Building Professional Learning Communities

…through Structured Professional Conversations

Bill and Ochan Powell came back again this past March for half day workshops with various faculty groups at school.  The dynamics of two people leading a workshop always keeps things interesting and I enjoy watching the flow of their interactions with each other and the participants. They’re exceptionally good at what they do.

I have been wanting to read one of the books they had mentioned–Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow  and am thrilled it has made it onto our school summer reading list. Definitely appreciate when things I have to do and things I want to do overlap.

On to some long overdue thoughts from a morning with the Powells…

How much reflection do we actually do? 

Do teachers find value in their own learning?

We learn from people we trust and respect. Those are the people who should be a part of our PLC.

Professional metacognitive inquiry is slow and effortful.

We need to prepare for reflective thinking and make it consistent so that the time spent with our PLC is purposeful and structured.

Focus on: What did WE (as educators) learn?
–differentiate from collaboarative planning meetings where the focus is what students learn

Observations: When we observe, it should be non-evaluative.

4 Support Functions–which ones you use depends on your intention and the needs of the person.

  • coaching: create self-directed individual, they have destination in mind
  • collaborating: working together as co-equals
  • consulting: advice given
  • evaluating: assessment of instruction

Choose congruent function to your intention.

REFLECTION involves  CAUSE and EFFECT thinking, which results in insight and new learning.

Categories of FEEDBACK

  1. judgements
  2. personal observations/opinions
  3. inferences
  4. DATA-neutral, what you can observe (how you interpret data falls under other forms of feedback)
  5. reflective/mediative questions

1-3 are evaluative
4 + 5 are coaching ⇒ supports thinking

When people are self evaluative, it leads to self-directedness in own learning and growth.

Avoid using WHY in questions as it makes people defensive. Instead, rephrase adding positive presuppositions into questions.

  • What did you contribute to the process?
  • What are you taking away from this lesson in terms of your own learning?
  • Think back over our conversation, what has been helpful/useful to you?
  • What are you taking away from our conversation?

It is important to paraphrase.

It is important to be clear in what you want.

Help me think this through. (coaching)
What do you think about….? (consulting)

Learning of the day:  How we use our words have a large effect on the response we get.  Data and mediative questions result in learning and growth.

Question of the day:  How do we most effectively encourage teachers to see value in their own learning?  (What does encouraging self-evaluation and self-directedness look like?)

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