Cross-Disciplinary Teacher Learning at Albany High School
In many high schools, collaboration around teaching and learning occurs only in departments and meaningful cross-disciplinary collaboration is rare. Albany High School, in its second year of teacher-led, inquiry-based professional development, and in its first year of partnership with Mills Teacher Scholars, is the exception. Here, there is strong and meaningful collaboration within departments and vibrant cross-disciplinary collaboration throughout the entire faculty.
This year, nine Albany Teacher Scholars have self-selected to receive the intensive support of the Mills Teacher Scholars staff. Led by Ginny Tremblay and Claire Bove, English, Computer Science, Photography, Art, Science, Spanish, AP physics, English Language Development, and Special Education teachers come together monthly to pursue their self-selected inquiry topics. Through broadening the data sources they use to understand student thinking, they are focused on helping each other find out what is getting in the way of learning. They use this information to develop improved teaching practices.
Some broad early implications of the Albany Teacher Scholars group:
- In a larger context, finding methods and strategies that allow students to struggle at the just the right level is fundamental to learning.
- Change can be guided by listening to students.
- It is IMPORTANT that we teach our students to be active participants — in the classroom and in life. And participating does not just mean talking a lot. Listening is just as important.
- Hearing and responding to each other’s ideas — and not just the teacher’s — is at the root of good critical thinking. We can model this sort of thinking, but then students need to take this work into their own hands. And they can.
At a recent all day professional development event, Albany High teachers participated in a whole-staff learning “carousel.” In this carefully designed sharing structure, each member of the faculty presented the new understandings that have come out of their year-long inquires. Teachers had the opportunity to hear their colleagues’ presentations and to participate in small group discussions about the inquiry topics.
This carousel and the year-long professional development experience were planned and carried out by the Albany High Professional Development Committee, itself a cross-disciplinary group: Ginny Tremblay (Visual Art and Design), Darren McNally (Science), Miriam Walden (History), Hasan Rayyan (Math), Jessica Park (English), Sara Oremland (Teaching Librarian), Kate Fahrner (Resource Specialist), Sophie Chuang (Mandarin), Manny Acosta (P.E.), Becca Burns (Counselor), and Tami Benau (Vice Principal).
In its commitment to cross-disciplinary, teacher-led professional learning, Albany High School, with principal Ted Barone, Vice Principal Tami Benau, the Albany High PD Committee, the Albany Teacher Scholars group, and active participation by the entire Albany High School faculty, is forging a new path for powerful teacher professional learning at the high school level.