Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Engaging Collaboration to Improve Achievement

In August of 2015 the New London-Spicer School District embarked on a journey to embed professional learning teams (PLTs) into their practice in an effort to positively impact student achievement. This journey commenced with a three day training for staff conducted by Solution Tree, Inc. Throughout time the yearning for additional PLT time has grown to our current reality of 2-hour late starts built into our district calendar. It is with this communication I hope to explain our PLT process.

In a traditional school setting, teachers work in isolation with minimal collaboration taking place. In isolation, teachers work within the four walls of their own classroom with minimal interaction with colleagues. The outstanding practices of the best teachers are rarely shared in a building engaged in isolationism. A PLT shifts mindsets from that of isolationism to collaboration. 

In a PLT, professionals work collectively to develop responses to student learning. The adults engage in collaborative conversations that enrich their professional practice and improve student learning. Collaborative conversations are conversations in which professionals work interdependently to make progress toward meeting student needs.  These collaborative conversations typically focus around four guiding questions and three big ideas.

Four guiding questions:

1. What is it all students must learn?
2. How will we know they have learned it?
3. How will we respond if they have learned it?
4. How will we respond if they have not learned it?

Three Big Ideas:

1. A focus on learning.
2. A focus on results.
3. A focus on collaboration.

Staff members at New London-Spicer are committed to this work by setting aside, at a minimum, 30-minutes weekly to engage in collaborative conversations focused on the four guiding questions and the three big ideas. The 2-hour late starts are being utilized to dive deeper into conversation and develop ongoing, sustainable responses to student assessment outcomes. We are proud of the commitment of our staff in ensuring our students meet their full potential in pursuit of college, career, and life readiness!

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