Monday, November 7, 2011

Project Based Learning - Project Tuning Experience Enhances My Skills and Appreciation For My Fellow Colleagues

To start off the week I facilitated another project tuning session for a teacher. It went really well. I thought it went even better than the previous one I was part of last week. This is no way a slam to the other session, but a credit to the teachers who continue to take part and become better at this process.

For this session there were a few things that helped to make it run much smoother that I think needs to be incorporated into other project tunings.

1. Variety of staff - I think this is essential. It is imperative to conduct a project tuning with a good mix of teachers with different backgrounds. This session contained language arts teachers, an art teacher, a science teacher, and a gifted education teacher. Having different types of teachers with different types of background and thought processes really helps the teacher who is project tuning receive feedback from all angles. The previous one I ran contained almost all the same subject teachers at the same grade level. I think this can sometimes hurt because for so many years we as a staff have been trained and forced to work on the same page, do the same thing, test the same way, etc. that we were missing that broad spectrum of insight. However, I do think that as the staff continues to project tune and get better at the process we will get to a point where it won't really matter who attends because we will all be able to do the sessions correctly. At this stage in the game, we need diversity and this was proven this morning.

2. Essential Question - Another key element is for the teacher to bring up the key question or struggle they currently don't have an answer for. This really helps the group focus on what the teacher needs to get out of the session. By providing this roadblock in the project development the group can spend the time needed to help move the teacher over the hurdle. Getting that question is tough and sometimes be instant which leads me to.....

3. Overview Phase - I think the initial step is vital for the discussion. One difference between the two sessions I ran is that the first one I did not force the teacher to continue to talk for the entire time. This time I did(thanks Ben) and because of that the teacher shed some of her struggles which really helped frame the rest of the discussion.

4. Proper Time - we had to shorten the time, but one thing we discussed was to make sure we hold true to the Discussion time of 10 minutes. This is probably the most important phase for the teacher who is sitting outside the circle taking notes. We ran into the issue of not having enough time for everyone to speak due to time constraints(we used 7 minutes). 10 minutes is a must. This means we have to shed some minutes elsewhere and we have yet to find a perfect system.

As I review how I did as a facilitator I realize that I still have much work to do. I am learning new things each time. This is what I love about our staff. Working with a new group today I gained a whole new sense of appreciation for the amazing people in our building. With time to work with some of them I was able to learn more about myself and also how to become a better facilitator. Working with some of the same teachers from the last session I think we already improved on our questioning techniques and we are so excited to teach again. We have all found a renewed sense of excitement and I love it.

One thing that arose was the Step Up/Step Back idea. I need to find a good way of bringing to light these issues. Maybe just a reminder at the beginning ensuring that
  • Everyone has a chance for their voice to be heard.
  • Making sure everyone Steps Up and is not afraid to voice their ideas. Some of the timid teachers could have the best ideas and we need to hear them.
  • Making sure that if someone or some people are really occupying the air that they Step Back to allow others to contribute. I am guilty of this. I also have ideas(not always good ones) and I hate silence so I am first to jump in when I need to learn to step back.
This is my little reflection on another project tuning. I like to always spend time reflecting as I think it is important to me to becoming better at what I want to do. I have a long ways to go, but with each tuning I only hope to get better.

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