Through the course readings, discussions, assignments, and activities I have learned about major theories of adult learning. This new knowledge has helped me to evaluate and critique professional learning activities at my school.
My thinking about my school’s collaborative practices has shifted since taking this course. At first, I thought my colleagues and I were exemplar “collaborators.” While we do have some areas of strength, I see now that we have room to grow. We do not employ a wide variety of collaborative practices at my school. We do not engage in book studies, critical friends groups, or coaching. It has also become clear to me that the comfort level around collaboration greatly varies from teacher to teacher among our staff. Collaboration is simply expected from day one, but isn’t always properly supported. I see a need for differentiated professional learning opportunities around collaborative practices. Teachers need to be aware of the myriad of models collaboration can look like and have the opportunity to choose models that best fit their needs. I believe there is not a “one size fits all” model. Each problem may call for a different type of collaboration. Our current system does not allow for flexibility in the way we collaborate, but rather has a “mass produced” feel. Prior to taking EDU 6600, I hadn’t reflected deeply on collaboration and communication beyond grade level teams or job-alike teams. I am fortunate to be a part of a team with a strong collaborative culture, but realized that my colleagues and I need to significantly improve our communication and collaboration with classroom teachers. This course, in a sense, awakened my calling for leadership.
One model of collaboration I would like to see more of in my building is peer coaching. As reading specialists, my colleagues and I can provide a wealth of strategies, interventions, and literacy instruction ideas to our general education colleagues. Likewise, classroom teachers can impart their expertise on general education curriculum so that we might more closely align our instruction to better serve our students and support their learning. According to Zepeda (2012), “adult learners are more motivated to take risks if they feel support from their administrators and colleagues” (p. 62). A great risk at my school this year that many teachers have been asked to take is co-teaching. However, the challenge in creating this type of collaboration is that we have not received any professional development on co-teaching.
Zepeda (2012) says, “the prerequisite coaching skills are collaboration and trust” (p. 144). A next step for my team and the general education teachers we are working with is to take a step back and build trust. Book study groups, critical friend groups, and peer learning walks are all meaningful forms of job-embedded learning that my team would benefit from. Having scheduled times to co-plan with classroom teachers will allow us to learn about each other’s personal philosophy, values, and intent. Once we have established understanding and trust, classroom teachers and specialists, alike, will be more open to peer feedback to help their literacy instruction become accessible to all learners.
My learning throughout the quarter culminated in a final project in which I analyzed teaching and collaborative practices in my building, supporting Teacher Leadership Standard 4. In my final project, Leveraging Collaboration Between General Educators and Specialists to Meet the Needs of All Students, I demonstrate knowledge of effective professional practices. When analyzing the context and needs at my school, I found that communication and collaboration between classroom teachers and specialists (EL, Safety Net, and Special Education), if strengthened, would benefit all students and could help close the achievement gap. Based on careful analysis of student achievement data, qualitative data from teachers, and prior experiences, I designed a long-term professional development plan that offers differentiated learning opportunities, teacher choice, and ongoing evaluation. Theories of context-based learning posit that when knowledge is viewed as held by every person, every teacher, “adult educators and program planners [can] create or enhance contexts for adult learning that allows learners to share in the design, process, and evaluation of their learning activities” (Hansman, 2001, p.49). The two-year plan outlines appropriate actions for learning about and implementing co-teaching practices as a service delivery model.
Moving forward I will continue to grow my own confidence as a leader and empower those around me to find their strengths. Hilty (2011) describes a model of leadership where “leadership is stretched over the practice of two or more leaders in their interactions with followers” (p.274). In this model, leadership takes place in the interactions between individual teachers, parents, and community members. School systems must redefine leadership by including and valuing all stakeholders’ contributions as leaders.
Hansman, C. (2001). Context-based adult learning. In The new update on adult learning theory (41-49). Jossey-Bass.
Hilty, E.B. (2011). Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Zepeda, S. (2012). Professional development: What works. New York, NY: Routledge.