With new technology, new ways of organizing, and new system potential, placing students at the center of learning is finally a realistic possibility. But what about learning for the educators in our schools? Shouldn’t we also be designing experiences for adult learners that reflect our best intentions for their students? We respond with an emphatic, YES!
The 2017 professional learning design we engage in today is nearly unrecognizable from where our work began 25 years ago when Mayerson Academy was established. In a world in which nearly every educator is empowered with unparalleled access to knowledge—groups and organizations can be connected across the globe at a moment’s notice, and participation is expected in nearly every experience we have—the old models simply don’t apply, and chief among them is the anachronistic “sit and get” model.
Beyond being embedded, ongoing, research-based, collaborative and action-oriented, what makes our current work with partners so different from the past is the context sensitive and co-creative focus, putting the adult learners at the center to the greatest degree possible. Because we, too, are continuous learners, we are in relentless pursuit of how best to do this work and below are a few examples to date.
Leading with Strengths
Our Thriving Learning Communities (TLC) program uses the lens of Character Strengths to develop social emotional learning competencies in learners of all ages. After engaging in a 3-day team Institute, TLC Champions take the lead in designing school-based professional learning sessions for their colleagues. As they cultivate best practices in their own settings, our MA team provides ongoing support and captures and codifies all they are learning in video and print resources for ongoing professional learning and program development. (Contact Lynn Ochs or Karen Graves.)
District culture – from the Central Office to the classroom – impacts student learning. Our Mayerson Academy team has collaborated with Cincinnati Public Schools to build the I am CPS initiative, which is designed to create an organizational culture of shared values and competencies for all district employees. The framework guiding the work was created by internal stakeholders and reflects the district’s unique needs and context. Early conversation facilitation, differentiated coaching, resource design and collaborative learning structures have all been deployed to build internal capacity and ownership. (Contact Joe Moorman.)
Deeply Personalized Literacy Coaching
Instructional coaching is not a new strategy in education. Typically, it revolves around coaching an educator to implement a prescribed program. However, recently we partnered with an inner-city Catholic School to implement highly personalized literacy coaching to improve each teachers’ performance. After co-creating the experience with coaches they also crafted the strategy to share ideas across grade levels to expand learning for all. (Contact Beth D’Amico.)
Redesigning Professional Learning from the Inside
Oak Hills Local School District, with support from Mayerson Academy, is engaged in a multi-year process to design a personalized professional learning pilot. The pilot is led by Oak Hills staff members and will focus on developing foundational professional learning mindsets, capturing best practices, and designing a unique system that will support the growth of all staff throughout the district. (Contact Joe Moorman.)
Strengths in the Community
We know learning for people of all ages is not confined to a traditional school environment. Through the Strong Cincinnati initiative, Mayerson Academy is also exploring how to use a personalized strengths-based approach to empower individuals to be agents of change in their community. Local residents and leaders are developing and leading projects that activate the strengths of their neighbors and community. (Contact Carly Rospert.)
Our experiences with building internal capacity of teams, organizations, and even communities to lead their own learning are energizing. With this shift in perspective regarding professional learning, we see in action Margaret Mead’s famous quote that, indeed, a small group can change the world!