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…