Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Group Think and Providing Meaningful PD

Who is on the PL Team?
Recently we have been asked, "Who makes up the personalized learning development team at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton." The answer to that question is multilayered. The "lead" team which determines the vision and implementation plan consists of the following staff members:

Bill Adams, Superintendent
Mike Berding, Technology Staff Development and Curriculum Coordinator
Jeremy Erler, Elementary Principal
Andy Krause, High School Principal
Claudia Roesler, Personalized Learning Coach

In addition to this team, we have a district wide team that strengthens the vision and implementation plan. These committee members are made up of the following staff members: 

Pagie Bellig, Special Education Teacher
Eric Kehoe, High School Science Teacher
Sharyn Miller, Elementary Teacher

The final team we have created is the community wide team. This has included students, parents, and community members in addition to the aforementioned individuals. The work of this team will continue near the end of this first year of development and implementation. This particular team provides insight in terms of what is working and what needs improvement from their perspectives.

Ultimately, we believe that with any change effort it is important to have the voices of different perspectives included in the process. We are certainly learning a lot from these folks as they are able to provide guidance for clarity and communication. There you have it, those are the individuals that make up the personalized learning development team.

If you don't know, ask.
The transition to a student centered approach to education from the traditional model is complex. An important piece to this process is to provide effective professional development for our staff members. At a recent personalized learning lead team meeting we began developing a protocol for professional development. However, we continued to stumble upon "what if" statements until the light bulbs illuminated. We began to ask ourselves the following questions: "What if we modeled personalized learning? What if we developed personalized learning opportunities for our staff members?" Enter the needs assessment!

Needs Assessment Action
What is a needs assessment? Simply put, if you do not know an answer to a question, find it. On November 6th, 2017 we conducted a needs assessment with our entire teaching staff. Below is an outline of the process.

Step 1: Organization
Staff members were separated into nine diverse groups based on subject and grade level.

Step 2: Recording Needs
Each staff member received a notecard with two questions on it. Question #1: What do you need to better understand personalized learning? Question #2: What do you need to create a learner centered classroom? They were to answer the questions without any conversation with colleagues. We truly wanted this to be a personalized and organic experience.

Step 3: Sharing Needs
In a round-robin manner, staff members orally shared with their small group one answer at a time until all answers from their individual notecards had been shared. A table facilitator recorded each idea on their table's chart paper while numbering each response. If there were repeat answers, it was notated. During this time, there was no discussion or debate about the needs of each staff member.

Step 4: Clarifying Needs
Staff members engaged in clarifying discussions about their needs. For example:

Teacher A: What do you mean by, "see it?"
Teacher B: What I mean by that is I want to see what personalized learning looks like in action at my grade level. 

This step allowed for a clear understanding of needs.

Step 5: Refining Needs
After discussions, staff members were to rank their needs in order of importance as an individual. When the rankings were completed, they were to find the mean score of each item. By doing so, they were able to identify their needs as a group. This information was then recorded on a piece of chart paper that was placed around our meeting location in preparation of a gallery walk.

Step 6: Gallery Walk
Staff members then took a gallery walk around the room to view the prioritized needs of each group. Based on their learning from this opportunity, staff members recorded their final individual needs and provided this information to the personalized learning team.

At the end of the process we learned a couple of items that I believe are of extreme value to improve the implementation process. First and foremost, we now have a collection of every staff members top five needs for professional development and we are currently concocting a plan to meet their individual needs. In addition, we know what our entire staff needs as a group in this journey of personalized learning. Here are the top five needs for the group:

1. See PL in Action
2. Time
3. Training
4. Collaborate with Inside and Outside Experts
5. Flexible Learning Spaces is how we plan to address these identified needs:

See PL in Action
We are working closely with the Institute for Personalized Learning in the scheduling of a site visit for our entire staff. At this point we are working on securing a date and specific locations that are having success with personalized learning work.

Discussions are currently underway within our personalized learning development team and with our entire teaching staff to identify ways to create an hour per week for staff members to engage in collaborative conversations. These collaborative conversations would take place with experts inside and outside our learning organization, which addresses need number four, "Collaborate with Inside and Outside Experts."

Claudia Roesler, JWP's Personalized Learning Coach has been following up with every teacher regarding their specific needs from the needs assessment. These conversations are serving as a guide to develop staff specific training opportunities. Information gleaned from these meetings will assist in shaping our district wide staff development plan.

Flexible Learning Spaces
In an effort to create a personalized learning space, staff members have asked to be provided insight and guidance in creating flexible learning spaces for students. As a result, we have worked collaboratively with various experts from inside and outside our school district to begin creating such spaces. Our Director of Buildings and Grounds, Scott Kaminski has repurposed furniture and physical space to create areas for collaborative learning. Claudia Roesler and Kim Scott (Media Center Specialist) have been researching ways to transform learning spaces into flexible environments.

As you can see, we took this needs assessment seriously. We are using the results as a guide to do effective work for students. You can learn an awful lot by asking questions and listening empathetically!

Example Flexible Spaces

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