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Connecting Teachers To Actively Share Their Practice

“Supporting teachers to share their work with one another was way more powerful than us showing up to explain the model.” (John Rice)


Challenge: How to help teachers accelerate their adoption of blended strategies in an informed and authentic way.

Context: By 2013, DC Public Schools had created two model blended learning elementary schools with a plan to incorporate all the other schools in each school’s feeder pattern by the end of the next year. With such an ambitious plan, district leaders needed to find a way to create active communication channels between teachers so that those less experienced with blended learning could learn from their peers in the model schools.

Action Steps: John Rice, then the Director of Blended Learning, developed a peer-to-peer sharing model between schools where teachers could observe and then talk with others who were already implementing blended practices. The model included the following components:

  1. Grade-level teams would visit the blended learning school in their feeder patterns, which was typically in the same neighborhood. These grade-level teams might include the school principal and were focused on a particular subject area.
  2. During these visits, teachers would typically spend time in 2-3 classrooms to observe the room set-up, the flow of a lesson, learn different station requirements, and see how the classroom teacher was helping students monitor their progress.
  3. The visiting teachers and hosting teachers would then meet together over a catered lunch (provided by the district) where they could ask questions, learn about the process, and establish interpersonal relationships.
  4. Teachers would then return to their school and decide as a team how to incorporate the blended practices they observed into their own classrooms.

“Often teachers thought, ‘This is great, we can do it’ and then they’d try it and something would crash,” explains Rice. “But then they would be able to go back to the teachers at the model school, ask questions, learn from their mistakes, and then try again. It was through this iterative process that things would click into place.” According to Rice, these teacher relationships paired with school visits helped many teachers bring blended practices from peripheral “add-ons” into a central place in their academic blocks.

Other Examples: Whether using Highlander’s Personalized Learning Progression or TLA’s resources on station rotation (try this one, too), teachers can benefit from exploring classroom models that are demonstrated in other classrooms across the county. Using models can be helpful for scaling at the district level too, (as this resource hopefully demonstrates). Investigate additional models of change management.