Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Growth: Professional Partnerships Help Connect Curriculum and CITE
Empowerment of teachers is important to Douglas County School District. This past year, DCSD's Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Growth (CIPG) department began shifting emphasis to a model in which teachers and teacher-leaders are facilitating trainings throughout the district.
“We have produced professional learning that is engaging, but we’re really shifting it to that next level of empowerment,” explained Amy Lane, CIPG's director. “It’s one thing to be engaged and share, it’s another thing to empower teachers to share their learning and share their practice with others. We’ve found this sharing of best practices is very powerful, and it’s also helping to provide personalized learning opportunities to fit our learners’ needs.”
The Assessment and System Performance Office (ASPO) and CIPG collaborated to develop resources for teachers as they work to empower learners in their classroom. Nathan Burgard, a Coordinator for ASPO, began the effort to create content area frameworks for teachers using the Colorado Academic Standards. These frameworks can be found on the CIPG website.
“Our ultimate goal was to develop a practical content resource for teachers to consider using when thinking about critical components that need to be taught in order for students to be successful.”
Throughout last year, a variety of evening classes and professional development within schools were provided through CIPG and teacher-leaders focusing on content. Jill Casas, a Strategist with CIPG, was part of the team developing K-12 literacy learning opportunities for the district.
“The opportunity to be a part of renewed focus on literacy development in DCSD has been an amazing journey. Learning alongside teachers and building leaders in DCSD over the course of the past year, in the area of literacy, has been inspiring and reinvigorating. We’ve worked hard to ensure opportunities for a wide range of experience and interest. In doing so, the CIPG team collaborated with teachers across the district to design 16 courses that we hope meet the needs of teachers K-12. We are so excited to continue this challenging work with teachers and building leaders across the district”.
Kelli Bainbridge, Principal at Pioneer Elementary shared her thoughts about these opportunities.
"For several years now, Pioneer teachers have been requesting staff development classes on best practices in literacy instruction. With the shift to providing literacy staff development, teachers have been on fire! They love the classes and have been able to return to their rooms the next day to implement new learning. As a result, student achievement soared this year.”
Additionally, the availability of trainings for teachers will be greatly enhanced this year with the Learning Academy rollout, an online professional growth platform that will enable teachers to access professional learning modules via on-demand videos, blog posts from teacher leaders across the district, and more at their own leisure.
“We recognize that times have changed. Teachers cannot necessarily come to a night class or leave their buildings, but everyone in our system has access to technology. So, they can log on to the Learning Academy and receive all of the opportunities we offer at night, those that are embedded in the schools, or those that are offered during the summer, all at their fingertips,” Lane explained. “It’s just another way to constantly serve the system.”
Also, new this year is the addition of Learning Labs and Learning Cohorts, both tools giving a forum for teachers to share ideas and best practices with each other. Learning Labs will provide an opportunity for teachers to observe their peers, in person or virtually, to share ideas and best practices. Online, teachers can access 360° videos, focused on targeted areas of instruction. To observe their peers in person, teachers can request a Learning Lab Day in which they visit other classrooms and then have a planning session to reflect upon and implement new ideas. Learning Cohorts are ongoing learning opportunities throughout the school year in which teachers work together around a topic of focus. Topics of focus include Authentic & Sustainable Learning, Climate & Culture, Design Thinking, Electives & Specials, Literacy, Technology Integration, and more.
Carmen De Tata, English as a Secondary Language teacher at Douglas County High School has first hand knowledge about the benefit of sharing and receiving ideas from peers after attending secondary content area literacy classes throughout last year.
“There is reading everywhere. The tips and tools from those classes truly helped. Sometimes you get in a rut after so long, and it is just good to hear what other teachers have to say and share.”
Content is an important aspect of the DCSD Board-approved curriculum, which is still made up of four components: content, 4Cs, 21st century skills, and higher order thinking and learning; however, the CITE committee worked to encourage flexibility of delivery and a less prescriptive approach. The goal is to honor that teaching and learning occur in a number of ways in DCSD schools, whether it’s more traditional classroom teaching, EL Education, Design Thinking, IB, Artful Learning, STEM, STEAM among other approaches.
“Teachers will not experience this simply as a shift in language on their evaluation. Our system as a whole is broadening the umbrella of curriculum to honor all of the work that’s going on in our schools,” explained Amy Lane, Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Professional Growth.
Lane has been collaborating with DCSD’s Director of Educator Effectiveness, Erica Mason, to ensure that the verbiage and professional growth opportunities DCSD offers align with the new CITE revisions, so that teachers experience alignment between their day-to-day practices in the classroom, the evaluation process, and the professional development opportunities.
“You will see expanded choices in professional growth offerings because, just like our students, we want to provide our teachers with choice in their learning,” Lane said.
The choice in professional growth has already made an impact at Iron Horse Elementary. Principal, Kirsten Bloomfield shares her experiences.
“We have had the amazing opportunity to work with the DCSD [CIPG] department in the area of literacy. Teachers have garnered new knowledge, honed their skills, and developed common language that can be used with all students. PD was differentiated to meet the needs of both experienced and new teachers and was developed based upon the goals of individuals and teams of teachers.”