Thursday, September 3, 2015

Questions about Supporting & Extending Educator Professional Learning

I asked a question on Twitter yesterday that probably didn't make sense. I'm grateful to Joe Schwartz for asking me to clarify because our conversation led to a clearer undersanding of what I'm looking for. My original question was:
Has anyone used a Notice/Wonder like structure in professional learning sessions? Would love to hear more abt how you use it ... not w/ the math specifically but about their own learning experiences...
In my work I provide educators an experience of actually doing Math in Your Feet. I believe that as teachers we need chances to move out of our comfort zones and have experiences with new things, as learners.

In my workshops teachers experience familiar elementary math in a brand new context. We need to reflect on that. We also need to reflect on my approach facilitating the math/dance making which includes the flow of the lessons and how they build on one another, the conversations, the focus on language, and facilitating student collaborations in a moving classroom.

Because this is often new territory for teachers, I need and want make sure there is enough time for them to think about how they might approach using Math in Your Feet in their own classrooms. I want this reflection to be meaningful and useful.

Currently, I provide opportunities during my sessions for teachers to reflect on what the math/dance making they've been doing and what they notice about that learning. The reflection times are partly an adaptation of the Notice/Wonder approach which comes out of the Math Forum as a tool for helping students make sense of math. It is very similar to Descriptive Review, an arts education protocol introduced to me by my Teaching Artist Journal Colleagues. 

Overall, I am quite comfortable facilitating noticings and wonderings but...then what? What happens next? Neither myself nor my participants have been satisfied with me trying to quickly answer all their questions at the end of a long day.

I've only got a maximum of six hours with any one group and I want to make it count. I believe in the power of the notice/wonder-like descriptive review as a tool for reflecting on an experience, but I want to know what the next step is. My conversation with Joe helped me clarify and refine my original question. What I'm looking for now is: approach to experiential educator professional learning that helps participants not just learn "how to do" something new, but supports them in extending their questions into answers that will work for them in their own classrooms.
Unfortunately, organizations who bring me in are generally only willing to hire me for a day. Right now I see no possibility for developing longer-term coaching relationships.  I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and feedback!


  1. Now I understand your question better and that is a tough one! I have the luxury of meeting with teachers after they do a notice/wonder and talk with them throughout the year. That is not your situation and that is a tough time frame. So, really you are looking for a way to know that teachers in your sessions are taking what they noticed and making it work for them in their classrooms? Or thinking more deeply about the wonders that may still be lingering with them?

    Is there any time for them to plan "next steps" while you are still there to help them in answering how this would work in their classrooms? Maybe having you there to talk about/answer noticings/wonderings while they are planning may help you have a better picture of what they leave with to try with their students?

  2. Thanks for your reply! I already have a document that helps Ts think through aspects of implementation individually (written) and then have conversations/check in with each other in small groups. But, they're still looking at me with questions like: "What would you do if...?" I guess maybe I already have what I need given the constraints. Maybe I just need to accept the limitations. Good news is that my book will be the perfect complement to an in-person experience (especially b/c there will be an online video companion.)

  3. I know I cannot wait for your book!!

    Do you have a math in your feet FAQ page that teachers could post to later, specifically about lesson questions?

  4. Everything you describe, Malke, are situations that I’ve experienced both in classrooms with students and in professional development situations with teachers and with my own sons as a parent! To limit my frustration I try to remember an important premise of Notice and Wonder — the learning should “belong” to the learner. What are THEY noticing? What are THEY wondering? How can THEY make sense of what they’re doing?

    If I’m doing a 4 hour one-day session or 8 hour a day sessions for a week there will always be more to do to encourage each participant’s process of learning (if I’m facilitating well!) I think it’s a GOOD thing if at the end of your day-long session you and they don’t feel that “it” is finished!

    The idea of having a book, particularly with an online video companion, is great. And once the book is available (like we do with Max’s Powerful Problem Solving book/videos) you can have them read it before you visit or as part of the visit or as a follow-up to your visit! But each of them will still be at a different point of their own process and those questions/uncertainties will still be present. I wonder what learning would be like without the struggle.

  5. Suzanne, thank you for your thoughts and your perspective!! It's good to remind myself that learning takes time and that sometimes it can be overwhelming. Especially when it's math and dance at the same time, lol! Two hurdles to overcome at once...

    I'm thinking that, for the sake of closure (for both me and participants!), after small group reflection/next steps time maybe we can end a session with a choice to share their "biggest take-away" or "first step". I have seen those kinds of reflections come out in the Wonderings we do, but not often. I'll have to think about how to make this closing safe for everyone, though. Not everyone has chosen to be there...Thanks again for sharing your experience. It's really helpful!

  6. The most recent f2f PD we've given is archived here: and if you look at the "Day 4: Reflecting & Planning" PPT linked from "Day 4 with Annie and Suzanne with photos" you'll notice that the last slide has two prompts.

    Annie and I asked participants to write a letter to themselves (some wrote it as email and set a timer of some sort to send it to themselves in October! but it could be on paper that they keep -- there are all sorts of way to do it but the important part is that it's completely private). After they had about 10 minutes to do that we asked them to share a commitment of something they are going to try in their classroom. That was the public part of the reflection. I think if you have a "forced to attend" group you could easily alter the public reflection and ask for volunteers. It would be fun to see how many folks would be willing to share.

    As you try things, we'll love to hear how it goes and what seems to resonate with your participants! We'll continue to reflect and share our revisions, too!

  7. oops, looks like I added an extra "h" - the URL should be:
    Sorry about that!


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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