implementing a feedback process that engages learners in conversations designed to change practice help create a culture of growth and change?  

The LFKS Annual Leadership Conference (January 31-February 1, 2018 in Wichita) totally focuses on redesign for student success.  All of the keynote speakers (Ron Berger, EL Education; Commissioner Randy Watson; and KTOY 2015, Shannon Ralph) and breakout session facilitators will focus on elements of redesign in the way we teach, how students learn, how we incorporate technology, how we organize schools, and how we plan and conduct professional learning.   The first day is an immersion in how we teach to engage and empower students through authentic learning. The second day is filled with multiple perspectives, ideas, and experiences coming from all over the state and a variety of school sizes.   We invite you to make plans to attend and join the conversation on redesign

LFKS has been doing our homework too which has resulted in resources that can be found on our website for all educators to use as they work through the process of school improvement and redesign.  Protocol guides, videos, and learning opportunities are just some of the ways LFKS supports individual educators and schools in their professional learning.  We have new opportunities and resources ready to roll out in 2018 as well – so stay tuned!

When you look to 2018 and beyond, consider what results you’ve had and what results you’d like to have.  Once that “why” has been determined, the redesign of current practices, or the creation of new practices can begin to take place.  Change happens one conversation at a timeLFKS would love to see every educator and every student in every school thrive in a responsive learning environment that encourages inquiry and growth.  We wish for each of you the courage to step outside your comfort zone and realize that learning new ways of teaching doesn’t mean what you did before was wrong…. It just reflects that you are growing right along with your students. 

So as we close this latest Holiday Letter, we are thankful for the high quality educators that dedicate their lives to Kansas students.  We hope that you have a wonderful winter break, and before you head back in January, you will set new learning goals for yourself and your students.  What would you like to see in your school or classroom if resources were not an issue?  What’s on your bucket list for teaching and learning?  Who would you like to meet that would inspire your practice?  We want to hear from you as your redesign efforts transform teaching and learning.  Imagine the possibilities!  What a year it will be! 

Happy Holidays from all of us at Learning Forward Kansas!  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rise and Shine! The Possibilities of Every Sunrise

By Vicki Bechard, Secretary LFKS

Rise and Shine!  As the sun rises on a new school year, there are so many possibilities for kids, for the educators who teach them, and the communities that nurture them.  Every sunrise represents hope for the future as we turn the page on a new school year or a new day.  Every sunrise gives us a reason to be inspired to learn, grow, and excel.  The very words of Rise and Shine energize us to get moving and be at our best!

But to give life and value to these hopes and possibilities, we must take action.  Our inspiration must involve more than talking.  It must involve doing.  So we plan, learn and grow, but then we must act.  What are you doing with this school year’s sunrise?  How are you creating a better future for you as a teacher by growing your craft?  In what ways are you seeking to cultivate relationships with students, colleagues, or parents; improve your instruction; and ultimately facilitate student success?  What inspires you?  Who will you inspire?  How will you shine a light on possibilities and turn problems into meaningful challenges?  The answers to these questions involve action, and as a rooster crowing suggests (or when my mom used to whisper this bit of encouragement in my sleeping ear), it is time to Rise and Shine!

A school year is filled with many sunrises for you and your students.  These are opportunities to reflect on previous practice, learn from our mistakes, and make each endeavor better than our last attempt.  Each day is an opportunity to create the best learning experiences for our students, taking our own knowledge and skills and implementing them in meaningful ways.  In order to do that, we must continue to be learners, refining our practice while expanding our understanding of best practices, as we prepare students for an ever changing world.  What new learning will you pursue?  What feedback will you seek? How will you get out of your own comfort zone to embody a growth mindset and practice and model the Habits of Mind on a daily basis?

The sunrise for Kansas schools is also one of hope and promise.  The new accreditation system is focused on looking forward, improvement, and most of all student success.  The inspiration that comes from working within a culture of growth and a system of 21st Century learning will lead Kansas educators to attain even more successes than we have experienced in the past.  Good is the enemy of great and it is imperative that we continue to take advantage of the opportunities that exist with every sunrise to make our classroom, building, and district better than it was the day before.

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”                                 
                                                              - Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

We at LFKS hope that each sunrise inspires you to learn and grow to become great.  How can we support your professional learning journey?  We have resources and learning opportunities available for your use and participation.  We are excited to walk this journey with you and connect you with others who share your passion, common characteristics, or goals.  There are many examples of greatness happening in classrooms and buildings across our state as we work to improve results through effective professional learning.  We have included some of these examples in the first two videos in our series “Inspired to Learn:  Kansas Stories,” and are continuing this mission with the next videos that will address HOW effective professional learning is accomplished.  Look for our third video later this fall. 

Great educators aren’t born, they are created, supported, and continue to evolve.  Education is indeed a journey not a destination, and it begins anew each school year and each day with a sunrise that shines a light on the possibilities that exist. We owe that to ourselves and to our students. Let’s Rise and Shine together so we can be great Every. Single. Day.

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