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5 Things I Commit to Learn in 2016

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Stephanie Hirsh

Every year, I make New Year's resolutions. Usually I achieve some of my resolutions. Rarely do I achieve them all. Sound familiar?

Many factors influence my success rate. One is the external accountability I feel. Individuals who collaborate with friends or peers to achieve a goal are more likely to succeed. So I am pledging to you that I will report on my progress in achieving these five learning goals and will share the outcomes throughout the year.

In 2016, I will learn:

1. How system and school leaders assess the impact of professional learning.

I look forward to participating in the learning process with the 20 school system partners in the PD Redesign Community. More than half have selected solving the persistent problem of assessing impact of professional learning so that they can make better decisions about the allocation of time and dollars toward learning.

These districts will embark on rapid cycles of improvement to test various hypotheses and solutions. As their learning partner, I will report the insights gained from their efforts. While many smart people have written about this subject (Joellen Killion and Thomas Guskey, to name two), this is the practitioners' opportunity to use their expertise to create something that meets their day-to-day challenges.

2. How system and school leaders create coherent professional development systems.

Almost half of the 20 school systems in the PD Redesign Community will seek helpful solutions to the challenge of building coherent and aligned systems of professional learning. These systems are studying relevant resources and, at the same time, developing their hypotheses and potential solutions.

These educators are committed to addressing the very real problems identified by their teachers and leaders:

  • "I am asked to do so many different things I never know where to start."
  • "None of my professional development opportunities connect to the challenges I face daily in my classroom."
  • "We spend considerable dollars and time on professional learning, and yet we see little movement in the areas we know are most important."

I will report on my observations and learning from the work of these smart and committed educators.

3. How teachers exercise their agency to experience more effective professional learning.

Much of my work is focused on how to build professional learning systems so that all educators experience the professional learning they need to ensure all students achieve at higher levels. It has been many years since I was a classroom teacher, so I must rely on the insights and experiences of great teachers and teacher leaders to help me think about this challenge.

The transformation of professional learning systems and opportunities must involve system and individual change. Teachers must lead the change at the individual level. I will learn from teachers who have impacted system change and how they have done that. From there, I will examine their experiences and insights in attempts to help scale this important work. If you are one of those teachers, please let me know.

4. Leverage all elements of social media to make viral the significance of the message #whywelearn.

At the 2015 Learning Forward Annual Conference, we launched #whywelearn. I believe advocacy for the assumptions underlying this hashtag is one key essential to building demand for better professional learning for all educators. I will dedicate time this year to developing expertise in this area and helping to spread the conversation.

5.  Coaching skills that help me bring out the best in others.

We have incredible individuals who choose to work for Learning Forward. We have a full-time staff of about 20 people. We also contract with many talented professionals to provide specific services. Each person can describe how his or her work helps to advance our vision and mission. Everyone demonstrates a passion and commitment to the work. I am committed to strengthening my coaching skills and influencing our organizational culture so our staff can make an even bigger difference for our members, clients, and the field.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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The opinions expressed in Learning Forward's PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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