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Aurora Institute

A Learning Progression To Support Teachers

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Courtney Belolan

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Support Professional Learning

photoAll twelve of us sit around the table in our workroom, pouring through the Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum.  I half skim the paper in front of me, half scan the faces of my colleagues.  On one of my scans I catch my principal’s eye.  He’s scanning too. We finished our first draft of the progression yesterday, and this is the moment when we find out if our work makes sense.  I’m a little nervous.

The teachers in the room with us, the Phase 1 teams, are all taking the first steps towards our vision of customized learning.  It is now April and all of us are tired, a little ragged, from stretching into this first year.  These people are the best people to look at this progression and give us honest, brutal feedback.  And they will.

The Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum is a learning progression, just like any other learning progression, but for teachers.  A learning progression takes a skill or concept, breaks out the different aspects of that skill or concept, and arranges learning targets from simple to complex.  There are different kinds of learning progressions depending on content and skill, as Fritz Mosher touches on in his CPRE policy brief “The Role of Learning Progressions in Standards-Based Education Reform,” as well as different formats for organizing them.  The Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum takes the skills and understandings needed to create and support a personalized learning environment and arranges them by the following philosophical lenses:

– Culture

– Curriculum

– Assessment

– Facilitation/Instruction

The philosophical lenses filter and focus our practices in the school.  The aspects of each lens, and the corresponding targets, are designed to strike a balance between accountability to our vision and teacher creativity and professionalism.  Like a learning progression used with students, it clarifies what we need to know and be able to do, not how to do it.

After a few minutes of silence and page shuffling, I ask my colleagues what they think.  I have a feedback protocol ready to go, but they start talking before I need to use it.

“If I had this at the start of the year, I might not have made some of the mistakes I made,” the seventh grade math teacher declares, slapping the papers down on the table before her.

“This lays out for me exactly what I need to be thinking about,” shares the seventh grade social studies teacher from the same team, unable to take his eyes off the paper. “Everybody needs this. It gives you the big picture, shows how all the different pieces fit together.”

Courtney Belolan works at RSU 2 in Maine where she supports K-12 teachers with performance-based, individualized learning. Courtney works closely with teams and teachers as a coach, and with the school and district leadership teams as an instructional strategist. Courtney has worked as a 6-12 literacy and instructional coach, a middle level ELA teacher, an environmental educator, and a digital literacy coach. Her core beliefs include the idea that the best education is one centered on student passions and rooted in interdisciplinary applications, and that enjoying learning is just as important as the learning itself.