1) Mike Schmoker’s embrace of “learning communities” and rejection of “whole-school strategic planning” initiatives is also a rejection of traditional professional development workshops.
a) do you agree with his rejection of “strategic planning”?
b) What, if anything, are the implcations for how we use teacher time outside of the classroom? (For example, consider the traditional department or faculty meetings. What about traditional professional development workshops?)
As a LUCKY, BLESSED, BLISSFUL member of a PLC, I can agree with Schmoker’s assessment that teacher collaboration leads to more improvement than does traditional professional development or strategic planning. In traiditional workshops, I would leave with skills that I would independently implement. It would be up to me to decide whether the strategies were worthy, how I should use them, and whether or not they were working.
Now, however, as a member of a PLC, my learning isn’t just self-assessment. I get to discuss and share new strategies with my colleagues, brainstorm ideas for implementation in lessons with people who do what I do and have, many of them, been doing it for longer, and reflect with people who have tried the same strategy. Very often I’m planning the lessons and debriefing them within a week’s time period. If that’s not frequent formative assessment– or assessment FOR LEARNING– I don’t know what is.
In terms of time outside of the classroom, I’m actually more inclined to search out professional development opportunities because I now have people I want to share my leraning with. I’m not just some schmuck who’s learning for myself; rather, I’m the friend who is helping herself and her friends. I fully expect the same of them. If a member of our PLC comes back from summer break having brought nothing back of value, I would be utterly surprised. We work for each other, so I think our efforts increase.
2) Lesson Study (Lewis et. al.) and Critical Friends Groups (Bambino) are examples of the kind of “learning community” for which Schmoker is advocating.
a. What are the pros and cons of lesson study as an approach to professional development? What comes to mind when you consider the prospect of participating in the development of a “research lesson?”
b. Could you realistically implement Lesson Study or CFG’s in your school? (Enjoy the irony: would it take a strategic plan to make it happen?)
In our PLC, one of our next steps is to implement Lesson Study. We meet 4 times a week to discuss curriculum building (big theory) and plan lessons together (smaller theory), but we haven’t yet workshopped a particular lesson together. We’ve done an informal type of lesson study, where we brainstorm a lesson, all four go teach it to our respective classrooms, and then bring our own reflections back to debrief how it went. Nevertheless, I think that we could really benefit from some extra “researching” eyes, and I hope we get to this piece of the PLC next year.
Thank the lord for a forward thinking principal! I don’t have to worry about strategic planning in order to implement reforms that make sense. I’ve been in a PLC for 2 years, and I’m convinced we can only get better next year in our 3rd. Here’s to Lesson Study!