Project-Based Professional Development

This Friday the teaching staff of Brampton Centennial Secondary School participated in our first full Professional Learning Day. As Principal, and lead learner, I chose to apply some of my learning about planning and instruction to our day’s activities.

Here are the Principles that this Principal followed:

1. Choose the simplest technology for the task
* paper not PowerPoint (for the Agenda and Exit Card)

2. Design backwards
* begin with the Ministry and Board requirements
* layer use of technology, innovative instruction, and collaborative tools on top of the content

3. Honour learning styles
* communicate, don’t lecture
* provide flexible frameworks and timelines
* clearly outline assessment criteria

Our teachers had organized themselves in Professional Learning Cycle teams at the previous week’s “Early Release” session, so they were ready to begin; some at the Reflect stage, some ready to Plan. The work of each team supported one of the Ontario Ministry of Education’s four “Pillars” of Literacy, Numeracy, Pathways, or Community, Culture and Caring, and also linked to one or more of the Peel District School Board’s System Goals.

We began the day with breakfast (food is always good!), and then our teams departed to work. A few hours later, we reconvened, and teams submitted their Exit Cards, which restated the focus of their work framed as a “Theory of Action”. With this focused statement of intent, our teams are now prepared to Act in their classrooms. Though we’ve not yet introduced “Instructional Rounds” to our staff, we’re planting the seeds for work in this area later in the school year.

The feedback we received on this half of the day was overwhelmingly positive: one teacher told me that this was the best PD he had experienced in a decade. And I believe that the work of the morning served to set a positive tone for the more traditional “presentation” format of the afternoon, where we were presented with information on Anxiety in Adolescents.

I plan to continue to model processes and tools, hopeful that my teachers will recognize those they might wish to try in their classrooms. I will continue to take risks with my staff, and reflect on the results, be they good or bad. And I will, I know, love being back in the role of “teacher”, if only for a few PD days a year!

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