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What questions are on teachers’ minds?

August 22, 2011

Today, the Center for Teaching launched two Edward E. Ford Foundation cohorts.  These cohorts are being funded by a leadership grant that the Center for Teaching at The Westminster Schools received from the Edward E. Ford Foundation.  This two-year grant will fund four cohorts that will involved 40 faculty in the Atlanta area.

One cohort will spend the year studying assessment, both formative and summative, and design ways to improve assessment practices in their classrooms.  The second cohort will spend the year studying what neuroscience is telling educators about how the brain learns and how we can use that understanding to improve our student achievement.  One of the goals of the E.E. Ford cohorts is to take the theory they learn and put it into practice.

Each cohort is composed to 10 high school teachers, five from a variety of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and five from a consortium of independent schools.  There are a total of 20 teachers who will engage in professional development over the course of 2011-2012 school year.  They will learn and collaborate during 50-60 hours of face-to-face monthly meetings.  Between meetings they will share, communicate, and collaborate through a Ning.  Each cohort is facilitated by two faculty, one from APS and one from one of the five independent schools in the consortium.  The workshop today focused on getting to know one another and processing our common summer reading, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath.

In our first activity, we spent time getting to know one another.  Each cohort member had to complete a “my sentence” activity.” They had to find a picture that spoke to them or was particularly meaningful, and then come up with a sentence that reflected part of their educational philosophy and was tied to their picture.   In addition, we had them spend the first 15 minutes writing a 50 word mini-saga.  In exactly 50 words they had to tell us about themselves, personally or professionally.  We then had each member read their 50 word mini-saga while we projected their “my sentence” slide in the background, as well as a slide that contained biographical information about the person.  This activity was extremely well received by the group.

I wanted to share their “my sentence” slides because I was moved by the types of questions this group of teachers generated.  These are the questions that drive teachers to explore their own learning and try to improve their teaching practice.  Each of these 20 teachers took the risk to share some part of their philosophy and put it into a format that was simple and elegant.  From my perspective, the E.E. Ford fellows are thinking deeply about their profession and the students they teach.  Take a look at the questions and see what you think.

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