Faculty Professional Development Days

Each year, U Prep devotes a number of full or half in-service days to professional development to support continuous improvement of teaching practices in our faculty. These full-faculty workshops complement the individual and group professional development that the school also supports. We have held two of these in-service half days so far this year. What did the faculty do when school was dismissed early?

October: Differentiated Instruction and Technology

Differentiated instruction is the practice of varying teaching content and methods so that students are appropriately challenged and significantly learning every day. The opposite of “one size fits all,” differentiated instruction assumes that students have varying learning needs and therefore should receive varied instruction. Teachers design learning environments to appropriately engage and challenge all students, based on their facility and interests.

Differentiated instruction methods include: providing students with activity choices; asking students to work at their own pace; giving students a variety of presentation format options; providing material to students in different forms of media; assigning open-ended projects and individualizing feedback.

Dr. Jane Cutter, U Prep’s Learning Resources Coordinator, notes that many teaching techniques originally designed as learning accommodations are also effective with our entire student population. Scholars Carol Ann Tomlinson and Tonya R. Moon note that instruction can be differentiated through content (the information provided to students), process (learning activities), product (how students demonstrate mastery), and environment (resources and classroom setup).

Technology is a powerful tool to facilitate all of these forms of differentiation. Teachers can quickly provide varied materials through Schoology, individually communicate with students at any time, and link students to a variety of online activities and media. Students can organize their own work environment, collaborate with classmates, and demonstrate learning through a variety of means.

During this workshop, teachers attended a joint session together and then participated in one of five, topical breakout sessions. Sybille Stadtmueller, Meg Shortell, Karen Slon, Brad Gosche, Yayoi Brown, Moses Rifkin, and Alec Duxbury shared examples of differentiation from their work and facilitated the sessions. Teachers explored the connection of differentiation to assessment, creative work, and student voice.

Further reading: http://bit.ly/differentiation (Carol Ann Tomlinson interview in Education Week)

November: Attention, Mindfulness, and Technology

U Prep has worked hard over the past years to keep pace with rapid technological changes occurring in society. The main event has been a huge infusion of tablet and laptop devices that we have placed in students’ hands, plus consideration of how to change our instructional practices to take advantage of the devices’ many capabilities.

At the same time, we feel equally strongly about the importance of balance in our lives. Balance between high-tech and low-tech learning environments; balance between email and face-to-face communication; balance between productivity and reflective practice.

In one of the faculty’s summer readings, William Powers wrote:

We’re losing something of great value, a way of thinking and moving through time that can be summed up in a single word, depth. Depth of thought and feeling, depth in our relationships, our work and everything we do. Since depth is what makes life fulfilling and meaningful, it’s astounding that we’re allowing this to happen.

Even in a hyper-connected world, everyone has the ability to regulate his or her own experience. It’s the same theme that great thinkers have struck time after time over the last two thousand years, but it keeps getting forgotten. The answer to our dilemma is hiding in the last place we tend to look: our own minds. The best tool for fighting back is still the mind itself.

With this introduction, the faculty considered five current approaches to attention and mindfulness in a technology-rich world.

Executive Function: neurobiology, memory, and learning

Mindfulness: contemplation and quality of life

Engagement: project-based learning and progressive education

Mastery: getting control of technology by getting better at it

Social media: what students are doing behind those screens

David Levy, Professor of Information Sciences at the University of Washington, facilitated on of the sessions. Megan Reimann, parent and special education expert, facilitated another. Many thanks to both.

Further watching: http://bit.ly/davidlevy (Prof. David Levy on information overload)

More Professional Development Coming Later This Year

February: project-based learning with technology

March: cultural competency in a diverse community

April: a model for technology lesson planning