Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finding Time for Lesson Study

Below is a summary of the strategies real schools and districts used as reported in Valerie Von Frank's [ed.] book Finding Time For Professional Learning, Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council, 2008, and other sources).

___ Plan teacher release days according to their affiliations (e.g., department, subject, PLC, etc.) with subs covering their classes.

___ Plan for teachers to cover other classes during teacher release days according to their affiliations (i.e., department, subject, PLC, etc.). So, when the English department is going to meet as a PLC, the other teachers step in to cover their classes (perhaps by combining classes on an interdisciplinary expedition).

___ Hire one or more full‐time subs to cover classes when teachers visit each other's classrooms.

___ A substitute bank of professional learning subs who know they'll be subbing once a week, but for different teachers (whoever is meeting for professional learning that week).

___ Enlist school administrators to teach classes in order to release teachers for professional learning. Consider counselors and support staff, under the supervision of certified staff.

___ Repurpose meeting times as PLC times (and really meaning it!): e.g., faculty, department, grade level meetings.

___ Repurpose some or all district professional development days so that they can be used by schools for professional learning activities; consider making the days flexible – in other words, individual schools can decide on the days they want to use the district time (in large districts, schedule according to feeding patterns).

___ Use the first part of the day for school meetings/gatherings which all students but not all teachers attend. Teachers not attending instead meet in professional learning groups. Other teachers organize the meeting, perhaps working with student leaders on special events.

___ Extend school hours on every day but one in order to have an late start or early dismissal for professional learning each week ("banking" time).

___ Rework schedules so that PLCs have a common prep period which they agree to use every other week as PLC time rather than individual prep time.

___ Provide PLC time during electives time. . . but make sure that electives teacher are part of a PLC too, perhaps their own PLC, during the school day.

___ Consider "roll‐through time" (Maine‐Endwell Central School Dist., NY), a period during which specific groups of staff gather for identified learning and by individualized coaching, with substitutes rolling from one to another classroom.

___ Create PLC time during specials (art, music, PE in many elementary schools) but be sure that specials teachers also have PLC time.

___ Consider recess – perhaps in combination with other time, such as specials, for a longer block of PLC time. Trade recess "duty" in order to meet with your own PLC.

___ Review funding sources (Title I? Other?) to see if it will support PLC time.

___ Regroup for specials – instead of 3 classes of 20, do 2 classes of 30 to allow classroom teachers to be able to collaborate (music and gym + recess).

___ Team teach – and arrange for one person each week to be released for professional learning time for at least a day.

___ Create double planning times or extended time for teacher teams to meet during the week.

___ Combine planning periods with non‐instructional periods such as lunch or before/after school (without duty) once a week.

___ Engage the community in leading service projects or special interest classes (organized by a retired teacher) once every two weeks so teachers can meet.

___ Design activities for students that can be supervised by one teaching and other nonteaching staff.

___ Release teachers from nonteaching duties once a week or more so they can meet.

___ Regularly combine classes and release teachers to engage in professional learning (one school does this every Friday, releasing a different group of teachers all day).

___ Start from scratch (as Audrey Cohen suggested) and design the school day so that about 10 percent of teachers' work time is for learning and working with peers to improve instruction; work with the union on this, helping union people see the benefits to teacher members.

___ Have district administrators teach classes while teachers engage in professional learning once a month.

___ Be willing to trade away something in order to get professional learning time.

___ Extend the contract, but do not clump added days at the beginning or end of the student calendar; spread them out by half‐days throughout the year to achieve continuous learning periods.

___ Capture district professional development days for school use, such as meeting in PLCs.

___ Guard whatever time there is so that it is not pre‐empted by other activities; it is used only for professional learning.

___ Make sure that activities such as these "count" as professional learning: follow‐up to professional development (an outside speaker, for example), problem‐solving, coaching, classroom visits/walk‐throughs, sharing student work, lesson study, assignment analysis, etc.). Real professional learning is much more than "sit 'n' git."

___ Consider staggered teaching schedules with teachers in a PLC reporting and leaving at different times during the school day so they can meet regularly with a team.

___ Consider Friday School (or some other day, some other name) once a month, a special day with field trips, art experiences, etc.

___ Occasionally use "cherry biters" (Shelley Quinlivan in Garmston, "No Time for Learning? Just Take It In Tiny Bites and Savor It," JSD, Fall 2005, Vol. 26, No. 4, 65‐66.) to keep the focus on learning: These are 20 minutes of volunteer

time before/after school to focus on a specific topic (ideas about assessment, for example).

___ Let PLCs decide their own meeting time(s) and present their wishes to the entire faculty. There's no reason all PLCs in a school need to meet at the same time.

___ For coaching, classroom walk‐throughs, mentoring, problem‐solving, etc., arrange for time individually. There's no reason all these activities need to take place at the same time, involving several teachers who need substitutes. Coverage for these activities can be provided by one traveling sub or administrator or teachers who donate their planning time.

___ Extend existing student breaks for one day to allow for professional learning time for teachers.

___ Bargain time. Work with the union to make professional learning time a part of contracts. Time may be "banked" (extended time before the regular start and end times that can be saved for professional learning time) or newly established, such as an extra two days spread throughout the year in half‐day professional learning time.

___ Consider full‐day "specials" – art, music, physical education, etc., so that "regular" teachers can devote their energy towards professional learning, but be sure specials teachers have a day to learn, too (Hoffman Elementary School, Chicago).

___ Consider internships in high schools, half‐days when students are in the community reporting to work partners and gaining valuable work experience. When students are interning, their teachers can engage in professional learning.

___ Compartmentalize faculty meetings by deciding that one faculty meeting a month is for "business" and the another for "issues," but the remaining two are for professional learning.

___ Combine before‐ and after‐school preparation time (contract hours), giving it up once a week in to have one block of time to spend on professional learning, perhaps with a late start or early dismissal, which is made up for students through slightly longer regular start and dismissal times.

___ Have teachers ask for and schedule time individually to coach peers and observe each other in the classroom. Meet those they are coaching or observing during preparation time, but count on the administrator to provide coverage during the time an individual is coaching or observing.

___ Rather than have two days before schools open to get ready for students, have one preparation day and another day during the third week to "drop everything and learn" (Monroe Township Public School District, NJ).

___ Customize professional learning time to the task. Have teachers plan what they will do in terms of their own learning and what kind of time they'll need to accomplish results. For example, teachers who do action research may need individual time plus meeting time. Teachers who are examining student work together may need regular group time. Teachers who are doing peer coaching or walk‐throughs may need one or more periods of time per week to engage in their professional learning.

___ Work with district administrators and the school board/committee to recognize the importance of professional learning such that they are willing to add days to the teaching calendar. Help them think "out of the box" about the standard 180 day school year (see Tanner, Canady, and Rettig, Scheduling time to maximize development opportunities, JSD, Fall 1995, Vol. 16, No. 4, 14‐19.

___ Look at how block scheduling can provide professional learning time for teachers (Zepeda, Arrange time into blocks, JSD, Spring 1999, Vol. 20, No. 2, 26‐30; Adams City High School, Colorado). A fourth daily block can be "student free" and provide teachers time to meet professionally (see Working Toward Excellence, A Newsletter of the Alabama Best Practices Center, Spring 2001, Vol. 1, No 3, 2‐4).

___ Add an optional period to the day so that teachers get a planning period + a PLC period. Rotate that period throughout the schedule (see Working Toward Excellence, A Newsletter of the Alabama Best Practices Center, Spring 2001, Vol. 1, No 3, 10).

___ Don't give up scarce hours to "one‐shot" workshops.

Thanks to Lois Brown Easton for this!

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