ASCD Professional Learning Services in Action: Lessons from Implementation

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This post is part of a series highlighting ASCD Professional Learning Services, how they can be customized and implemented, and the success stories of schools that have leveraged the services to support teachers, school leaders, and students.

By Laurence Binder

Binder APLS 300x300ASCD Professional Learning Services very often include job-embedded learning in the form of classroom coaching. Research over the years has shown that “just-in-time” learning in the teacher’s classroom can lead to significant changes in teacher behavior, including strategies the teacher uses in the classroom. When ASCD partners with a district or school to provide professional learning beyond the traditional workshop setting, the initiative usually includes coaching as one important component of the work.

For example, an initiative conducted at Anaconda High School in Anaconda, Mont.—on the topic of FIT Teaching®—included two days of overview workshops (conducted earlier in the school year), four days of classroom observation and feedback from the ASCD Faculty member, followed by classroom coaching visits and new learning, to be observed during the next visit. In situations like this one, the ASCD Faculty member customizes the learning to the specific teachers’ needs. The classroom observations and feedback are centered on very specific learning that has taken place.

Prior to the classroom coaching visit, the ASCD Faculty member targets a specific area of focus for the teachers. The focus of the visit may be different for teachers within a school. After the classroom visit, the teacher and the ASCD Faculty member meet for a debriefing session. In some cases, the ASCD Faculty member will model in the classroom for the teacher so the teacher has a very specific example of how the targeted learning would play out.

Because ASCD’s work with schools and districts is always customized, there is no specific number of days of coaching for an initiative. The more coaching support teachers receive, the more comfortable they become with the new learning, and the more willing they are to experiment and try different strategies.

As a central office administrator, I partnered with ASCD to create a unique professional learning opportunity that included coaching. I experienced the stress of having “outsiders” come into a school and classroom to provide feedback. With ASCD, the stress was short lived because the ASCD Faculty members developed excellent rapport with campus administrators and teachers. As a matter of fact, the teacher/coach relationship quickly developed into a colleague/colleague relationship in almost all schools. In my situation, principals and ASCD Faculty members worked very closely to customize and personalize work for the specific school. While the general topic was differentiated instruction, the specific work for each of the 11 schools looked very different after the initial overview workshops were completed. I can honestly say that the ASCD’s professional learning initiative—in the form of workshops, coaching/feedback, mini-sessions, and virtual follow-ups—was the best experience of my 35 years as a public school educator.

If change in the classroom to improve student learning is what you need and workshops alone have not been successful in the past, I encourage you to contact ASCD about creating an on-site professional learning initiative to help turn your teachers into experts. In most cases, attending a seven-hour workshop does not make one an expert, and it is very easy to fall back into the same busy routine when back in the classroom. The extended learning that ASCD coaching provides helps keep the topic on the minds of those being coached. The expected outcome of change in the classroom is much easier to achieve when the learning is extended through classroom coaching.

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