Educators as Self-Directed Learners and Collaborative Communicators


I had the pleasure of spending three hours with Marin County educators and our special guest, George Couros, the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning at Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada. The discussions and presentation that George brought were thought-provoking, and I’m sure everyone who attended had a busy mind throughout the hours after the meeting.

Update: Eric Saibel spent his post-George evening putting together a very good summary of the roundtable and presentation.

Here are some of the ideas I took away from the afternoon:

  • Everyone in the education community needs to be on a continual learning path (students, teachers, administrators, board members and parents). When you get to the point where you know it all, you really should change jobs. If administrators and teachers can model learning themselves, it will start to create a culture of innovation.
  • To explain to others why innovation might improve learning for students, you have to be convinced yourself and communicate ideas from the heart. Blogging and getting involved in discussions can help hone your ideas.
  • There is tremendous power in one-on-one learning for staff (or even small group learning) where teachers and administrators can ask questions and work on solutions relevant to their practice.
  • Isolation is a choice that educators make. Sharing through blogging and Twitter makes learning happen faster; we can learn so much more from sharing with others and from others.
  • There’s also a great benefit of transparency if teachers and educators consistently use a district Twitter hashtag to connect educators, students, parents, community, as well as to invite in educators from around the world to share their learning. Everyone in George’s district uses the #psd70 hashtag whenever they post information about what they are learning.

Right before I went to George’s roundtable and presentation, I had been working on our new elementary school report cards, which were developed collaboratively by our teaching staff and a consultant from the County Office of Education. The teachers decided that two profiles that students would be assessed on are the “Self-Directed Learner” and the “Collaborative Communicator”. I suddenly had a brainstorm that these categories would also be relevant for our staff, and that maybe I should start assessing my own abilities and actions according to these profiles. For example, here are the standards that we will be assessing our fourth graders on:

Self-Directed Learner

  • Works toward personal best
  • Demonstrates self-control
  • Respects classroom expectations
  • Respects school expectations
  • Works independently
  • Stays on task
  • Organizes self and materials
  • Completes classwork on time
  • Completes homework on time
  • Checks work for accuracy
  • Presents work neatly and legibly

Collaborative Communicator

  • Recognizes and respects authority
  • Communicates respectfully
  • Follows directions
  • Listens attentively
  • Contributes relevant ideas to discussions
  • Works with diverse partners
  • Applies constructive feedback

When I thought of how I would start to evaluate my own performance, I also thought of the norms that our Board of Trustees grades itself on:

  • Focus on the best interest of all students at every grade level
  • Begin and end on time
  • Work as a team
  • Respect and listen to all options, opinions, and styles
  • Actively participate in meetings, workshops and district events
  • Come prepared and be fully present and engaged
  • Be open to new ideas
  • Exhibit positive body language, mannerism, and tone of voice
  • Engage in active listening; do not interrupt; avoid side conversations
  • Disagree agreeably
  • No surprises
  • Assume good will

So maybe here is the beginning of a self-assessment report card for educators, incorporating what I learned from George:

Self-Directed Learner

  • Is open to new ideas
  • Is always looking for ways to improve student engagement and learning
  • Is always looking for ways to reach each student or staff person in his or her own learning process
  • Questions his or her own comfort
  • Is not afraid to play and experiment if he or she doesn’t know the answer
  • Is persistent in finding solutions to problems
  • Reaches out to peers and mentors face-to-face and through social networks to learn from others

Communicative Collaborator

  • Communicates from the heart
  • Avoids isolation
  • Shares with others regularly face-to-face and through social networks
  • Respects and listens to all options, opinions, and styles
  • Is not afraid to disagree agreeably
  • Builds teams with peers

So, for you educator readers, what other standards should we be using to gauge our effectiveness as learners and communicators?

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