Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Collaboration Coaching

As we wrap up our second year of Collaboration Coaching, we celebrate the success we've had with collaboration, learning with colleagues, and creating 21st century, student-centered classrooms.

What is a Collaboration Coach?

Our Collaboration Coaching is based on the Microsoft Peer Coach Training developed the Peer-Ed Team. We've adapted it to fit our district's needs.

The Collaboration Coach training presents an opportunity for Apache Junction Unified School District teachers to explore coaching as an effective model for providing ongoing professional learning with classroom teachers focused on 21st century learning, Common Core, technology integration, and best teaching practices.

Coaches receive training and support that includes methods of coaching, fostering collaboration, and action planning for successful coaching.

Project emphasis infuses technology to create and promote:
  • differentiated instruction through a variety of strategies based on student needs;
  • engaging learning activities that focus on AJUSD’s College Readiness Plan and personalization of learning; 
  • collaboration in the classroom and global community;
  • higher level learning, PBL, and lessons that address the Common Core;
  • deliberate collaborations that deepen understanding about student work, data analysis and achievement; and
  • increase the use of technology best practices in the development of engaging instructional practices. 

How we got started on Collaboration Coaching

Collaboration Coach Training 3/12
We wanted to shift the focus from teacher-centered classrooms to learner-centered classrooms by focusing on PBL, 21st century learning, one-to-one, and individualized instruction through rigor, relevance, and relationships. This would require a lot of ongoing professional development, however with only one technology integration specialist, it wasn't going to move that fast without a strategy or a team of coaches.

Unfortunately, due to decreased enrollment we were faced with some huge financial decisions which resulted in the closing of two of our schools. Despite these closures, our district felt it was important to continue to transition us to a one-to-one environment in the 7th grade that first year because we believed it would be the best way to prepare our students for college and career readiness.

Collaboration Coach Training 6/12
In order to provide us with the ongoing, job-embedded professional development needed for this type of pedagogical and cultural shift, we looked into the Microsoft Peer Coaching, developed by the Peer-Ed Team, and went to a Peer Coach Facilitator Training. Afterwards, we realized it was completely adaptable and would help build the capacity and sustainability our district needed.

The role of our Collaboration Coaches

Once the go-ahead was given to start Collaboration Coaching, we looked for other teacher who had the leadership qualities we were looking for. During the first two years, it was through invitation only to become a collaboration coach. This is the third year, and we opened it to application and had so many applicants that we had to limit how many we could take.

Collaboration Coach Training 6/12
Our collaboration coaches are full time teachers in the classroom. Their role is to focus on 21st century, student-centered learning in their own classrooms, while promoting and engaging in collaboration with colleagues.

How Collaboration Coaching has evolved in our district

During the first year, the most noticeable impact was at Cactus Canyon Junior High since we had the majority of our coaches on that campus to help with the transition to one-to-one. There was a noticeable difference in becoming a learning culture by the end of their first year together as a staff.

While in the first year of one-to-one and Collaboration Coaching, the focus was on the pedagogy and the tools that would best support that in their own curricular area; now I'm seeing that expanded cross-curricularly.

For example, Patty Carpenter, 8th grade Language-Arts teacher, created a blog with Sheryl Anderson, the Social Studies teacher next door. This blog was about World War II content, but Mrs. Carpenter used it to also teacher her content standards about writing, grammar, and informational text, while also explicitly teaching about digital citizenship.


During the second year of Collaboration Coaching, there was a similar cultural shift that started to occur at our high school. The following teacher reflection is a cross-curricular STEM project between Sandy Rollefstad's and Sarah Harrison's classes. It's a great example of the culture change and increased rigor with digital age instructional strategy in their reflection.



At the elementary schools, there were similar culture shifts in the learning taking place in the classroom. Here's a fabulous example of the culture change in this student reflection from students in Shauna Hamman's 5th grade class:



How Collaboration Coaching will evolve in this upcoming school year

With this being the third year of implementation, we are adapting it to fit our needs of bringing in Common Core at the same time. With our Race to the Top funding, we have four Common Core Coaches, who will also tap into our Collaboration Coaches.

Here's the presentation I created for launching the third year kick-off of Collaboration Coaching:


Concluding thoughts

Three years ago, if PBL was mentioned, it was an uncomfortable conversation because it was such a huge leap from what was common practice at the time. In contrast, I recently heard every campus discuss how PBL was one way to address the changes with Common Core, and a way to go deeper with learning.

Furthermore, the principals were confident about how to support their staffs with Common Core, PBL, and deeper learning.  I am excited because I see all of us supporting one another, and I can't wait to see the impact in the classrooms!

It's a learning process. We have a lot of work ahead of us to improve, while celebrating the huge progress we've made.
  • How has coaching impacted your classroom/district?
  • If your school doesn't have coaching, what benefits do you believe it could have on learning?
  • What questions do you still have about Collaboration Coaching?
  • How has this post connected with you?
Excepts of this post was written on the Teacher Leaders Network during various excellent forum discussions about teacher leadership. Special thanks to Sarah Henchey, Wendi Pillars, and Anne Jolly for their comments and questions on the TLN forum. I greatly appreciate the learning and reflection!

This post was written in preparation for presenting at #ISTE12 Peer Coaching Panel Session.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Common Core and Service Learning PBL Professional Development

Yesterday I had the privilege of facilitating a Common Core and Project Based Learning professional development class for 7th-12th grade teachers. Prior to my training, they had two days of ELA Common Core and one day of deconstructing performance assessments for ELA Common Core.

Meeting their needs through professional development

While I had a rather large group (over 40 and had to turn people away to go to another class since all of the computers and chairs were taken), over half of them had taken a PBL class with me before and were implementing it in their classrooms, yet only one had ever tried service learning.

I knew that what I had prepared for them would not meet their needs since I had created it as an introduction to PBL. Service learning was the direction I took them in because it addressed their needs the best, we'd get great cross-curricular discussions, and time to reflect and process the past three days of Common Core training.

Build background knowledge with PBL

To make sure we had the same knowledge base/foundation of PBL, we split into six groups to jigsaw these six topics:
The last group to share the main points of their reading collaboratively created a Google Apps presentation to present to the class digitally:
Connecting prior knowledge

While I loved that they had a chance to explore BIE's interactive matrix of 21st century skills and connected that to Common Core's college and career readiness, I believe the more powerful part of this portion of training was the reading and discussion of these two posts:
Attributes of strong 21st century learning, Common Core, and PBL

We had small group discussions of successful lessons/units, and found common attributes between them (even though many had different content areas). It boiled down to rigor, connecting to standards, differentiating, engaging the learner, being relevant and meaningful outside the classroom walls, connecting with a real purpose, having essential questions to create problem-based learning tasks, and technology that enhanced learning.

Those were attributes on the Microsoft Peer Coaching Learning Activity Checklist, created by the Peer-Ed Team (part of our Collaboration Coaching). Bethany Ligon, 8th grade science teacher, reminded us that this list also integrated Bloom's Taxonomy with the levels of complexity matrix, which was part of the rigor necessary in the Common Core.

Service learning

This BIE High Tech High video, Media Saves the Beach, is one that I've seen over a dozen times, and am always left so inspired because it captured their passion and the impact it made on the students and the community.



From here we bridged into many discussions about PBL, service learning, and Common Core.

The class participated as students in service learning discussions about our community and how we could implement it in our classrooms.

Click here to see the full day of training.

Final thoughts

Our professional development was not what I had planned for the day. I am so glad I threw out my "lesson plan" and went with what their needs were. It was a risk to try something totally new, especially with such a large group, and it was worth it.

While there's many adjustments with transitioning to Common Core, one-to-one, and the leadership changing roles within our district, I was inspired by all of the collaboration and awesome conversations in the room. I absolutely loved being with a group of passionate teachers! Thank you, AJUSD educators, you totally rock!
  • How does service learning/PBL address the Common Core?
  • How does straying from what's been done, to something new, require risk and innovation?
  • How do you innovate in your classroom/district?
  • How else does this post connect with you?