How is instructional decision-making strengthened through teacher leadership?
Over the next six weeks, our team will continue to work with one of our partners, Cajon Valley Union School District in the San Diego area to answer this question. We started the academic year by bringing together teacher leaders from across the district and developing workshops aimed at helping teachers better understand Common Core and next generation assessments. During these workshops we emphasized why performance tasks are a critical step in student assessment, how to design and implement performance tasks and how to encourage inquiry thinking throughout the instructional day. Another level of support took place at individual school sites. During these collaborative sessions we worked with principals and grade level teams to develop suggestions for changing classroom environments to support blended learning. Through this site-specific approach, we were able to customize support by personalizing our approach to meet the needs of each team.
Starting in early May we shifted our focus and started backwards curriculum planning for the upcoming academic year. With evolving classroom expectations, current instructional materials are becoming, in the best case, outdated and in many cases, obsolete. The questions teachers must answer include the following: (1)What does instruction and learning look like in this new environment; How do students learn best; What is my role?”To address these questions we are assisting teams in designing their ELA curriculum maps. While our team and the district are providing a framework, or basic guidelines to support and align this process, the majority of instructional decision-making is being done at the school site level, led by empowered, fully collaborative teacher teams. Teachers are debating the role of big ideas and essential questions, and how this approach anchors learning. They are incorporating technology resources and tools, to enhance the design of developmentally-appropriate, blended-learning environments. Teachers on these teams now better understand learning expectations. More importantly, they are becoming site-specific agents of change, as they make many of the critical decisions which traditionally their district would have handed to them.
This month we are continuing this process through multi-school collaboration. Four elementary school sites, Lexington, Blossom Valley, Fuerte, and Flying Hills are sending grade level teams from each of these schools. The goals of this project are for each team not only to develop an instructional map tailored to their specific site’s resources and students’ needs, but also to collaborate and share with each other. Teachers from the four schools who all teach the same grade level will meet to share challenges, their design approaches and opinions on which resources best support students. Through this level of collaboration we’re seeing stronger instructional plans developed, each team building on the expertise and success of each other, and as a result creating more successful teacher-designed, innovative learning environments.
submitted by Kirk Melkonian