How is your student support team organized? Who is on the team? Are you providing mainly pullout, pull in and/or build in services? How is your professional development system connected to this team and their mission? There are many questions to ask when we step back and think about the best way to provide reinforcement, enrichment and an overall differentiated learning environment for our students.
Much of my focus the past few years has been on building a systematic approach to developing curriculum. One aspect of this approach is the formation of a team approach to build out units of study that incorporate ICL integration, differentiation of instruction and assessment, meeting school-wide goals, etc. Efforts by our learning support team at Alexandria Country Day School and a recent article in the Davidson Journal (Davidson College in NC) reminded me that we also should be looking at systems in how we support student learning outside the curriculum review process.
I remember back to the early 1990s at the American International School-Riyadh when we developed a student support system for the middle school. The team members included all the teachers, an administrator, the counselor and the learning support teachers. We created the structure of common meeting times for the two teams at each grade level. One day a week we discussed individual student learning needs while another day the focus was on curriculum.We used technology to record learning plans, goals, and results in the student information system. However, the librarian was not present in the meetings while the technology teacher visited to share his lessons and not so much as a collaborator in the curriculum process.
We were ahead of the curve in many ways but failed to make the connection between needing to bring more specialists on board not only for the curriculum but just as importantly for the learning support. The technology teachers and the librarians could have collaborated in both areas to make a difference for our students.
Returning to today, the article from the Davidson Journal explains how the college recently brought different groups of learning support teams together under one roof– the library. As so many of us write about, the library/media center/learning community should be at the center of one’s school/campus. It makes total sense to not just bring your technology specialists but also your other learning support teachers into the library. It also makes total sense to have your instructional technologist and teacher librarian as members of your learning support team when one creates a curriculum review system but also as partners in grade level/department meetings when creating learning support strategies.
An additional item to note is that this team is naturally skilled with “building in” learning support strategies to be added to the units in your curriculum mapping tool. By documenting strategies into your curriculum system to support struggling as well as students needing enrichment, you move away from the old “pullout” model of support. I learned from Dr. Mary Landrum and from my wife’s expertise as a GATE coordinator that the more we can collaborate with teachers to develop learning activities and assessments together, the more that they can pull learning strategies off “the shelf” of the curriculum tool to support students without calling for them to be pulled out of their classes. While Dr. Landrum teaches mainly about providing instruction for gifted students, her book Consultation in Gifted Education: Teachers Working Together to Serve Students provides a collaboration model that can be used to meet the whole spectrum of student needs.
And back to the question of how your professional development program is run, one hopes for teacher involvement in choosing topics as well as the teaching and learning team. This team’s engagement puts them in an excellent position to assess the instructional needs across the school. Who could be in a better position to drive what is in and how your PD program is managed?
I am rambling here but if you are interested in learning more about Davidson’s new program, I wrote a post for my school’s blog about the Davidson article and how our school was following the same model. Here is that post>
Davidson College is known as a very academic liberal arts college that is dedicated to supporting the craft of teaching by its professors. Davidson’s professors do research, write articles and books but their primary focus is on teaching. To support their efforts, as part of the strategic plan, Davidson in August opened its Center for Teacher and Learning (CTL) in the school library.
The connection to Alexandria Country Day School is that we also opened our Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) in August. What is striking in reading an article from the Fall 2011 Davidson Journal is how similar the two programs are. It demonstrates the forward thinking and student-centered nature of our administrators and TLC staff when we are mirroring the program of a college such as Davidson.
Central to the work of our TLC team members is the focus on collaboration with the classroom teachers. This partnership looking at how best to reach learning goals as well as meeting the individual student needs drives how the TLC teachers help design instruction and provide one to one support for our students.
An additional part of this “collaboration team” approach to supporting teaching and learning is the involvement of our instructional technologist, teacher librarian and director of technology. As part of the iPad pilot program the fifth grade teachers worked with our technology and library team members over the summer to review and adapt the fifth grade curriculum to further support the students in attaining skills for the 21st century. The curriculum was further adapted to meet the information, media, and visual literacy standards supported by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) along with the technology literacies published as the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for students. The collaboration team in January will be joined by members of the TLC as they review the sixth grade curriculum in preparation for next year and the continued roll “forward” of the iPad Pilot program.
The Davidson Journal article describes the same team effort of their Center for Teaching and Learning.
“(the CTL)…brings together these centers- along with the instructional technologists and information literacy librarians- to help students take a comprehensive approach to strengthening academic skills. The CTL also advises faculty who want to experiment with new teaching tools and to discuss different approaches to teaching.”
One might say that Davidson College is in good company with its pioneering efforts. 🙂