As educators, we know the value of group learning for our students. So why not apply the same principle to our own learning? Principal Sandra Alvarez and her team at Bradford Elementary, a first-year ANet partner in Pueblo, CO, exemplify the idea of learning together.
Group learning at Bradford begins with the leadership team. When they have professional development sessions, Sandra makes sure her leaders are at the table with her, learning side by side. They schedule time so they can work together, plan together, and even watch virtual PD together. Working as a team enables them to learn from each other and, as a result, strengthen the work they do in the school.
The leaders’ strong commitment to teamwork permeates Bradford’s school culture. By doing the work they ask their teachers to do first, they’ve empowered their staff to do the same. Teachers are planning as a team and having deep conversations about standards and instructional practices. “The impact for our teachers has been tremendous. Conversations among teams are continuously focused on standards, instruction, skills, adequate learning opportunities, assessments, re-teaching, and student feedback. Teachers speak with excitement regarding next steps.”
How are they doing it?
Teachers with varying levels of experience work together to decide how to teach a concept. “Our teachers meet during one plan time a week with their grade-level team, coach, and principal to create and/or unpack weekly standards-based lesson plans,” Sandra explains. “Included in this goal is the expectation that all teachers within the grade level use the same plan and resources to ensure alignment and share outcomes that are influenced by different instructional deliveries.”
By doing the work together, teachers build capacity within grade levels and develop a shared understanding of standards-aligned lesson plans. Sandra observes that “meeting formally once per week, in addition to daily grade-level plan time, improved the planning, quality, and rigor of instruction. Each team is working more collaboratively to implement standards-based practices.”
Another result of collaboration at Bradford is that “student engagement is higher than ever. Students are asking more questions and getting more involved in class discussions.”
It makes sense. After all, students rely on their teachers and, as Sandra says, “because of the collective wisdom of the teachers, gaps are being identified.” Working as a group helps expose teachers with less content knowledge to deeper thinking about the material.
What can you take away for your school?
“My recommendation for other schools is to build the culture [of learning] within your building before beginning the lesson planning process,” says Sandra. “Then, make sure that you can support the time that teachers will need to devote to the process.”
She continues: “This kind of work requires time for teachers and coaches to plan—and to plan together. We appreciate our partnership with ANet that has supported our school leadership team with the exceptional professional development that we rely on daily.”
Bradford is already showing strong results for its first year of partnership. They’re proof that when you tap into the collective knowledge of educators, there’s no limit to what can be achieved.