Teacher Professional Development: The Gift that Keeps Giving

from Tempered Radical - Bill Ferriter

It’s always a pleasure to run into former students and find out that the work you did together continues in delightful and surprising ways.  When I taught middle school, for example, I was never sold on the school’s approach to teaching a foreign language.  How were students supposed to learn Spanish in 50 minute doses three times a week?  As it turns out, something important was going on:  One of the most common characteristics when I run into those kids today is that they’ve continued their language studies – the other common characteristics being that they’re brilliant, wildly idealistic, and unusually good looking 🙂

While I’m sold on the professional development I’ve been doing through Teaching American History grants over the last five years, I do wonder about their continued impact.  Plans for sustainability are always called for in the proposals – but they’re awfully difficult to commit to convincingly.  What a thrill it was, then, to be invited to Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, where three former TAH participants teach.  There, I was treated to a Lesson Study Demonstration Lesson, work they were inspired to continue following their experience int the TAH project.  Lesson Study brings them together to discuss alignment between meaningful student learning targets and powerful teaching strategies, important work that investigates teaching, learning, and assessment through collegial interaction.

When they invited me to observe their Lesson Study, I was impressed to hear that it was happening.  But once we got talking, I was thrilled to learn of a range of tools they’ve brought to Bay from our TAH work together that has enhanced a professional learning culture amongst their staff and students.  In addition to Lesson Study, teachers there are:

  • Working together as teams to plan
  • Maintaining student work portfolios
  • Doing repeated, aligned assessments to see growth over time
  • Examining student work collaboratively and discussing whether it’s sufficient to assess learning

While they say this came from TAH program inspiration, I know that it’s taken tremendous courage and conviction on their part to push this kind of cultural change.  It makes you wonder:  What else is going on?  While the work we’ve done has always benefited from excellent evaluation processes during its duration, it sure would be nice to be able to do some longer term studies…

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One response to “Teacher Professional Development: The Gift that Keeps Giving

  1. Following posting this, I received the following message from a teacher-participant in her second year of the project:
    Matt…this professional development has changed my teaching forever! As and educator I discovered this process is vital. I now know how to target my teaching so my students learn. It is alive and well here at Northlake. Because I kept my principal in the loop and shared the TAH professional development process, he released our entire 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teams for a day. I was the”coach”. I share TAH lesson design, student samples and and I let them see what kids can do through this grant. Many were astonished by the quality results of their former students. From that point they started developing Social Study lesson formats for their grade level CBA’s…using the TAH lesson design format. It was amazing Matt! My fellow intermediate teachers are aligning, targeting literacy, promoting historical thinking and historical questions into their CBA’s. I will be forever grateful for this experience…you have made a HUGE impact on me and my fellow teachers at Northlake. Thanks, thanks, thanks…to you and everyone who has made this possible.

    I am excited to share my student samples on March 2…see you then.
    Amy Johnson

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