Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario
At the core of Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario is a commitment to authentic, collaborative, continuous learning for all our learners. Authentic learning is owned by the learner. It is job-embedded, based on “real world” learning needs, and provides meaningful opportunities for all educators and board staff to learn with (and from) students, colleagues, administrators, parents/guardians and central staff.
Powerful learning designs like mentorship de-privatize instruction, foster collaboration, and support “small l” leadership via the intentional sharing of knowledge and practice between colleagues.
By providing meaningful learning for all we are modelling and supporting the development of the types of iterative and authentic learning ecosystems we would like each educator to create and live with students in their own classrooms. In a nutshell, fostering growth and development for all learners is a critical pre-condition for achieving excellence.
The Annual Learning Plan as part of Inverting the Assessment Pyramid
ALP as a Tool for Collaboration
School culture speaks to both the written and unwritten norms and how they are lived in the daily interactions between staff, students, parents, guardians and the larger school community. A school-based learning culture is critical to making the Annual Learning Plan meaningful.
Engaging teachers in conversations about teaching and learning is one of the most important roles of the principal and can have the greatest impact on student outcomes. Learning focused conversations are not limited to an annual meeting about a teacher’s ALP goals or the Pre- and Post-Observation Meetings during an appraisal year but, rather, they should occur regularly. (e.g., follow-up to a walk-through, a team or staff meeting, a professional learning community meeting or simply an informal conversation in the staff room).
By regularly engaging with teachers in discussions about teaching and learning, principals build credibility and a trusting relationship that effectively prepares both parties for the learning focused conversations throughout the ALP and TPA processes. The principal and the teacher are more likely to feel comfortable openly discussing instructional practice, goals and growth-oriented feedback if the ALP/TPA discussions are one of many learning focused conversations they engage in on an ongoing basis.
ALP as a Living Document
In a collaborative learning culture described above, the Annual Learning Plan creates an important opportunity for learning focused conversations, both formal and informal, between the principal and the teachers, around individual and collective learning goals.
This ongoing dialogue can ensure that the ALP is a teacher-authored and teacher-directed “living document”. As a living document the ALP is based on student learning needs and the authentic professional learning goals of the teacher. Within the ALP there is what Michael Fullan describes as “coherence” with school, board, and/or Ministry initiatives.
Supporting the teacher’s ALP gives principals another opportunity to create and model a collaborative working culture. The value placed on the ALP by meeting with the teacher to discuss goals and strategies, suggest resources and offer support can transform the ALP from something that sits in a filing cabinet into a living document. As a living document the ALP may well become a “messy plan” that could be modified throughout the year and impacted by progress and reflective dialogue.
Principals can further build value into the ALP as a living document by aligning professional learning and resources with the ALP learning goals of their staff. Through collaboration, principals can recognize successes, access expertise, and acknowledge and support growth and learning needs as they emerge.
So What / Now What – Practical Ideas
These ideas are intended as starting points for thinking as teachers, principals and board teams seek to utilize the ALP as a tool for collaboration.
- Teachers have the opportunity to collaborate on the development of their ALP goals and strategies, and periodically discuss progress on their plan.
- Principals use school-level release time to facilitate teachers in working together to develop and/or implement ALP goals and for principal/teacher meetings about the ALP.
- The principal seeks opportunities to build professional learning networks with teachers with common learning goals. These collaborative networks can be fostered and supported during staff meetings, grade/division/department meetings and PA days.
- The principal supports teachers and their ALP goals by accessing school, board or ministry resources to support connected learning (e.g., PD funds, professional reading materials, release time, TLLP).
- Principals and teachers create opportunities throughout the year for staff to have conversations with each other about their learning goals and progress (e.g., learning-focused conversations in small groups at a staff meeting, team discussion at a department/division/grade meeting).
- Teachers reflect on their ongoing learning/goals with their principal by either meeting again at the end of the year or by closing the loop on the previous year when the teacher and principal meets to discuss the revised ALP at the beginning of the subsequent year
- Principals respect the value of the teacher’s ALP by reflecting on the value of their own Principal Performance Appraisal (PPA) and principal’s Annual Growth Plan (AGP) experiences, and how they can relay the same value to teachers through their own practice.
- Boards, jointly with teachers and the federations, develop a list of overarching themes for the Annual Learning Plan from which the teacher selects as a general focus for the learning goal. This provides some support to the teacher to set the focus of their learning and may be used at the school or system level to analyse and collate ALP themes.
- The staff development team, a joint federation and board committee, analyses and collates the ALP themes; this data is used to set the focus of system professional learning opportunities and/or a PA day. Learning sessions are designed and facilitated by teachers, and the sessions provide for teacher choice and self-direction.
- Boards align the process of teacher requests for funding to attend professional learning to the ALP and the teacher’s identified goals.
- The ALP is positioned as a living document that is teacher-authored and teacher-directed. It should be a “messy plan” that may be modified throughout the year and impacted by progress and reflective dialogue.
- Superintendents model the value of the annual learning plan through their meetings/discussions with the principal about his/her AGP. Superintendents model the value of a meaningful, collaborative and growth-oriented process with the principal. Boards can provide explicit opportunities for principals to reflect on the value of their own PPA and PALP experiences, and how that same value can be relayed to teachers through their own practice.
Resources to Support Implementation