Saturday, November 7, 2009

Expeditionary Learning on the NewsHour

Follow this link to watch a little bit about Expeditionary Learning on the NewsHour.

Expeditionary Learning Assessment for Learning for Leaders

Reflections on my attendance at Expeditionary Learning Assessment for Learning for Leaders:


I had just about every excuse in the book for not attending the three day Expeditionary Learning for Leaders Institute in Baltimore last week.  I had just attended a god awful mandated by the Virginia Department of Education training for principals of “failing” schools in Williamsburg the previous week (more on that as well) and I did not want to miss more days of school.  We were holding one of parent conference nights during the institute.  I just did not feel like being away.  I had to work on my dissertation.  I could come up with more but that was just bore you.  I did end up going, on the advice of several people close to me, who if I could just sum up what they said it was something like this: “Are you crazy, you love EL workshops, your school would probably like you being gone for a few days, you love Baltimore, just go.”


So, as one who is willing listen to feedback from others, I decided to go. 


Wednesday morning arrived in a smallish meeting room in the Hyatt in downtown Baltimore.  I was surprised by how small the meeting room was.  I immediately looked at the number of chairs in the circle (because that is how we start things at an EL meeting) and there were only sixteen.  My first thought, was one of dread, there will be no hiding at this, no not participating, not just sitting in the back, no just looking at my iphone the entire time.  It is interesting that this immediately fills me with dread is that connection, interaction, learning with a strong social component is what I want, but not necessarily what I ask for or seek out.  It is one of the main reasons I love Responsive Classroom and Expeditionary Learning so much.  It takes the quiet kid ( or quiet adult like me) and makes us participate and learn in a way that we never thought we could. 


So anyway, I made it though that fist circle, but interesting, so little of it was about what we did, how long we have done it for, what school we lead, etc. that it actually just helps us deal with each.  A community began to came together in that first circle and built over three days where there was a high level of sharing, problem solving, supporting, listening, and laughing between sixteen virtual strangers.  Pretty cool.


The purpose of the workshop was to get school leaders at expeditionary schools to use principles of assessment for learning (primarily developed for the classroom) with staffs and individual teachers.  We did this by analyzing the assessment for learning strategies, looking at different kinds of change, research on relational trust,  reading parts of different texts including parts of the book Quiet Leadership by David Rock, and using what we learned to develop some sort of plan or idea for a plan to further strengthen assessment for learning strategies through coaching.  All of this was accomplished in three days with only one “presentation” that lasted just about ten minutes.  All of the other time was used with the instructional techniques of discussion, different grouping strategies, group initiatives, individual thinking time, reading and reflection, feedback protocols, and just plain deep thought coupled with social group learning.  It was a powerful learning experience.


The biggest aha I had for my own school context was that despite all of the gains and growth our school has made in various areas, we are still have a feedback poor learning culture for adults in the building.  This comes from various different areas but mostly from me.  I am somewhat feedback adverse for whatever reason.  Part of the institute had me develop an action plan for my work at Greer.  I won’t bore you with the specific details about this plan except that it has us trying to put some structures and protocols together to help our coaches actually coach and allow teachers to peer coach each other.  Just as important or even more importantly for myself, it has me forcing myself to improve my ability to give feedback by just doing it.  We will see how it goes.


I am riding kind of a learner’s high right now which is powerful enough to last for my than just a little while.  It is always a struggle to keep these experiences lasting but it is worth a try.