The power of using Professional Learning Protocols as a driver for co-learning:

It is vital important that we integrate deep learning strategies that keep the focus on analyzing student work and the impact of our teaching while using the time we have for co-learning in flexible ways.   In our book, Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence (Corwin Press, 2016), we describe methodologies which allow us to be involved in co-learning in the classroom as well as in more flexible ways outside the classroom setting.  Here are some details regarding one of the book’s protocols that does not require release time and we invite you to consider our book for more co-learning strategies:

Sharing work as a driver for co-learning for up to three or four participants:

The sample protocol below is designed to look at a variety of student responses to a collaboratively planned lesson to deepen our understanding. It works well for members of a teaching division or grade partners:

Prior collaborative planning to teaching

  • It is helpful if some norms of collaborative engagement have been established (see Appendix B in our book).
  • Establish an area of common teaching interest or concern (What does student data reveal as an area of focus?)
  • Choose a specific curriculum Learning Goal or Intention as a focus within a commonly agreed upon subject area.
  • Plan a lesson collaboratively and determine the Success Criteria that need to be co-constructed with students.
  • Determine together how prior student knowledge will be determined as a part of the planning process.
  • As a part of the planning, develop a rich performance task that directly relates to the learning goal and success criteria as a culminating event .
  • Determine how the student work will be assessed.

Individual teaching and choosing pieces of student work to share –

  • Within no more than two days of teaching the lesson, each member of the collaborative chooses three pieces of student work from the rich performance task to bring to share and discuss.
  • Choose pieces of student work that represent different levels of thinking and understanding.

Collaborative discussion – time needed 1.5 hours

  • Each participant debriefs their teaching experience and shares one piece of student work at a time.  Collaborators listen to each other and ask questions for clarification or offer suggestions for next steps in teaching and what feedback would be helpful for the student involved.
  • Collaborative debriefing ends with a reflection on the process of professional co-learning.

Learning, using protocols, is deepened with effective questions and facilitation of the discussion.  Here are some questions we might consider:

  • How do the pieces of student work relate to the Success Criteria that we felt were important?
  • What do we see as evidence of student thinking?
  • What are the next steps for learning for our students based on the evidence we see in their work?
  • What specific feedback will we give the students?
  • Who can be grouped together for guided practice and mini-lessons in responding to our data?

Reflection is a very important part of co-learning and questions on the process of co-learning are also valuable, such as the following:

  1. What did we learn from listening to our colleagues as we shared student work?
  2. What new perspectives did we gain from the experience of co-learning?
  3. What will we take back to our classrooms to try, amend or refine?
  4. How will we build on the learning?
  5. What would we change about the process and what we would we keep?
  6. When will we meet again and what kind of student work will we bring back to our learning table?

In summary, collaborative learning is a powerful learning tool for staff as well as students when we are specific and focussed in our planning, teaching, debriefing and is driven by on-going assessment.  The leadership needed to steer this focussed work is also specific and skills-based.   We call that leadership “Collabor-ability”(p. 107)!

Sharratt, L. & Planche, B. (2016) Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence. Corwin Press – see Appendices on pages 237-243 for further details on protocols for co-learning.

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