The #5Days5Words challenge, issued by Kristi Keery Bishop in her blog On the Cave Wall has inspired me to put the thinking and learning I've been doing this summer down on paper. My first three posts focused on the words simplify, drip and flow. As a K-12 math facilitator, I feel pulled in many directions at once, putting pressure on myself to share ideas and resources and to respond to people as quickly as possible.
This summer, I've taken time to reflect on my role, the work, and how to best support educators in our district. Armed with a stack of excellent books, my notes from ISTE18, and the fabulous online learning provided in The Build Math Minds Virtual Summit (#buildmathminds18 on Twitter), I'm trying to consolidate the learning and see the year ahead with renewed purpose. My fourth word is cycle.
There's a predictability in the work. I know I need to maintain a certain level of effort, particularly on a slow uphill climb. Sometimes, I allow myself to coast for a bit. At the halfway point in my ride, I stop for a break and hydrate. Then, I turn around and challenge myself to ride home just a little bit faster.
In education, we are always working in cycles. Teaching and learning is an iterative process that requires our energy - pedaling - to move forward. Students, teachers and instructional leaders are all expected to engage in some form of inquiry process, identifying a problem, making a plan, acting on the plan, observing, tweaking and reflecting, refining our thinking and beginning again. In her book Learner Centered Innovation, Katie Martin (@KatieMartinEdu, https://katielmartin.com) states:
"Learners have to experience something. We all learn and change our behaviour through cycles that include action reflection and revision that go beyond thinking, analyzing, and reading." (Martin, 2018, p. 191)
This section of the book got me thinking. Just as our students require time and space to pursue learning opportunities that matter to them, to inquire, test, reflect and share, so do educators. The experience we attach to a learning opportunity is what enables us to shift gears and refine our practice. We know that collaborative inquiry is a more effective professional learning model than a workshop session, but how might we blend learning opportunities to provide even greater power? One key idea that resonates is that the learning must be meaningful to - and driven by - the learner. When the learners are educators, this means that the learning must be centred on their identified area of need or problem of practice. One size doesn't fit all. However, when a school team identifies a common concern, the learning is bound to be more powerful. And when they engage the consultants, coaches and knowledgeable others in the process, their framework for related professional learning is supported. Aligning professional learning to address specific school-identified needs will personalize the learning for teams and reduce the perception that professional learning is an add-on. Instead, it might just feel like a great fit.
In Ontario, we are familiar with this professional learning cycle model:
In reality, this process iterates within itself, as well. At each point in the cycle, there is a mini-cycle, since we are always keeping an eye on the forward motion, making adjustments to our strategies to account for the specific needs in our setting. Think of the bicycle: the wheels, gears, sprockets and pedals all work in concert in order to achieve forward motion.
Martin describes learning as "a process, not an event", referencing the Personalized Professional Learning Cycle she uses when working to support educator professional learning. This cycle is more detailed, with some key additions that I think will help me to work more effectively alongside school teams this year. This graphic, and the accompanying descriptors, helps me to see myself in the process as a facilitator or coach. It also creates clear space for the experiences required for deep learning, with time set aside for reflection and feedback.
When we embark on a learning cycle, we ride with a destination (outcome) in mind and have criteria for success. We are prepared for hard work, sweat and bumps in the road. We know that sometimes we will have to stop, look, listen, monitor traffic, perhaps even rest and then proceed. Sometimes, there’s a barrier or detour which changes our path, but not our destination. We know that learning isn't a race. There are speed limits for a reason. Learning takes time. All we need to do is start pedalling...together.
System Leaders and Collaborative Inquiry (Capacity Building K-12)
Join us in this Capacity Building monograph as we explore how collaborative inquiry fosters
a spirit of innovation while enhancing a problem-solving disposition and embracing a commitment to learning. Reading online provides hyperlinks!
A framework for transforming learning in schools: Innovation and the spiral of inquiry
Helen Timperley, Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert
Collaborative Inquiry in Ontario: What We Have Learned and Where We Are Now
(Capacity Building Series #39)
Cascading Challenges: A Choreographed Approach to Sustained Student Inquiry
By Garfield Gini-Newman | May 15, 2017
Facilitating Mathematics Professional Learning
This series of sessions explores the visible and invisible actions of facilitators of mathematics inquiry. Discussion of the unique challenges and strategies for noticing and reflecting upon one’s own practices allows participants to implement research-informed strategies into their practice. As the use of inquiry-based professional learning increases, the demand for nuanced and effective facilitation is expanding. However, this is a complex role which is difficult to articulate as the work is often invisible and the mathematics content knowledge is embedded and central to the inquiry. Furthermore, there has been limited information and learning opportunities for facilitation of mathematics inquiry. When facilitators can name the actions they use it allows them to expand and refine their understanding of the work. Participants will be asked to engage in an on-going examination of their practice throughout the four sessions and contribute insights and artefacts of their learning to the group conversation.
Getting Started with Student Inquiry (Capacity Building Series #24)
Teacher Inquiry resources
The Education and Career Life planning framework, a 4-step inquiry process