Good to read this month’s ISM Ideas and Perspectives and find two very affirming articles. The first, on faculty professional development, takes the front page, and the take-away here is that student performance improves significantly when teachers participate in “peer-induced learning” and when teachers are surrounded by more effective colleagues. In other words, the most effective professional development is not externally driven (attending conferences/workshops/grad school, or receiving wisdom from external trainers), but when it is internally driven, peer-to-peer. “These findings illuminate two specific learning methods by which faculty cultures are enhanced. Specifically, as noted, teachers may learn directly from their peers, and/or teachers may be influenced to acquire stronger work-related skills as a result of interaction with teaching role models within their faculty.”
The article goes on to make a series of suggestions for implementing these findings, two of which stand out to me:
Insist upon direct cross-pollination, teacher to teacher. This corresponds almost exactly to two new methods we are using here, regularly and systematically, at St. Gregory this year. One is Critical Friends Groups, whereby teachers meet in carefully chosen cross-sections of the faculty in groups which will be together for a long time. Groups develop trust, and teachers share their practice, and, as ISM suggests, “report on their ongoing professional growth efforts.” The other method we are using regularly is to divide teachers into random groups for discussing and responding to articles or chapters we are reading.
Insist that your school’s schedule act in strong support for your faculty development; teachers must have regular time for such efforts provided for them within the school day or week. For the first time at St. Gregory, we have built in this time, on late-start Thursdays, to have every week an hour dedicated to nothing other than what ISM calls “peer induced learning.”