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Friday, July 01, 2016

Deeper Learning/Teaching: Strategic Collaborative Process

Meaningful, student-friendly learning design matters when it comes to teaching well.
At the ECET2Natl in San Diego I participated in the "Colleague Circles" approach to problem solving. Also this week when I presented at The Wayland Institutes, I used a similar colleague circle approach in my presentations. Rather than act as "sage on the stage," I enlisted the ideas of the intimate presentation group to grow learning and teaching related to Learning Design, The Team in Steam, The Global Cardboard Challenge, and Digital Story. The short discussions we had were just what I have been craving which is the opportunity to discuss my work with skilled, invested, creative educators.

As I thought more about this today, I realized that this may be the next step in professional learning. We may need to create more opportunities for educators to work in colleague circles around meaningful questions and content to deepen what and how we teach in order to reach children with depth and breadth.

Too often our professional learning events are disjointed, impersonal, and fleeting, however, creating a colleague circle approach that lasts over time and is devoted to important targets could truly develop what we do for children in positive, growth producing ways. Our Professional Learning Community (PLC) approach in our school system has fostered this kind of team with grade-level teams, and these colleague circles could similarly foster this kind of positive collegiality with regard to curriculum and specific learning challenges shared by teachers across schools, grades, departments, and districts.

If I were to initiate this, I would do the following:
  • Determine areas of study and teaching that educators want to or need to develop with depth.
  • Create groups based on interest, question, and need.
  • Plan that groups meet at the start of the effort, mid-term, and at the end in a formal ways such as a half-day meeting during school time in great spaces/places for learning.
  • Give the educators a comprehensive learning design structure to follow. I've created a website that shares a structure that takes into account a lot of research and a holistic lens on learning design.  Though the process is a bit intense, it's a worthy process with regard to teaching well with breadth and depth.
  • Create an online social media site and website for project share, questions, and updates in-between meetings.
  • At the final meeting, use the success criteria developed at the start to assess efforts and progress.
This kind of work would serve to elevate educators and the work they do. If the groups were created well and the topics meaningful, the investment and development would soar.

I believe colleague circles like this could work well within systems and I also believe that circles like this would have merit with diverse, intersecting systems too. This process would help to develop the depth needed in education today since we are in an age where information is virtually limitless, but time is limited. It is also a time when how we teach matters a lot with regard to our students' current and future ability to solve problems, contribute to communities, and live good lives. We need each other to do the work well, and to work with each other well we need time, strategic process, and targeted, meaningful focus. 

I have been hungry for greater depth with regard to teaching and learning. The kind of conversations that started this week at The Wayland Institutes and the conversations I've been able to have at rich professional learning events like Educon, edcamps, TLI, and ECET2 are starting points, but now, to reach depth, we need more intimate, dedicated colleague circles that identify meaningful problems of practice and work with strategic process to meet the potential those problems have for elevating and deepening the work we can do with sensitivity to our teaching/learning students, communities, and context.

I've worked for a number of lesson share start-ups that diminished due to little interest. I know that the interest was not there due to the superficial nature of the share rather than the potential that strong teams, deep design, and valuable impact have.  

Please let me know what you have to add in this regard. I am beginning to think about this potential with greater time and care.