Communities of Professional Practice

The heart of school change lies in the quality of the community.

ACSR supports the creation of groups of six to ten teachers and administrators who commit themselves to learning together. They hold each other accountable for continuously adapting their practice to meet the needs of all learners, share resources and ideas, and support each other in implementing new practices. Whether they call themselves teacher learning teams, professional learning communities, critical friends, facilitative leaders, or simply members of a collaborative team, the commitments they hold are the same:

  • To be reflective
  • To make their practice public to one another
  • To frame meaningful questions and ask for substantive feedback from their colleagues
  • To hold each other accountable for meeting the needs of students who struggle most
  • To ask the kinds of questions that provoke and challenge their assumptions and habits
  • To believe that together they are more capable of knowing what they need to know, and learning what they need to learn, than they are alone

ACSR is a Center of Activity of the School Reform Initiative

The School Reform Initiative, Inc. supports the development of professional learning communities in schools – that is, groups of educators with a common interest in improving educator practice in order to ensure high student achievement and equitable outcomes for all students. They do this through the development of critical friendship focused on transformational learning and courageous conversations.

SRI members are committed to making their practice public to one another, to being reflective, and to holding each other accountable for meeting the needs and interests of all students. Through critical friendship, educators share resources and ideas, support each other in implementing new practices, and build relationships among colleagues characterized by mutual trust and freedom from judgment, while keeping a keen focus on issues of equity. They most often work in on-going, collaborative groups where they freely discuss each other’s practice with the intention of improving student learning.

Essential questions SRI members ask themselves include:

  • How do I engage in and facilitate adult dialogue and collaboration that results in higher levels of learning for all students, and especially, for those students who are struggling and/or who are under served?
  • What is the role of risk-taking in adult learning?
  • How do adult collaboration, reflective discourse, and de-privatized practice support student achievement?
  • What are the collegial conversations that make a difference?

Under the guidance of a coach or facilitative leader, these collaborative groups of educators use various protocols and processes to develop shared norms and values; focus on student learning; make their practice public to one another; engage in reflective dialogue and collaborative work; and inquire into, analyze, and reflect upon student learning data. In so doing, they develop the knowledge, will, skill, perspective, commitment, and courage to address the most important dilemmas and questions they have about their practice.

For more information about the School Reform Initiative, please visit their website.

Learn to Lead Communities of Professional Practice

As an SRI Center of Activity, ACSR staff are trained SRI Coaches. This means that we are certified to support teachers and administrators in improving their practice through ongoing reflection and collaboration. We are connected to a powerful network of facilitators and can support a wide variety of change initiatives and improvement goals. Let us magnify the power of your current staff development or school improvement efforts. Our coaches can help your faculty experience the power of collaboration right now.

Coaches Training

The creation of learning communities is complex work, requiring a commitment by administrators, teachers, and coaches. It also requires high- quality preparation and sustained support. A Beginning Coaches Training teaches new coaches the skills and habits that enable them to:

  • Ask questions that challenge assumptions;
  • Examine student work as a way to improve practice;
  • Create collaborative cultures in their schools;
  • Create and sustain effective professional learning communities

Our five-day Institute on School Reform Initiative Critical Friendship offers an opportunity to not only learn the fundamentals of  coaching by experiencing them firsthand, but also to connect with a network of like-minded professionals engaged in similar work across the region.

Support for Experienced Coaches

Just as the best teachers are always learning, experienced coaches need to connect with their peers in order to grow and facilitators. Whether coaching actively or simply applying training in your day-to-day work, ACSR offers informal gatherings and formal experienced coaches seminars designed to offer opportunities to reflect, celebrate, and collaborate on the unique challenges connected to our practice. Guided by experienced facilitators, participants make their practice public, gaining new skills and insights into their work.

Facilitative Leadership: Coaching for School Leaders

School leadership, whether as principal, department chair, or teacher leader, requires special skills and insights. ACSR staff can not only facilitate special groups for school leaders, but also ongoing support for school leaders endeavoring to become facilitative leaders.

Guided by experienced facilitators, this week-long intensive course will not only train participants to be coaches, but also offer an emphasis on how to be a leader in a school that consciously uses this model of professional development as the primary mechanism for professional growth, communication, and accountability. Special attention is given to use of protocols in observations of staff, giving and receiving feedback, examination of curricula, student work and assessment.

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