EdCamps as Professional Learning

Darling-Hammond (1998), speaks a lot about how teachers learn best by collaborating with other teachers. Bunting (2007) discusses how we need to provide teachers with opportunities to talk, and that the more informal this talk is the better. It is with these ideas in mind that I think the EdCamp model could serve as a powerful vehicle for PD delivery. EdCamps are teacher driven PD opportunities. Participants create the schedule and they facilitate the discussions. There is no keynote speaker and the ideas/solutions come from the discussions that take place (Foundation, 2013). I had the opportunity to organize and host such an event last April. The day saw over 260 individuals interested in education, come together and discuss issues that interested them personally (EdCamp YYC, 2013). Davidhizar, Shelton & Headley (2006) cite Birky & Ward (2003); Shelton (1993) when they discuss how it is important that teachers perhaps be given the opportunity to plan professional learning opportunities. EdCamps realize the shift that Darling-Hammond (1998) seeks by moving away from outside consultants to in-house experts. With all of this being said, I do not believe that all PD should be in the form of EdCamps. Instead I would propose a minimum of one and up to half of PD utilize such a model. from my own experience, teachers come away energized, they have created new collaborative connections and quickly realize that there is an entire community asking the same questions that they are. The model encourages dialogue and is solutions based.

The success of this model is highly dependent on our school’s leaders. While I organized and hosted the event, the day could not have happened without the support of my Principal. In fact the day was successful because several Principals acknowledged the importance for teachers to participate in learning communities outside of their own school (NAESP, 2008). I think that in order to promote meaningful professional learning for their staff that it is essential that leaders identify with the work of the classroom teacher (Darling-Hammond, 1998). Being present and serving as an instructional leader must be at the forefront of everything that they do (Davidhizar, Shelton, & Headley, 2006). One of the things that struck me the most in these readings was the acknowledgement of the role that Principals play in promoting professional learning. Looking back at my post last week and the opportunity for a more democratic and distributed leadership model, I was interested in reading about the importance of identifying teacher leaders. Davidhizar, Shelton & Headley (2006, p.2) state that “The ability of a principal to encourage and motivate leadership capacities in the building is critical for educational reform and collaboration.”  It is becoming clear to me, the importance of instructional leadership. Increasing leadership capacity, involving the staff in decision making and ensuring that staff have personal and meaningful professional learning opportunities are realistic steps in demonstrating this leadership I believe.

Below are some links to the reflections of some of those who attended the EdCamp in Calgary. It gives you an idea of what people enjoyed and where people thought there could be improvements.

Superintendent’s Perspective

Principal’s Perspective

Student Teacher’s Perspective

Teacher’s Perspective

Organizer’s Perspective

My Perspective

References:

Bunting, C. (2007). Principals as classroom leaders, Principal, 86(3), 39-41. Retrieved from http://www.naesp.org/resources/2/Principal/2007/J-Fp39.pdf

Darling-Hammond, L. (1998). Teacher learning that supports student learning. Educational Leadership, 55 (issue), 6-11.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb98/vol55/Teacher-Learning-That-Supports-Student-Learning.aspx

Davidhizar, V., Shelton, B.M., & Headley, S. (2006). An administrator’s challenge: Encouraging teachers to be leaders, NASSP Bulletin 90(2), pp. 87-101. http://bul.sagepub.com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/cgi/reprint/90/2/87

EdCamp YYC. (2013, January). Edcamp resources. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/edcampcalgary/edcamp-resources

Foundation, E. (2013). Edcamp foundation. Retrieved from http://edcamp.org

National Association of Elementary School Principals.  (2nd Ed).   Leading learning communities: Standards for what principals should know and be able to do.  Alexandria, VA: NAESP.  Retrieved July 15, 2013 from http://www.naesp.org/client_files/LLC-Exec-Sum.pdf

Rethinking Leadership: Distributed and Democratic

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During my studies this summer, I have had the opportunity to read many interesting articles. One however has had me thinking more than most. When Teachers Run the School provided an interesting look at a school in Greece that uses a distributed and democratic model of leadership. What I found so interesting was that under this model and by having all teachers take on an administrative role, it freed up Principals to act more as instructional leaders. This renewed focus, could allow for a Principal to focus more on their moral purpose and to make decisions that will positively sustain innovation within the school community. I was also impressed by the argument that such a model “advance the quality of school life and thereby foster student development and performance” (Natsiopoulou and Giouroukakis, 2010). Many Principals are hired due to previous instructional leadership, but it appears that once hired they are asked to move from the role of instructional leader to that of manager. What if we were to leverage the skills and talents of all staff to help lessen the administrative burden and focus on student improvement?

I also believe that such a model serves another benefit. While there are likely many conflicting views on the “point” of school, I tend to subscribe to the belief that we are attempting to develop “good citizens.” Defining a good citizen would take more than the space that I have here, but if we believe that our role as educators is to raise good citizens, then being active and involved in the democratic process would be included in any definition. Osborne (1991) explains how citizenship is taught “deliberately and accidentally, explicitly and implicitly, by example and by instruction” and that as teachers we help students see and “interpret the world.” It is with this in mind that I believe that Natsiopoulou and Giorouskakis (2010), are correct when they cite Dewey and say that in order to prepare students for democracy that we need to replicate these conditions in a democratically run school.

A few questions that I have though.

  1. Would teachers be willing to take on more administrative responsibility, or would it be viewed as more work?
  2. Are today’s school leaders willing and ready to relinquish some of this responsibility?
  3. What are some attributes of Principals that serve both as great instructional leaders and managers of school resources (human and financial)?

References:

Natsiopoulou, E. & Gioroukakis, V. (2010). When Teachers Run the School. Educational Leadership, 67(7), http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr10/vol67/num07/When-Teachers-Run-the-School.aspx

Osborne, K. (1991). Teaching for democratic citizenship. (p. 117). Toronto: OurSchools/Our Selves Education Foundation.