Thoughts on Education and Leadership from the 2012 Administrator of the Year—responses by Mike Swartzendruber, taken from Linking and Learning Leadership, May, 2012, p.5
What professional learning activities do you have going on this year? What makes them effective?
Our main professional learning activity in Iowa Falls this year has been improving our curriculum, instruction and assessment through the Authentic Intellectual Work framework. My elementary building began this process three years ago with a pilot group of teachers. It quickly became apparent that this learning opportunity had the chance to make a big impact on how we teach, and more importantly, how our students learn. This professional learning has changed how we frame our thinking for what we want our students to know, understand and be able to do. We are more focused on higher order thinking skills that require students to reflect on their learning experiences, construct knowledge (rather than just remember facts), and effectively communicate their thinking as a way of demonstrating a deeper understanding of what they are learning.
What has made our AIW journey effective has been the formation of small staff learning teams. These teams collaborate together and are open to critique. Teachers work to improve each other through honest, open dialogue and feedback. My part has been as an active lead learner. I have attended trainings with my staff, and participated in our weekly AIW sessions by working with a different small group each week.
The AIW framework has provided a solid basis for our learning teams, providing clear targets for our improvement efforts. AIW allowed our professional learning to stay focused on our main learning goals, created common language and most importantly resulted in learning that is much higher quality than we have had in the past.