Choice Workshops & Teacher Agency

Collective Teacher Efficacy through – Choice | Voice | Ownership

This school year we have begun using some of our Wednesday professional development meetings for Choice Workshops. Our Choice Workshops are led by teachers, for teachers, to share in the learning together and honor teachers as lifelong learners. It has given teachers a voice to share their passions, curiosities and interests as well as choice over which workshops they would like to attend or lead. And maybe most importantly, it has placed ownership over professional development into the hands of the teachers.

We launched it towards the beginning of the year with our Instructional Leaders team (this is a group of educators who represent the many areas of the junior school and work towards actualizing strategic visions). This year our focus for teaching and learning is our first Learning Principle:

Learning is inclusive:

    • providing meaningful, challenging and relevant learning for a diverse community
    • empowering self reliance, independence, confidence and grounded in a sense of belonging
    • when students see themselves as part of the learning process.
    • taking into account different learning styles
    • it is culturally sensitive

This focus led us to introduce the Choice Workshops by each of us offering a chapter study from “Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in the School and Life” by Thomas Armstrong (2012). The time was structured around reading, discussing, questioning, brainstorming and strategizing for action in our classrooms. We considered ideas together for how to build a strength based school. Teachers were able to choose from two of the four workshops taking place.

This set the tone for future Choice Workshops which have included: Differentiating with Technology, Speech and Language, Brain Dance, Nature Intelligence, Growth Mindset, Mother Tongue, Autism, and more!

Teachers are sharing their expertise and we are all learning together. The workshops have been thought provoking causing teachers to reflect and dialogue about topics discussed. The collaborative culture in our school is widening through these shared interactions with each other. We have more intimate knowledge about each other’s practice and are reflecting on our teaching and learning for more efficacy in our own classrooms.

One example of a Choice Workshop I attended was titled “Models of Disability” and was led by a teaching assistant within our learning support team. He started his workshop by asking us to reflect on our view of the word disability through a drawing. The discussions that ensued had us considering the idea that there is no such thing as a disabled person but that society creates disabilities. Nelson led us further through readings, videos and graphs. We looked at how our environments can create barriers for those who are differently abled or not neurotypical. In this dialogue I saw a shift in perspective for many of us as we considered the kinds of environments (including space, time and community) we construct in our classrooms. And what about for our teachers and staff, are we all “disabled” by our environment at some time? Is “disability” static or dynamic? We discussed how often times educational organisations try to “fix” students in our school systems when really we should be trying to “fix” the schools for our students. We left with the question, are schools disabling? And with the idea that disability is not an individual problem but a community solution.

I shared that Choice Workshop with you because it was this moment that sparked ideas for strategic visioning in our PYP Exhibition Workshop. One team wrote their hopes for the vision of the junior school as:

Sharing the Planet: Rights and responsibilities; Communities and relationships; Access to equal opportunities

Community cooperation strengthens our ability to create an accessible environment for all

An inquiry into…

Challenges and priorities (form/change)

Benefits for all (causation)

Maximizing our environment (function)

Harnessing community cooperation (responsibility)

And with that thought our Instructional Leaders have been discussing plans for strategic action in the coming school year that will better support an accessible environment for all.

Supporting agency within teachers (choice, voice and ownership) builds Collective Teacher Efficacy which was demonstrated by John Hattie to be one of the most powerful influences in effect sizes related to student achievement. I would love to hear ideas from other schools about how you support teacher agency and promote teachers as lifelong learners.

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