Building Capacity in Your 21st Century Teachers
“Our most effective teachers show that great teaching is leadership…In every highly effective classroom, we find a teacher who, like any great leader, rallies team members (in this case, students and their families) around an ambitious vision of success. We find a teacher who plans purposefully and executes effectively to make sure students reach that vision, even as that teacher also continues to learn and improve”. -Steven Farr. Leadership, Not Magic
Change continues to be the one persistent phenomenon in education; how we initiate and manage that change has lasting impacts on student achievement. 21st century skills have been a goal districts aspire to reach, and there have been grants, initiatives, and products built around 21st century teaching and learning skills. Now, many would say that 21st century skills are non-negotiable, a must have, a global imperative to keep our students competitive in the work force. The need to reflect on our current practice while preparing for the changing expectations creates both opportunities and challenges.
We must continue the comparison and contrast between our current practice and the vision of a 21st century classroom. So how do we build capacity for effective teaching around these skills? How do we create self-efficacy in both teachers and students? What do you want to change in your professional practice? How do you reflect on your current practice and make plans for professional growth?
Self-efficacy has been defined as the measure of belief in one’s ability to complete tasks and reach goals. With that in mind, the goal should be to create self-efficacious teachers and students. We know that self-efficacy affects every area of human endeavor and determines the motivation we feel towards our work. It determines how both students and teachers think about and interact with their work. Bandura’s work indicates, “Collective efficacy is significantly related to achievement at the school level.”
Let’s start with an examination of the skills. Depending on the source, they include collaboration, critical thinking, use and evaluation of information from digital sources, an appreciation of diversity, creativity, integration of technology, leadership, and accountability. We can also look at the literacy and math goals from the National Common Core State Standards to see the connection between the skills and expectations.
The work of Danielson, Marzano, and others outlines the skills for effecitve teaching we will need to meet these changing expectations. Their domains focus on skills around the following topics: lesson planning, classroom environment, instruction and reflection, and professional responsibilities. This convergence of changing expectations and the need for a different skill set and mindset have created an interesting dynamic for districts in terms of building capacity for their teachers and principals.
Every one of us is evaluated as part of our work. Evaluations are going to happen. The difference lies in which tool your district has selected to use – Danielson, Marzano, or others. They all use the same research as the basis for the evaluation and present each of us with an opportunity to use these tools to reflect on our practice and grow our skills. We need to re-frame the way we have looked at teacher evaluations and move from “something that is being done to us” to using it to our advantage for professional growth. These tools are really rubrics for strengthening our skill set. We need to use the information in the four domains along with expected student behaviors, teacher skills, and evaluation to reflect on our practice and create plans for professional growth.
This is powerful information to be used during your PLC time and as a basis for professional development. Another piece that can assist our students and teachers with the expectations of the Common Core Standards are the Performance Character Values. These traits can help ensure not only student success but also teacher success. These traits are tied directly to the concept of self-efficacy:
- Asking questions
- Working with others
- Making connections
- Monitoring progress
- Embracing learning
Read More About the Performance Character Values in the blog by Dr. Andrew Ordover, Building Student Character in the Classroom
There are many connections between the 21st century skills, evaluation tools, and the performance character traits. The question then becomes: how do we use this information to reflect on our current practice while making plans for the future?
What should those plans for effective teaching include? Differentiated professional development that is based on data utilizes 21st century instructional strategies, skills, and tools, considers teacher input and feedback, and offers opportunities for coaching and practice.
What are the professional development discussions like in your school? The Power Point presentation below can be used as a tool to reflect on your practice. This information can also be used to facilitate rich discussions around the 21st century skills needed to help our students be competitive in the work force.
Change continues to be the one persistent phenomenon in education. How will you use this information to examine and make changes to your practice? What will you need to build your capacity around 21st century skills?