For administrators who are facing the task of running summer Professional Development (PD) sessions after an embattled year, Educational Advisor Jennifer Wolfe shares tips to engage teachers and utilize newfound digital skills.
This has been an intensely challenging year for leaders, educators, families, and students. While much has been written on what we lost, and we cannot underestimate the loss in terms of life, the silver lining of the pandemic is that educators were pushed to shift instructional practices and lept forward in classroom innovation and use of digital tools.
Now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build on this leap and make a bold change in our education system. We can leave behind the old normal which did not serve many students well, particularly students of color. We can replace it with an improved system that offers students more voice, choice, and autonomy in their learning, preparing them for the world they will face as they enter the workforce. This will require us to rethink our professional development offerings as we prepare for next year.
1. Celebrate New Learnings & Determine a Way to Keep Skills Sharp
As you plan for your summer professional development, it is important to consider how to build on what was learned and focus on the skills that will prepare your team for the unpredictable school year ahead. This includes prioritizing supporting students in dealing with trauma, with a focus on social-emotional development. There are some wonderful resources you can share with your educators:
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Toolkit for Educators
- A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus
- Teaching Social Emotional Learning Through Art in Times of Crisis
2. Take an Asset-Based Approach
I encourage you to take an asset-based approach which celebrates all that was achieved, even in difficult circumstances, and examines what students gained by having more autonomy and agency over their learning.
You may even kick off summer PD by sharing examples of what was learned and gained over the past year and having your team identify what they would like to keep as we return to in person classrooms. Some examples may include the use of tech tools such as Jamboard or Google Docs that engaged some of the students that were normally quieter because they don’t require speaking out. This is a great opportunity for educators to share the new skills they gained with their grade level teams and beyond.
Standard mastery data
Teachers nowadays have the gift of standards-based mastery data that was not available to me when I was a teacher. I honestly would have been a way better teacher if I had this as an option. There are so many programs and platforms that allow for teachers to collect real time data that is aligned directly with the standards. It takes the guesswork out of creating assessments that you think may align with the standards. Based on our state data, we were not doing a great job at this.
Kiddom is one platform we have specifically utilized within our district that does standard based assessments, providing data on the effectiveness of mastery towards the standards. In our district, we have standards based report cards for K-2nd. These report cards have to be one of the toughest and most time consuming parts of teaching in the primary grades. K-2nd teachers dread when report cards are due for this reason. Using the standards-based mastery reporting takes the guesswork out of knowing how and where a student is progressing. We utilize our benchmark data to fill out our report cards as they align directly with our state standards. There has been a lot of conversation around 3rd-12th having standards based reporting, as right now, they just receive a percentage grade. I am now an administrator in a high school, and I can honestly say that I do not believe we are accurately scoring students based on the standards, but more of a completion grade.
3. Support Educators in Offering More Voice and Choice
Consider how you can support educators in offering their students more voice and choice over their learning within brick and mortar classrooms. Students thrive when teachers respect their choices and understand their needs. We saw in many instances that when students drive their own learning, they can do amazing things.
Another potential area for summer PD is around increasing capacity to use a variety of formative assessment tools. These can allow students to demonstrate their content mastery through invention, projects, and alternative assessment methods in a move away from standardized testing.
4. Remain Flexible & Stay Prepared
It is also important to do some preparation in the event the pandemic continues to require school communities to quarantine and shift rapidly to distance or hybrid learning. We must remain flexible, as this past year showed us we don’t know what is around the corner. TNTP developed a high-quality Covid-19 School Response toolkit with a rich set of resources to help in planning for next year, which I encourage you to review as you create your summer PD plans.
How Are You Adjusting Your Summer PD Sessions This Year?
This last year has helped us to imagine a new education paradigm that better serves all students. I hope you will use your summer professional development to think boldly about creating engaging and equitable learning environments that empower students and teachers alike. I’d love to hear how you’re adjusting your PD plans this year. Please leave a comment below, or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jenniferawolfe.
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For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.
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