27 July 2013

Team Time - A Less Efficient—More Effective CPD Strategy

Team Time: Less efficient more effective
Faced with the problem of attempting to to attend to the perennial affliction of teachers, 'finding time' we tried a slightly different approach—make better use of the time we already have.

Timetable Audit

Teachers at each grade level are asked to use a ‘timetable audit’ to reflect carefully upon a typical week at their grade level. What emerged was that at least twice a week, during the school day in each grade, all the teachers were ‘free’.  This was dubbed, ‘Team Time’, a time when the DLC (Digital Literacy Coach—me) would be available specifically to that team to facilitate collaborative and individualised (Hixon & Buckenmeyer, 2009) teacher-generated opportunities to learn from and with each other (Pickering, 2007).

Little & Often

These shorter, smaller and more frequent meetings are the kinds where collaborative work is more effective than larger, infrequent meetings (Cordingley et al, 2005; Devereux, 2009). Most weeks these are informal affairs, that provide a forum for collaboration; teachers are able to discuss technical and curriculum questions, classroom management issues and assessment practices, enabling the individual level of support that teachers prefer, the kind that is conspicuous only by its absence in traditional 'training course' models.

"I need to have one to one training if at all possible so that I get new info easily. I need time to have a go and ensure that I have successfully embraced something new or time to write some instructions down so I can practise it later." (Grade 3 Teacher)

The teachers discuss how to use the available technology, and share tips and short cuts they have learned with/from their students (Ciampa & Gallagher, 2013). This is another aspect they value, the opportunity of

“buddying up with those who also feel like this could mean we could encourage each other.” (Grade 4 Teacher)

Team Time Training

Some weeks, based on team request, or DLC prompting, more conventional ‘training’ is offered, when a specific skill, eg how to use functions in a spreadsheet, is required to be grasped by the entire team, as that particular digital tool*  is deemed to be necessary for every student to use in a particular unit—even then, as the training is delivered in a relatively small group—opportunities for individual assistance and differentiation are relatively easily to provide, either from the DLC or by teachers assisting each other, as ‘one beggar tells another beggar where to find bread’.

There's no I in 'TEAM' but there is a ME if you look hard enough.

Teachers describe incidents where ‘just in time training’ (JITT) came from a teacher in an adjacent classroom, or a brief exchange based on shared experience or challenge that led to an effective solution, during a coffee break. One teacher’s efficacy with a particular tool can quickly became ‘viral’ with two or three other teachers eager to learn from a colleague’s expertise, very much imitating the way they observe their own students learn from each other. Teachers are learning that they can imitate the approaches that they witnessed their students using in their own classrooms, in their own CPD.

Me Time vs We Time

"There may be no 'I' in team, but there's a 'ME' if you look hard enough.” David Brent**

Clever isn't it? There's more where this cam from.***
Team work has to be beneficial to each member of the team, not just the team as whole, unless everyone leaves with 'something ventured, something gained', the entire dynamic can become overly parasitic for some rather than symbiotic. Symbiosis and synergy is key, and I'm not afraid to say I'm comfortable with teachers being a little 'selfish' sometimes—but there is a time and a place. So I make sure that at least once a week is a Team Time for 'Me Questions' and in a 'Team Time Training' session I only want to hear 'We Questions'. It's basic but it works, allow me to give you can example:

WE question:
"Can you show us how to use some other functions, like maybe average?"

ME question:
"How do I stop my computer from [insert random but inconsequential behaviour]"

Bottom line, a WE question is possibly of benefit to the entire team, a ME question can only benefit YOU. There's a time for those questions, but not at a time that has been set aside for the team.

* 'Technology' is not a term I like—it's too ... nebulous... :o/

**  AKA Ricky Gervais. For more HILARIOUS quotes like this visit this site.

*** http://www.demilked.com/30-clever-minimalist-print-ads/