The Power of Professional Networks
Mills Teacher Scholars is excited to be engaged in supporting nontraditional collaborations through our inquiry work.
In today’s siloed education landscape, many educators find themselves insulated from colleagues who may provide them with diverse perspectives and inspiring models. Mills Teacher Scholars works to bring people together to bridge these gaps and construct shared understandings across boundaries through creating professional networks within and across districts.
Participants in all of our inquiry networks share that they return to their own professional environments re-energized and grounded; they re-envision themselves as members of a broader educational community working towards similar goals, re-connect with their long-term vision for educational change, and leave with the next steps that will move them towards this vision.
Teacher Scholar Leader Network: Learning to Support Colleagues’ Thinking
Our Teacher Scholar Leader Network is comprised of 47 teacher leaders from our 17 partner sites who are currently or will in the future lead collaborative inquiry work at their site. Our network meetings build the skills of collaborative conversation and data analysis, reflect on data from their sites’ teacher scholars’ inquiries, and receive facilitation support.
At our October Saturday Teacher Leader Network session teacher leaders deepened their understanding of their role as “public learners.” Teacher leadership in the inquiry context is not leading through expertise. In this case, teacher leaders “lead from behind,”through modeling an inquiry stance, demonstrating an investment in the inquiry process and practicing the sort of deep focused listening that puts their colleagues in the drivers’ seat of their own learning.
Principal Inquiry Network: Creating The Conditions for Adult Learning
The Mills Teacher Scholars Principal Inquiry Network works with school leaders to enhance administrators’ understanding of adult learning and supports them to build ongoing teacher-led learning communities at their schools.
During our day-long workshop on October 25th , 22 site leaders from 10 districts spent a day exploring the mindsets, structures and relationship skills that support authentic ongoing teacher learning. Mills Teacher Scholars is offering a repeat of this workshop on January 31st at Mills.
Making Connections Through District Networks
With our district inquiry groups we bring teachers from multiple schools together, designing the inquiry experience to foster the relationships and trust that will allow diverse groups of teachers to share authentic questions and build understanding of student learning and improved instructional practices.
The October all-day session for Oakland Unified’s Newcomer Teacher Scholars included a workshop facilitated by Professor Greta Vollmer of Sonoma State entitled, “The Developmental Path of the Multilingual Writer: What Can Second Language Research Tell us About Developing Strong Writers?” Teachers spent the remainder of the day diving into their individual inquiry projects on how to support newcomer students in their own classrooms, analyzing student learning data independently, and meeting in small cross-site groups. (Watch a Teaching Channel video about this partnership here).
Oakland Unified’s Computer Science Teacher Scholars are investigating how to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms as they implement E.C.S. (Exploring Computer Science) a new district-wide curriculum for grades 6-12. The group is particularly interested in using their cross-district inquiry space to better understand which instructional strategies and approaches support the development of students’ problem solving skills.
Oakland Unified’s K-12 Social Emotional Learning Teacher Scholars represents eight district schools that are striving for meaningful school-wide implementation of SEL practices and evidence-based SEL curriculum that lead to improved outcomes for students. Elementary, middle and high school teachers have the chance to connect around how competencies build across the developmental spectrum.
In San Lorenzo Unified, teacher scholars from K-12 meet monthly to explore inquiry topics of their choosing, making connections across disciplines and grade levels and using a wide-range of data to understand what is happening for students at all levels of their education in their district.
Berkeley Unified School District’s Music Teacher Scholars are focusing their inquiry work this year on practices that will support equity in teaching and learning music. Over the past two years, through analyzing classroom-based data, teachers in the group have identified a number of practices that support equity, including strategies for taking an asset-based approach to individual students, and formative assessments that allow students to identify their own goals for learning to play instruments. Teachers are testing out these strategies and working to implement department-wide practices.