Leaders of Processes: Making Every Professional Learning Opportunity Count

[Note to readers: This column was published in a September 2018 edition of Iowa ASCD’s The Source e-newsletter.]

Leaders of Processes: Making Every Professional Learning Opportunity Count

Last school year, I challenged readers to join Iowa ASCD by digging deeper into what it means to be a curriculum lead.  According to our organization, the functions of our work as a curriculum lead include being leaders of…

  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Data Analysis
  • Processes
  • Professional Development
  • Relationship Building
  • Performance
  • Operations, and
  • Change

In the first column, I posed some key questions and shared my own experiences related to being a leader of curriculum, instruction and assessment.  Curriculum leads are constantly painting the picture of a shared vision for the integration of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, all the while trying to keep up with changing state standards and assessments (ready or not, here we come, Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress!)  In the second column, we considered how curriculum leads “assure all educators’ ability to use data to inform, implement, monitor, and evaluate results-based decisions” through tools such as innovation configuration maps.

The curriculum leadership journey continues in 2018-19!  This week, we’ll be taking a closer look at what it means to be a leader of processes.  “Curriculum leads establish and monitor common practices and procedures to assure alignment and achievement of initiatives and plans with district and building goals.”  Perhaps the most tangible example of this function in action is the teaming structure of a building or district.  Whether data teams, collaborative learning teams or achievement teams are the structure of choice, the common goal is to create a community of adult learners who are focused on ensuring students learn at high levels.  Curriculum leaders can and should play a key role in these teaming structures.  Rather than merely requiring agendas and minutes from each team, curriculum leads might map out differentiated deliverables throughout an academic year.  For example, elementary teams could share a summary of the data used to identify students in need of reading intervention on a monthly basis.  A secondary science team working through the Next Generation Science Standards likely has a list of revised units and assessments which would serve as evidence of collaboration time well utilized.

Moving beyond “pockets of excellence” should be a common talking point for curriculum leads embracing their role as leaders of processes.  Dr. Thomas Guskey (2000) suggests school leaders consider five critical levels of evaluation: participants’ reactions, participants’ learning, organization support and change, participants use of new knowledge and skills, and student learning outcomes.  While professional learning alone that directly affects students learning may be viewed as the holy grail because it is often a costly and time-consuming process to isolate and track down the necessary information, this does not mean schools should give up evaluating professional learning efforts all together.  As a leader of processes, curriculum leaders take the time to plan desired student learning outcomes and then work backwards to identify adult knowledge/skills to be acquired, organizational supports, and related learning activities.  Following each professional learning opportunity, participant reactions and levels of learning might be captured through a tool such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.  In addition, classroom observations should be scheduled to note the degree to which participants are applying newly acquired skills.  For example, at my former school district, principals and instructional coaches scheduled classroom observations to follow-up on a multiple year reading-in-the-content area initiative.  Using information from these observations and participant reactions captured via Google Forms, we were able to plan future professional learning opportunities that targeted areas of fine tuning.

In closing, curriculum leaders who value improving processes in a school district invest their time in structures to ensure each professional learning opportunity counts.  This function requires a leaders to think of change as a process rather than an event, such that each professional learning opportunity builds on the previous one, using multiple sources of data in the planning process.

Resources to further learning as leader of processes:

  • Evaluating Professional Development, by Thomas R. Guskey (2000, Corwin)
  • The Data Teams Experience: A Guide for Effective Meetings, by Angela Peery (2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities (3rd Edition), by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, Thomas Many, and Mike Mattos (2016, Solution Tree)

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