Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Finding Strategies That Work to Improve Learning

Approximately 36% of Hudson's certified teaching staff holds a formalized teacher leadership role in the district. While those leadership roles come with extra compensation, they also come with added responsibility and a seat at the table when it comes to instructional leadership in the district. The goals for teacher leadership are multi-faceted yet interwoven.  But for starters, our goal is to attract and retain highly qualified teachers by offering competitive starting salaries, short and long term professional development, and opportunities for career enhancement/advancement. 

Of our teacher leaders, three are considered 'anchor roles', whose work is closely tied to district and statewide initiatives: literacy, mathematics, and technology. Considered full release, these leaders do not have any direct teaching responsibility. Instead their primary mission is to support and develop teachers in the classroom. Developing teachers in the classroom leads to stronger instruction, which equates to better student outcomes.

All of our teacher leaders are also on the front line of developing and delivering professional development designed to strengthen instruction during Wednesday afternoon early dismissals. It is during these afternoon sessions where teachers learn about promising new practices, discover and articulate the interconnections of the content that is being delivered in the classroom with the standards that are outlined in the Iowa Core, or master a tool or protocol that will streamline data collection. These Wednesday afternoon early dismissals enable us to 'set the table' for what will become the catalyst of improving instruction in our classrooms. The learning lab and coaching cycle.

Working in collaboration with instructional coaches, our twelve model teachers field test and further explore those ideas and strategies discussed during the early dismissal for effectiveness, and prepare to scale them into practice throughout the district. Unlike instructional coaches who are full release, model teachers are those with primary responsibilities in the classroom as practitioners. Their leadership comes from the interdependent relationship they have with instructional coaches and a willingness to try new things in the classroom to discover what really works. This is commonly played out in what we describe as a coaching cycle.

During a coaching cycle, the instructional coach works closely with the model teacher (or in some cases even regular classroom practitioner) to uncover what is working well in the classroom and troubleshoot areas where improvement to practice can be made. This symbiotic relationship may include modeling or demonstrating instruction, sharing student performance data, or conferencing between the instructional coach and model teacher. 

Model teacher Toni Haskovec delivers instruction during
a recent coaching lab held at Hudson schools.
Once a strategy has been proven effective, the model teacher and instructional coach host a learning lab where the strategy can be shared with faculty in a live setting. A group of educators is invited to gather to discuss and observe the strategy in practice. This protocol includes a pre-conference where the model teacher briefs the observers on the strategy and what they should be looking for during instruction. Following the pre-conference, the observers enter the classroom and watch the model teacher use the strategy with students. At the conclusion of the lesson, teachers gather for a post observation briefing where they can not only discuss what they saw, but form a plan of implementation in their own classrooms with support from these teacher leaders. The end result is that we have a research based strategy that we know works with our students!

No comments:

Post a Comment