At Project L.I.F.T., we pride ourselves upon the high quality professional development we provide to our educators. One of our partners in providing PD is CT3, creators of Real Time Teacher Coaching and the No-Nonsense Nurturer program. CT3 Associate, Nataki Gregory, works closely with our schools and shares how L.I.F.T. makes the most of every learning opportunity.
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PD = Practice Deeper
By Nataki Gregory
CT3 Associate, Charlotte
Many educators could say they have experienced (or heard about) ineffective professional development (PD). In these sad situations, some teachers bring student work to grade or plan to catch up on their emails, anticipating they won’t learn anything during a standard PD session even before it begins. And unfortunately, they are often right, as PD is often viewed as a necessary evil in many schools.
Project L.I.F.T. takes a different approach to PD, where the acronym is better translated to “Practice Deeper.” In my work as a CT3 Associate supporting coaches in Project L.I.F.T. schools, I have seen PD executed in ways that energize teachers and maintain the focus on improving student outcomes, above all else. I have the wonderful opportunity of supporting PD planning, observing PD and helping school teams determine what PD will be most useful to help teachers grow. At the school level, school leaders complete high-level planning with Multi-Classroom Leaders (MCLs)[i] to maximize the precious few hours available to pull teachers together. Sometimes this learning is whole-group, as I saw at Druid Hills Academy earlier this month, sometimes grade or team-focused the way Ranson Middle rolled it out in December, and sometimes one-on-one.
In nearly all cases, the PD includes three critical elements: practice and planning time; targeted, specific learning, and; integration. Practice and planning time are central to the learning experiences. Teachers are asked to practice what they’ve learned immediately, in real-time, and can expect to receive immediate feedback from their colleagues that is designed to identify their strengths and areas for growth. Then, applying that feedback, they practice again. At Druid Hills, this practice was deepened with planning time, so that teachers had the thinking space to apply their learning to upcoming lessons. This practice and planning time grows teachers’ comfort with new learning, supports collegiality and collaborative learning and increases the likelihood that the learning will show up in the teachers’ long-term practice.
Typically, in Project L.I.F.T. , the PD is targeted and specific. When formative data at some L.I.F.T. schools revealed student learning gaps, teachers insisted on having more frequent data to track student progress. Enter whole-school rollouts of Do Nows and Exit Tickets, ensuring that every teacher in a building has an instructional strategy that provides bite-sized chunks of measurable, usable data on learning every period that informs follow-up teaching. This strategy helps teachers know with certainty which students have or have not mastered the taught content at the end of a class period. This intentionality gives teachers the tools they need when they need them, and Real Time Teacher Coaching for Instruction (RTTC-I), supported by CT3, ensures coaches can quickly grow teachers’ skills in the use of the strategy so that they can capture the rich trove of information it provides about student learning. At Ashley Park and Ranson, this strategy is one of at least ten coached across the building each day. The decision about which teacher gets coached in which strategy is – no surprise – based on data that allows the coaching to be targeted and specific.
Project L.I.F.T. works hard at realizing the third element in its PD approach, integration. With innovation as its approach to tackling entrenched problems and attitudes that plague many urban centers of education, Project L.I.F.T. relies on several research-proven programs and applications in its turnaround strategy. At (and after) many PD experiences, teachers and MCLs work together to determine how best to integrate these resources with one another, so they don’t work at cross-purposes and all drive student performance in the same direction, towards continuous improvement. At Druid Hills the other day, the MCLs were trying to determine whether the Exit Tickets from the Eureka Math curriculum were aligned to the Common Formative Assessments students would take. They knew that integrating the two would be central to student success and ended up planning some PD sessions that would help teachers integrate the two successfully. Folks across Project L.I.F.T. don’t always arrive at perfect integration, but you can be assured that PD is quickly planned in areas where teachers need to learn more to support the use of the resources.
All three of these elements ensure that PD in Project L.I.F.T. helps teachers deepen their practice and practice new learning at deeper levels than has been the case historically. Keep rising, L.I.F.T.!
[i] Multi-Classroom Leaders are former high-performing teachers who now support teachers through Real Time Teacher Coaching for Management (RTTC-M); Real Time Teacher Coaching for Instruction (RTTC-I); curriculum support and content area specialization. People in these roles lead teams and share accountability for teachers’ student outcomes.