Over the past week I have had the opportunity to participate in professional development (PD) using the Backward Design model, suggested by Wiggins and McTighe, focusing on our Learner Profile. It was a great privilege to have Simon Breakspear lead the staff through this process. His expertise in considering educational reform and learning innovation was refreshing.
Simon made it clear that as educators we are; constantly working towards specific learning goals, considering all aspects of learning, planning exciting and engaging learning experiences. He reinforced the concept that innovation comes as true shifts in ideas change. We were encouraged to make small changes, but big leaps in thinking. Simon also made it clear that when we want to innovate we must make it about the quality of learning and not about the new technology.
The shifts made this year in my thinking; about education and where I, or the ‘teacher’, fits into the educational landscape was again brought to the floor as Simon set the task for the following sessions, stating that educators should consider themselves as ‘learning designers’.
So as ‘Learning Designers’ we set to work on our driving question; “How do we design, implement and evaluate an educational experience that shapes the school’s Learner Profile (LP) in our students?” using the Wiggins and McTighe three stage model:
It was amazing to have time carved out of our busy schedules to sit and consider key outcomes the staff have identified for our students to have when they leave school.
In mixed discipline groups, primary and high school, we came up with ‘non-jargon’ definitions of the two outcomes we were focusing on this year. From here we decided what was acceptable evidence to prove that these outcomes were being achieved. This allowed us to created a rubric that showed a clear continuum of learning.
Seeing the definitions, reasons for their importance and the rubrics created by each of the 19 groups, through a shared Google Doc in real time, was exciting. This created a crowd sourced resource, spanning Kindergarten to Year 12, that can begin to allow us to track the progress of a student over time. It allows for authentic and purposeful assessment, providing a basis for growth, as the student can see what they are achieving and the next step to take in order to improve.
Most importantly, doing this allowed the staff, as a whole, to reflect on what the LP means and how it relates to their field of expertise.
At this point we began to apply the process in our own teams with a learning experience that we could teach this coming term. Being given the green light to go and trial our PD learning was great but challenging.
I would encourage other educators to give yourself or your team to go into the “Pit of Learning”. It will be hard, there will be debates and challenges to face but that is because you are passionate.
As we all look forward to a new term of learning, I also encourage you to consider one area that you can have a go of applying or reapplying the ‘Backwards by Design’ concept.
My key take away - when we want to innovate we must make it about the quality of learning and not about the new technology.
Follow Simon Breakspear - @SimonBreakspear