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Blog: Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Collab Time as Powerful PD

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

While I am generally reluctant to draw conclusions about Canadian educational practice from research conducted south of the border, I thought the below data from a survey of American teachers was quite interesting. It begged the question about what kinds of professional development makes a difference in our practice, and what PD practices have strong correlation with student learning. It seems interesting that 79% of teachers in this survey said that the most effective PD was with their colleagues as a consequence of common planning time. 

Most of you will know that ‘collab time’ has been a big push in our district for a number of years.  Whether it is through the IBLT grants or creative scheduling, our elementary schools have found very interesting ways of providing this time for teachers. We have seen amazing ideas come from this structure, as teachers discover the power of better understanding what their colleagues next door are doing, particularly if there are common areas of inquiry.

Common planning time is a built-in construct for our middle schools. It has been made stronger by the creation of small teams of two that loop across grades six and seven.  This “student-teacher progression” allows teachers to connect their common inquiries with students over a two-year period. Again, it is a promising practice that supports the idea that learning is a social endeavor, made stronger by exposing one’s ideas to another person equally committed to strengthening practice.

The advent of “flex time” in our secondary schools might serve a similar function, though that will be discovered over time. Four of our high schools now have flex time where the primary function is to personalize student learning, by providing extra help, creating opportunity for enrichment, and promoting student self-regulation.  Notwithstanding these intentions, teachers --particularly those in a department-- do need to collaborate about the best ways to design instruction to improve student learning during flex time.

I have a fundamental belief that opening our practice to public scrutiny and discourse is the best way to improve it. Organizations don’t get better by themselves; they advance because they deliberately come in constant contact with new ideas, some of which are discarded, and others of which are adopted and/or modified. What the graph punctuates for me above all else is that there are no one size fits all when it comes to adult learning. In the same way that we aim to personalize student learning, we must also aim to design adult learning opportunities that fit the needs, the school and classroom contexts, as well as the learning styles of our teachers.

By Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden
Kevin Godden

By Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.