Thursday, October 11, 2012

Co-Creating Staff Development

Recently, I wrote a post called "Owning Staff Meetings" in which I detailed the process by which we are trying to increase the engagement of our staff in our faculty meetings.  From that process, we determined the format of our staff meetings for 2012-2013.

Pre-Meeting:  We ensure that any information that can be communicated through email is put into a Google Doc for staff meeting information (we call this SMINFO) to be read prior to the meeting or at another time.

Good News: We chose to make sure that we start with a staff member collecting good news from around the school over the previous month.  (This month, our School Improvement Leader also took the time to introduce Wallwisher to our staff so that teachers can add notes of encouragement or congratulations to each of us in real time at staff meetings).

Collegial Conversations:  This is second to last piece of our meeting in which staff votes on a topic (this month with a show of hands, next month using Google Forms so that staff can again touch technology) for a whole-group discussion governed by meeting norms created by all staff members and in a circular format derived from our work with socratic circles .

Reflection: We then chose to finish each staff meeting by reflecting on what we have learned and our conduct towards another so that we can improve for the next meeting.

But one of the largest pieces that we make sure that we include in our staff meetings is Staff Development. We get into Staff Development right after Good News so that people are fresh and energized for the activities that we want to work through.   Staff development during staff meetings can often be seen as a departure from the norm of 'traditional' staff meetings.  People are tired at the end of their day of teaching, and without proper planning and a concentrated effort to make the improvement of teaching and learning a co-created endeavor, staff development can be seen as a disconnected add-on to an already busy schedule for staff members and administrators.

At our school, we have a School Improvement Leader and Learning Coach (who is the same person - @edubuemann - a must follow) who works directly with me to find and implement methods to improve teacher achievement and student learning.  It is my belief that we will improve student achievement through our collective, continuous improvement as educators.  However, if I truly believe in this improvement, I know I need to tangibly demonstrate that I value continuous educator improvement.  Through the creation of the SIL/Learning Coach, and dedicated time to Staff Development (along with our Collaboration Time Model), I feel that we are moving in a positive direction.  Each month, the SIL spend hours together planning our staff activities so that they are meaningful and match the demands of departmental and school-wide goals.  But one thing we knew for sure, if the Staff Development portion of the staff meeting was going to be successful
  • it needed to be 'threaded' to be effective--the research is clear that any sort of teacher or staff development must be at least 14 hours in order to effect change--this meant 'one off', one-time 'flavor of the month' staff development was out
  • it needed to have the staff's footprints all over it in terms engagement through co-authorship and ownership.
One of the cornerstones to effective teacher practice is good assessment.  It is my belief that if we find creative ways to assess to help us learn students' strengths and areas for improvement while using student feedback to inform our practice, we will become better in our curriculum design and instruction.  As a result, the area for Staff Development for this year is going to be around Assessment.  However, we have teachers of differing strengths and areas of interest when it comes to learning about varied types of assessment.  So, in order to tailor-make Staff Development in Assessment for this year, we began by reading an article on 8 Big Ideas of Assessment by Damian Cooper.  However, we didn't just want staff to read it, we wanted to introduce them to a literacy strategy while they were reading it.  So, we used "Bank on It", a literacy exercise that staff could use not only read the article, but to have an immediate 'take away' to use in their classrooms.  We then started brainstorming topics that we wanted to learn about around assessment by using a small groups, a Google Doc, and a basic focus question:

"If you were walking in the front door of a conference on Assessment, which topics would you want to go and see"

I used Jing to capture a screencast of the group collaborating on the Google Doc.  I was really happy to see the level of engagement in the activity, the comfort level with using a Google Doc, and ultimately, the tremendous number of ideas that staff generated for areas of focus for assessment.  But the ownership piece will not stop there.  This group of ideas will be taken to our leadership unit: the Coordinators from each department, our School Improvement Leader and our admin team will use Coordinators Meetings to develop mini-lessons on assessment that are applicable to staff in each subject area. 

I know that people are busy.  I know that people are tired at the end of a day of working with students and giving their all to their lessons.  But by valuing teacher achievement and student learning through the creation of time during faculty meetings to work together on staff development and co-creating threaded staff development units, I believe that we will continue to be successful in modeling learning and improving the success of our staff and our students.


  1. Brilliant and inspiring article. Thanks.

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