March 2, 2015 by

Your Next Generation of Professional Development

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By Walter McKenzie

Working with the ASCD Affiliates is one of the truly great pleasures in my professional life. They are some of the most expert, dedicated, innovative people I know. One of the major points of emphasis in their work is providing high-quality professional development to educators on the ground where they live and work. They have earned their excellent reputation for their professional development work. So, it is no surprise to me that they continue to push the envelope, even as educators find it increasingly difficult to get out of their districts and take advantage of PD offerings.

In gauging the best ways to serve educators in the current climate of increased accountability and dwindling dollars, there are four key trends we have identified:

  • Networking: Educators want to connect with like-minded colleagues outside their district, both locally and globally.
  • Capacity Building: Educators want to increase their professional capital and capabilities.
  • New Value: Educators want new skills and strategies they can immediately put to use on the job.
  • Digital Productivity: Educators want to use virtual tools to collaborate, share, learn, and grow.

As a result, we are launching a new kind of professional development that addresses these needs: ASCD EdSpace. Focusing on targeted content, useful skills and strategies, unconferencing principles, and web technologies, this format delivers a new professional development experience for educators. It is not cookie-cutter PD. ASCD EdSpace looks different depending on where it is offered and the needs and interests of educators in that region.

Piloted by North Carolina ASCD this past November, the new ASCD EdSpace format uses a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face collaboration with built-in flexibility so that participants get what they want, with whom they want it, out of the experience. Building on North Carolina ASCD’s pilot event, five other ASCD Affiliates from the northeast United States are planning a larger-scale, live hybrid event, which will take place on Friday, March 27, 2015. ASCD’s Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont affiliates will virtually bring in Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey to work with educators on the ground in their respective states. Educators will get the opportunity to collaborate with Fisher and Frey in real time and learn more about their FIT Teaching (Framework for Intentional and Targeted Teaching™) tool kit.

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FIT Teaching™ is an approach to instruction that ensures high-quality teaching through school and classroom culture, established purpose, gradual release of responsibility, and formative and summative assessments. It also assists educators in offering descriptive and actionable feedback while using classroom data to inform targeted instruction. It is a rich, meaningful, actionable approach that empowers educators to successfully meet the challenges of today’s climate of education accountability.

When ASCD EdSpace was piloted in North Carolina, it was amazing how lively and personable Fisher and Frey came across virtually from their school in San Diego, where it was early morning for them when the event began. They gave a walking tour of their building, spoke with the audience as they worked from their offices during the school day, and even had students come in unannounced on camera. Awkward or disruptive? No. Fisher and Frey parlayed those moments into opportunities for students to talk with the North Carolina audience about their experience as students in the FIT Teaching environment. It was spontaneous, informative, heart-warming, and magical.

At certain points during the morning, Fisher and Frey took breaks to tend to their work at the school while participants worked together to make meaning of and collaborate around the FIT Teaching model. Then, the entire afternoon was open for participants to form self-selected groups and work on FIT Teaching applications that could be used in the classroom on Monday morning. It was a powerful combination of content expertise and practitioner collaboration that proved immensely beneficial. Some educators came in teams from their schools and some came on their own to network with others they met at the event. Either way, the benefits were numerous.

At the larger Northeast Affiliates ASCD EdSpace event taking place on March 27, all of the participating state affiliates will come together in a virtual meeting space to share their outcomes and takeaways. Because the affiliates will look at FIT Teaching through the lens of their own regional cultures, it is important for them to have the opportunity compare ideas and insights at the end of the day. If the affiliates are interested, they can then coordinate a monthly virtual academy—an additional six months of ongoing PD and collaboration across the northeast. There’s no such thing as one-and-done in this brave new world.

Interested in attending the EdSpace event on March 27? Visit the event page to learn more and select one of the five affiliate registration pages. Educators from outside the participating states are welcome to participate, too—just select the affiliate with which you would like to register. By participating, you will not only benefit from the PD experience,  but you will also contribute to our learning as we gather feedback and continue to improve this new professional development format for educators everywhere. Help drive the future of educator professional development; participate in the Northeast Affiliates ASCD EdSpace event next month!