Individualized Professional Learning Plan

Top 4 Benefits of Individualized Professional Learning Plans

Last week we discussed the ineffective use of scripting for teacher observations. This week, we’ll focus on a component of a more effective teacher evaluation model: Individualized Professional Learning Plans.

 

You’re probably asking yourself, “So what, exactly, is an individualized professional learning plan?”.

Individualized professional learning plans are an individualized, focused, and on-going means of setting goals for teacher professional growth. The focused, individualized nature of these plans makes them an effective roadmap for teacher reflection and growth. Below are some more reasons why individualized professional learning plans are an integral piece of a comprehensive professional practice framework.

 

#1 – They’re Focused on Community Standards

One reason these plans are effective is that the implementation begins with a focus on state and local standards. In other words, what does the school know about its students, and what are its expectations for them? Schools then use data to determine where their students are regarding those standards and set goals for improvement.

 

#2 – They’re Focused on Purposeful Goals

With a focus on the goals set for student improvement, teachers determine their own set of goals – their contribution to student growth and improvement. For example, if the school data determined that students were weak at evaluating bias in nonfiction texts, an individual teacher may set a goal for how they can improve that skill in their own classroom. In this way, the goals are purposeful and goal centered.

 

#3 – They’re Focused on Measurable Goals

Another reason these plans are effective is that the teachers set measurable goals. In other words, they include quantifiable data to determine whether they are seeing student growth in a determined area. For example, a teacher may determine that they’re going to incorporate three more pieces of nonfiction writing into their curriculum through which students will practice evaluating bias. Teachers can then measure students’ progress throughout the course of the year through formative and summative assessments on evaluating bias.

 

#4 – They Lead to More Efficient and Meaningful Teacher Evaluations

Evaluators who primarily use scripting write down everything that happens in a classroom. At the end, they have vast amounts of unfocused data to sift through, so reflection with the teachers they evaluate is often time consuming and disconnected. Instead, the individualized professional learning plans mean teachers and evaluators have a specific focus along with meaningful data to inform their conversation and determine a plan for teacher growth. In other words, did the data indicate student growth in assessing bias in nonfiction text? Were there still areas of weakness? The evaluator and teacher may determine, for example, that while students improved overall in evaluating bias, they still struggled with identifying loaded language in a text or evaluating credibility of the writer. They would then reflect on how the teacher could better help students regarding these specific skills.

 

How do you see individualized professional learning plans fitting into the teacher evaluation model at your school?

Top 3 Problems with Scripting for Teacher Evaluations

While most people generally agree that teachers must be held accountable, the current system of teacher evaluations doesn’t really do that.  Scripting, although ineffective at delivering significant improvement, has been one of the most widely used tools for teacher evaluations, largely because of the common misconceptions surrounding the practice.

So what, exactly, is scripting? Scripting involves recording what is happening in a classroom, including what the teacher is doing and saying, what students are doing and saying, and the interactions between teacher and student. Below are three major problems with this practice.

Problem #1: Scripting is Inefficient
If scripting sounds tedious, it’s because it is. It’s also inefficient and not as effective as it was once thought to be. In our work with schools throughout the country, school leaders are lucky if they can get 1-2 scripted observations completed for every teacher each school year.

Problem #2: Scripting is not as objective as it claims to be
A common misconception is that scripting is objective. If an observer is writing down or typing into a computer everything that happens in a classroom, then they’re being objective, right? Wrong.
First, it would be impossible to record every interaction. Think of the number of interactions that happen in a room of 20+ students and a teacher just using nonverbal communication alone. On top of this, evaluators are people, and people sometimes see what they want to see and fail to see what they don’t want to see – it’s called confirmation bias.

Problem #3: Scripting is really just a compliance practice

Although the flaws surrounding scripting are clear, evaluators are still using it. Why? Because they have to do something to be compliant, and this is what was touted early on to meet compliance. Unfortunately, this led to a widespread missed opportunity.  Teacher observations shouldn’t just be about checking boxes to meet state and federal requirements.  It’s time for schools to progress beyond mere compliance practices (i.e., scripting) and instead focus on processes that foster teacher reflection and growth.  One such process leverages video observations over scripting, and the results are very encouraging.

Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research (through the Best Foot Forward project) examined the benefits of using video observations to help teachers accelerate their development. The many benefits video observations, like iAspire Reflect, provide over traditional scripting practices include: capturing all information from an observation, unlimited opportunities to review the observation, objective data and feedback, opportunity to observe without being physically present in the classroom, allows teachers to record themselves and choose which lessons to submit for review, increased number of coaching cycles with each teacher, and the creation of a professional development library of exemplars of instructional practice that can be shared among staff.

Are you tired of prehistoric, time-consuming teacher observation practices involving scripting? If so, you’re probably ready to learn more about teacher video observations and leap into the 21st century of teacher evaluation practices!

Teacher Evaluation Reflecting Time

Self-Reflection in Schools – A Lost Art?

Summer seems like the perfect time to do some self-reflection on the school year. The hustle and bustle of grading, lesson planning, meeting, and instructing is over, and there is finally time to think about what worked and what didn’t. However, reflection shouldn’t wait until June. Even though it can be tempting to put it off until there are fewer demands on their time, effective teachers reflect on their work often.

What to Look For:  Self-reflection is most powerful when it is purposeful. Whether it’s during a lesson, in a weekly reflection journal, or while playing back a video observation, it’s important that teachers and administrators have set clear, data-driven goals that encourage effective teaching techniques, student engagement, meeting state standards, and illustrating content knowledge.

Constant Reflection:  The best teachers are constantly reflecting and actively monitoring. During class, as teachers monitor the students for engagement and level of understanding, they may decide to include more instruction or encourage more active student involvement. Lessons may change during a class period or from one period to the next. This type of reflection is important, but it should be combined with other forms of reflection, too.

Notes/Journals:  Reflection is even more effective when teachers use reflection journals. These journals include reflection regarding specific, data-driven goals, making the reflection more purposeful. Teachers can write daily or weekly to reflect on specific goals. They can determine which lessons were most effective, what engaged students, and how different learners responded to differentiated methods of teaching. Through journaling, teachers can discover patterns that emerge as they record their experiences over time.

Video Observations:  One of the most powerful tools to aid in self-reflection is video observations. The video format allows teachers the opportunity to see what their students see. These observations are also a valuable way to reflect with peers and administrators. A series of videos shot at different periods throughout the year can make it easy to see patterns emerging and to gauge where improvement has occurred or needs to occur. And, the power of video means teachers can reflect conveniently when they have time to do it thoughtfully and purposefully.