Make thinking an increasingly important part of your work with colleagues in your school and district with TC² support and resources. Ralph Tyler observed that education is like water dropping on stone. “A few drops make no difference, while many drops over time create canyons.” Too few promising ideas in education take hold in any systematic way because the implementation efforts are short-lived and sporadic. Many changes simply evaporate as soon as newer initiatives are introduced. Our belief is that teachers are unlikely to make significant, lasting changes in their teaching habits and practices unless they are involved in informed conversation and classroom exploration about the changes several times weekly for a year or more. Here are a few ideas to sustain teachers’ professional learning. For more information, read about our “Comet” model and Partner-developed professional learning programs.
Nurture ongoing teacher conversation by making thinking a regular feature of staff presentations, meetings and online communications. These may include sharing a lesson or tip sheet, discussing an article or a video, or considering an actual classroom experience. Multiple sources of all of these catalysts for ongoing professional learning are available in our collections of ideas and resources. Here are some ways to access them.
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If working with teachers who are unfamiliar with the TC² model and with our resources, consider the ideas proposed on New to the TC² approach which contains useful lesson plans, articles and videos that are free to everyone.
Just as we expect teachers to differentiate learning for their students, so too should we differentiate professional learning for our teachers. Here are a few ways in which we may help you tailor professional learning to meet differing teachers' needs and interests.
After reading Powering up to critical thinking from our Stories from the Classroom collection, consider creating a similar menu of professional learning supports that teachers in this school assembled to enable them to customize their individual learning plans. Pair up teachers with colleagues who would regularly offer encouragement and feedback during monthly staff meetings or shared planning time.
Let us help you offer small group after-class face-to-face or online sessions to explore issues of particular interest, co-plan lessons and offer in-class mentoring that is tailored to staff needs.
It is not sufficient to provide opportunities for professional learning, it is also helpful for teachers to set specific objectives or targets for these opportunities and to create mechanisms to encourage their follow through on these plans.
A simple but powerful strategy is to invite teachers after every workshop or conference to articulate what they found especially interesting or useful and to commit to specific actions. The power of sustained professional learning found in our Stories from the Classroom collection illustrates how teachers in every subject were able to find opportunities to follow up for months on ideas learned in a day-long workshop.
Encourage teachers to articulate objectives related to nurturing a thinking classroom as part of their personal growth plans and as part of the expectations for their unit plans and reporting to parents. A school of critical thinkers found in our Stories from the Classroom collection describes one school’s efforts to establish and follow through on professional learning goals.
Create the expectation and opportunities for teachers to consciously use the four facets of our framework for Implementing a thinking classroom to assist them in making informed decisions about their own practices. This includes inviting teachers to “problematize” their practice by identifying aspects of their teaching that might be refined, to consider the criteria for judging an effective modification to their practice, to identify desirable habits of mind that might enhance their efficacy, and to work with colleagues to create a professional community of thinking educators.