Aitsl priority Professional Learning



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AITSL

Priority Professional Learning

Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

We are here with Frederick Brown: the Director of Strategy and Development of Learning Forward. Frederick welcome.



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

Thank you.



Adam Smith,Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

You spoke at the AITSL convention and you talked about the right of every teacher to be able to access high quality professional learning. What in your opinion is, I guess, the individual responsibility of every teacher to seek this out?



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

So, at Learning Forward, we believe, it’s one of our beliefs, that we make very public, that every teacher has an obligation to improve their practice. When we think about the important work that we do as educators, I mean children’s lives are in the balance here, so because we know that as teachers, we all want to be our best, if we can find ourselves in a system that promotes professional learning, that gives us the opportunities to engage in professional learning, then absolutely, we should take those opportunities.

Schools across the US, one of the things that we really promote are teachers taking control of his/hers own learning. That learning is informed by several things:

One, if the teacher has, as you have here, a set of performance standards that describe very clearly what effective teaching looks like and she or he sees an area where there may be a need for some professional learning, then it is that teacher’s responsibility to seek out opportunities to engage in professional learning around those areas, so that is one.

Another reason or another set of information to use would be student data: so what sorts of things are your students doing and where you’re seeing their short-comings and as you analyse those data you start to look at your own performance and your own strengths and opportunities for improvement, then those become places where you might also want to seek out your own professional learning.

So that individual responsibility is something that is really important; but the thing to keep in mind with that is, so an individual doesn’t always learn best alone. So one of the ways that we really suggest that individuals think about their own learning is; through work with others and the team. Because often times, it’s not just one person who has the same learning gap. So learning teams can be constructed in lots of different ways; across the grade level, across the content area or it may just be a group of teachers who realise this is an area of growth that we need to explore. So there are lots of different ways to do, but certainly one can see that there are lots of reasons why a teacher may take on ownership of his or her learning.



Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

One of the particular standards of Learning Forward which you’ve highlighted to us is around learning design. Can you tell us a little about that?



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

So the learning design standard really hits at - so what does the professional learning actually look like?

So the AITSL conference that we just had yesterday was a particular form of a learning design: it was based on the assumption that adults learn well when they can engage in the experience. So there was the opportunity to, as you say, to buzz, several times throughout the experience and get onto their computers and tweet about what they were learning and so that form of engagement is one of the attributes and the learning design that you all put forth.

One of our programmes called our Learning Forward Academy has a very specific type of learning design: it is structured in such a way that individuals come and experience 4 (four) meetings over the course of two and a half (2.5) years and they bring a ‘problem of practice’ to that experience and it is something that’s been just causing them all kinds of frustration back in their schools or back in their systems, something that if they could just solve this, then more effective learning and teaching could happen in their schools. So what the Academy, the learning design is such that they come together four (4) times: but when we meet, all of the learning is focused on their ‘problem of practice;’ their individual ‘problem of practice.’

They are allowed to or we give them opportunities:

to engage with others around their questions

we give them opportunities to seek out expertise from outside of the community

they’re coached throughout the experience, so they have access to a coach during the sessions and also in between sessions

Their sessions occur during our conference so after the Academy experience is over and then they can jump into the conference were we ask them to go and attend sessions that are connected to their specific problem.

So it is very specific type of learning design but it was meant to focus people on a very specific problem and it gives them an opportunity to solve it.



Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

Terrific, can you tell us a bit about the rise of social media and how it is changing access to professional learning?



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

Well one thing, I go back to the statement that: people learn best when they are learning with others. Social media gives them an opportunity to do that and make their learning very public; so all of a sudden you are not learning in isolation. If you have a question, you can get answers to those questions from others who have experienced the same issues.

All of a sudden you have access to a community that goes beyond your School. So what a wonderful world it is when you are no longer sitting there is that class-room, like I remember doing my first (1st) years of teaching alone and not really knowing the answer, afraid to reach out to some of the teachers who are around me, because as a new teacher, I didn’t want to appear like I didn’t know – he should know, he’s just graduated from the University – why doesn’t he know?

Social media allows me to reach out and to gain access to knowledge and expertise beyond my school walls.



Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

Can you talk to us a little about how we can make the most of access to social media and this enhanced connectivity as you were explaining, but also, how do we protect and make sure we don’t comprise quality, in terms of access to knowledge and the information around professional learning?



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

So one of the things that I know we are teaching our children, is they have access to all this information, is how to filter and look through all their information and make sure that you’re getting some of the best of what’s out there. Because you are right, there’s just a world of information out there; there’s just so much to filter through. So we would suggest the same for teachers.

Once folks have an opportunity to understand and get a sense of what good quality professional learning looks like, what good teaching looks like and where the good sites are, so for example; you have Teacher Feature that’s coming here. So, that’s a place where it will be known, that’s that the place to go to get access to some good information.

Other websites and other locations will start to rise to the top because the buzz will be; those are the places you can go to get the access to the very good information. So our website, for example; is a place where we hope folks will come and get access to what we believe is high quality information. There are many other associations and organisations throughout the US and around the world that have information, that just would be, just a treasure trove for teachers.

So, I would say that one way the market will sort of sort those things out and the quality will rise to the top and people will start to see very quickly what’s good and what’s not.

Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

I assume that at Learning Forward your approach to that would also be to make the most of what’s available worldwide.



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

Oh absolutely.



Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

So it’s far less about being specific to one particular region or one particular state.



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

Absolutely.



Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

So what are you doing at Learning Forward to really, I guess make the most of that?



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

You know what’s interesting is our website is, as we speak, going through a re-design and so we have a lot to learn still about how to make use of the vast resources that are out there and the realms of technology.

But one way that we are trying to do it, so I mentioned earlier that our Academy programme is a very specific learning design: we want to leverage the space that happens in between sessions and create a ‘community of practice’ that goes beyond the actual session and allows folks to have opportunity to engage in conversation in between those sessions, which conversation will actually change their practice.

In so by embedding that technology within a larger learning design, you are able to sort of set boundaries on how that looks and the different ways that it might happen and the kinds of conversations that occur and at the same time you have un-bounded places like our Facebook page, which we have a page for the organisation, as well as a page for the Academy and some of our other programmes, which allows for all types of conversation and communication.

So it can be done in several different ways, but again, it goes back to what’s your learning design, what is it that you are trying to do and trying to accomplish and what outcomes do you desire?

Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

You’ve spoken to us about the role and the responsibilities of the individual teacher and given us some context around what’s available, not just locally, but on a global scale.

Given your time in Australia, what’s the key message you’d like to with our audience of teachers and of school leaders?

Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

First of all: teachers work so hard and they are doing such important work and it is in my opinion the number one (1) job in this country as in all countries.

One thing that I often say, because there is a lot of competition: I hear there is slight competition between states and territories here in Australia, but everyone wants the best for our kids and the reality is, in any one of our and any one of your states, as well in any one of ours, there might be one child that has the idea that might change this country, right. So, we want to make sure that we create a learning environment so that those ideas have a chance to come out and be exposed and if we have schools where all children’s needs are met, every single child, regardless of their background, their income levels, their experiences etc. , if we don’t create environmentswhere all kids have access to the best teaching and learning as possible, then that one idea that might change this county, might never see the light of day.

So I guess the one message that I would leave is to make sure that we create those kinds of school environments, where all children have access to the best.



Adam Smith, Founder & Principal Consultant at the Equity Institute:

Great, Frederick, thank you.



Frederick Brown, Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward:

Absolutely.


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