Rick DuFour Would Run Our New Teacher Orientation . . .

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work: New insights for improving schools. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

The three of you reading this blog are no doubt well-versed in the professional learning community concept, as some form of this team inquiry model has been adopted by many schools. I think the idea deserved recognition early on here in our collection of ideas the perfect school would embrace. Specifically, I think this way of thinking about how to help students learn and grow has a unique potential to be helpful for new teachers.

There are several different models for professional learning communities, I personally have been have trained in the model brought to prominence by Richard DuFour. From my experience with working with teachers new to our profession, the DuFour model’s focused summary of the “work” of a teacher is especially useful in helping new teachers focus on how to prioritize their limited prep time with an emphasis on learning, not teaching. I think the four questions DuFour identifies as the standing agenda for a PLC Team provide a clear (albeit challenging) recipe for how the endless work of teaching should be prioritized. When new teachers have come to me with questions about content coverage and “whether I should be doing” X, Y, or Z I have often referred them to DuFour’s 4 PLC Questions:

1.   What is it that we want our students to learn? What knowledge, skills, and dispositions do we expect them to acquire as a result of this course, grade level, or unit of instruction?

2.   How will we know if each student is learning each of the essential skills, concepts, and dispositions we have deemed most essential?

3.   How will we respond when some of our students do not learn? What process will we put in place to ensure students receive additional time and support for learning in a timely, directive and systematic way?

4.   How will we enrich and extend the learning for students who are already proficient?  (p.183-184)

New teachers could allay much of the anxiety and pressure they feel when they are first charged with teaching a new course if they could sit down with a curriculum outline for the course along with these four questions before they do the inevitable page through the textbook. Too often I think the opposite is happens; new teachers page through the textbook and look at the overwhelming amount of content they assume they are expected to cover, they think of every neat lesson on these topics they have ever seen, and ultimately become overwhelmed with the realization that they could not possible address it all.

New teachers would be better served by the exercise that does not involve the textbook, but rather uses the four PLC questions (and hopefully a curriculum guide that has already been written to identify essential skills), to determine what essential skills students need to take away from the course. Next, the teacher would decide what it would look like if students had mastered these skills and what they could do to support students who struggled to do so. Finally, once the students have mastered these skills, what opportunities could they offer these students to further enrich their learning?

This exercise is admittedly easier blogged than accomplished. However, this distillation of the learner focus teachers should have can be very powerful, especially when taken on as an inquiry process by a team of teachers.

Next On In A Perfect School . . .               Laura Desimone Would Evaluate Our Teacher Professional Development Plan . . .