Professional Learning Team Supporting Educators
COVID has increased demands on already busy teachers, but professional learning support is still critical to their success in the classroom.
“The last couple of years, many districts were unable to provide regular professional learning opportunities for educators and administrators with the strain COVID put on their system,” said Shelly LeDoux, Dana Center director of professional learning. “Now, though, we’re seeing a renewed focus and excitement around professional learning, and it has been a joy to witness educators coming together.”
This school year, the Dana Center professional learning team is working with teachers and administrators in multiple states to provide online and in-person learning sessions.
The Dana Center team recently held in-person sessions on early numeracy, formative assessment, and classroom walkthrough strategies with teachers and leaders in New Mexico.
“Getting to be in-person with passionate educators again has been wonderful,” said Mary Davis, professional learning specialist. “While we’ve become adept at online instruction, feeling the buzz of the room and being a part of the action made those sessions memorable.”
Jackie LeJeune, professional learning specialist, agreed: “The work itself is always rewarding because what we do to support educators has a real impact on their students. But there’s something special, after so many months of Zoom meetings, to interact with teachers face to face.”
These professional learning sessions brought together both classroom teachers and administrators.
“We believe that effective teacher practice is refined through a structured, collaborative effort among teachers within the school system,” said LeDoux. “When we work with a state, district, or school team, it is critical that we work with classroom teachers, coaches, instructional leaders, and other administrators to create a culture of learning.”
“This is quite possibly the first time in almost two years that these educators and leaders have been afforded opportunities to collaboratively learn and grow in a face-to-face professional learning environment,” shared LeJeune. “Taking that into consideration, along with the undeniably taxing expectations they have risen to throughout the pandemic, we have had to be even more mindful of ensuring that the professional learning environment we establish is one that honors each educator as a professional who brings valuable expertise to the table.”
While in-person professional learning is resuming, the online format is still a much-needed option. The Dana Center has also recently provided online professional learning to OpenSciEd teachers.
OpenSciEd addresses the need among teachers and school districts for high-quality, open-source, full-course science instructional materials. Instead of focusing on big science topics, it is designed around things that happen in the world, which better matches student’s natural curiosity. Students are more likely to ask, “How does loud music from a car move that nearby window?” than “How does a sound wave work?”
“Because the instructional materials are designed to be driven by student questions and ideas, students have a better understanding of why they are doing any given activity,” said Molly Ewing, professional learning specialist. “This student-driven approach is not always how educators are used to delivering material.”
OpenSciEd professional learning specialists know that changing the way teachers are used to delivering material will not be easy, but they’re ready to support and guide them along the way.
As Ewing shared, “Teachers who’ve switched their instructional model find that this approach helps students become more invested in making sense of science concepts. That student engagement leads to more authentic engagement in the practices of science.”
Fully supporting educators through professional learning pays off for our students. As we continue to join educators and administrators across the country in expanding their professional learning opportunities, we are proud to know that their students are experiencing a richer learning experience.
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