A focus of our external collaboration strategy this year is to not only track and maintain our social capital metrics, but to promote deeper collaborations with the school boards, post secondary institutions and educators in our evolving network. After a school tour with teachers and administrators from Buffalo Trail Public Schools in the 2012/2013 school year we reflected with Assistant Superintendent Lisa Blackstock about the visit and how we could broaden the experience. We hosted a group of teachers and administrators again this school year for a school tour and a full day of facilitated planning with Learning Coaches and teachers from Calgary Science School.
We loosely structured the day around three components of instructional design: Identifying the student
outcomes, planning for student engagement and planning for student success. The draft graphic we developed was created not as a planning template, but as a tool to generate the right kinds of conversations around instructional design. The day gave priority to these conversations with only a couple of interruptions to bring the group back to review progress and push the conversations forward toward developing materials that the teachers could use in their classrooms.
The feedback we received from the participants was excellent. It was suggested that next time we might want to identify a grade group or curricular theme for the planning session. Having the CSS teachers available to plan and work with the visiting teachers was extremely valuable, but difficult to release teachers from all curriculum areas and grades to support the planning. If we begin with a more targeted group, we would be able to release our own teachers in the same area for mutual benefit.
We also reflected that the flexible structure of the planning day allowed for more opportunities for regrouping, teacher conversations, sharing and networking. The teachers appreciated the time they were given to self-direct their day. Some teachers needed to return to some classrooms for observations, or to speak with teachers, while others wanted to continue the conversations, and others used their time to apply the work we’d covered in the morning to creating rubrics and plans.
The full day collaborative planning model is one that we would like to continue to refine and offer as we look for PD models to meet the needs of our staff and educators around Alberta.