Working with the ASCD Affiliates is one of the truly great pleasures in my professional life. They are some of the most expert, dedicated, innovative people I know. One of the major points of emphasis in their work is providing high-quality professional development to educators on the ground where they live and work. They have earned their reputation in their professional development work. So it is no surprise to me that they continue to push the envelope, even as educators find it increasingly difficult to get out of their districts and take advantage of PD offerings.
In gauging the best ways to serve educators in the current climate of increased accountability and dwindling dollars, there are four trends we have identified as key when educators select the PD offerings they choose to attend:
- Networking – educators want to connect with like-minded colleagues outside their district, both locally and globally
- Capacity Building – educators want to increase their professional capital and capabilities
- New Value – educators want new skills and strategies they can immediately put into use on the job
- Digital Productivity – educators want to use virtual tools to collaborate, share, learn and grow
As a result, we are launching a new kind of professional development that addresses these needs: ASCD EdSpace. Focusing on targeted content, useful skills and strategies, unconferencing principles, and web technologies, this format delivers a new professional development experience for educators. Most importantly, this is not cookie-cutter PD. ASCD EdSpace will look differently wherever it is offered, based on the needs and interests of educators in the region.
Piloted by North Carolina ASCD this past November, this ASCD EdSpace format uses a hybrid of virtual and face-to-face collaboration with built-in flexibility, so that participants get what they want with who they want out of the experience. Breaking new ground, five ASCD Affiliates from the northeast United States are planning a larger scale, live hybrid event to take place on Friday, March 27, 2015. ASCD’s Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont affiliates are bringing in Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey virtually to work with educators on the ground in their respective states in real time, learning about and collaborating around their FIT teaching model.
FIT Teaching (the Framework for Intentional and Targeted Teaching) is an approach to instruction that ensures high-quality teaching through school and classroom culture, established purpose, gradual release of responsibility, and formative and summative assessments. It also assists educators in offering descriptive and actionable feedback while using classroom data to inform targeted instruction. It is a rich, meaningful, actionable approach that empowers educators to successful meet the challenges in today’s climate of education accountability.
When ASCD EdSpace was piloted in North Carolina, it was amazing how lively and personably Fisher and Frey came across virtually from their school in San Diego, where it was in the early light of morning for them as the event began. They gave a walking tour of their building, spoke with the audience as they worked from their offices during the school day, and even had students coming in unannounced on camera. Awkward or disruptive? Nooooo….Doug and Nancy parlayed those moments into opportunities for students to talk with the North Carolina audience about their experience as students in the FIT Teaching environment. It was spontaneous, informative, heart-warming and magical.
At certain points during the morning, Fisher and Frey take breaks to tend to their work at the school while participants work together on the ground to make meaning and collaborate around the FIT Teaching model. And the entire afternoon is open to participants forming self-selected groupings and working on FIT Teaching applications that can be used in the classroom on Monday morning. It is a powerful combination of content expertise and practitioner collaboration that reaps enormous dividends. Some educators come in teams from their schools and some come on their own to network with others they meet at the event. Either way, the benefits are numerous.
One added dimension of the Northeast Affiliates event on Friday, March 27th: at the end of the day all the participating northeast sites are coming together in a virtual meeting space to share and compare outcomes and takeaways. The affiliates see this as critical, since each state will look at FIT Teaching through the lens of its own culture. It is important to compare ideas and insights across the region at the end of the day. If there is interest among attendees during this sharing of takeaways from the day, the affiliates may offer a monthly follow-up virtual academy through the summer…an additional six months of ongoing PD and collaboration across the northeast. There’s no such thing as one-and-done in this brave new world.
Interested in attending? Visit the event page at http://www.ascd.org/professional-development/northeast-ascd-affiliate-culture-purpose-structured-teaching-pd-experience.aspx to learn more and select one of the five affiliate registration pages. Educators from outside the participating states are welcome to participate, too…just select the affiliate of your choice with whom to register. You will not only benefit from the PD experience, you will contribute to our learning as we gather feedback and continue to improve this new breed of professional development for educators everywhere. Help drive the future of educator professional development; participate in the Northeast Affiliates ASCD EdSpace event next month!