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When a talented educational researcher like Dr. Anabella Martinez returns to her high school in Colombia, South America after finishing a doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University, incredible impact is not only possible– it’s expected. Dr. Martinez, whose doctoral research was on teacher professional development, started as the academic director and is now school director for Marymount School, Barranquilla.
Energized by LINC’s research-based model of generativity, Dr. Martinez decided to use it as a key part of her teacher professional development strategy and as the centerpiece of her approach to teacher evaluation. Working with faculty leaders, the school has transitioned to a portfolio approach for supporting teacher development. And as in the generativity
model, teachers move through a rubric defining four key stages (Pre-Spark, Spark, Internalize, and Generate) in five key domains: standards, learning, assessment, technology, and classroom culture.
“It was our goal to address teacher mindsets; to support teachers in promoting self-directed, self-regulated learning for students,” said Martinez. “In order to address our school’s broad vision for global competence, entrepreneurial leadership, and values (spirituality, honesty, excellence, respect, responsibility), it is essential that we teach students to be lifelong learners, put them at the center of our teaching and learning, and offer numerous opportunities to develop student voice.”
FOCUSED ON TEACHER LEARNING
Sandra Noguera, a former middle school math teacher, was first tapped by Dr. Martinez to be the blended learning coach for high schools. Now, she’s the Teacher Learning Specialist,
working to support all teachers.
“I work with teachers to develop an annual professional learning plan,” said Noguera. “Teachers select three of the domains to focus on each year. The portfolio is used to assess their annual professional learning projects. Teachers ultimately evaluate themselves using the generativity scale.”
“LINC offers a range of workshops for teachers, helping them to develop 21st-century teaching skills, increase project-based learning, and improve the way teachers use technology in the classroom,” said Noguera. “Following the workshops, I find myself spending a lot of time helping teachers increase their skills in PAACC (personalization, agency, authentic audience, connectivity, and creativity). For example, teachers frequently confuse offering a lot of activities with differentiation.”
“We have created about five Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) in each grade band,” explained Noguera. “If a teacher wants to focus on using video in the classroom, she can participate in that TLC. The TLCs change annually as teachers identify what they want to focus on.”
BROADENING STUDENT OPPORTUNITES TO LEARN
Marymount Barranquilla wants teachers to focus on three key learning opportunities: 1) project-based learning, 2) connection-based learning, and 3) service learning. “Project-based learning happens primarily in the classroom, providing engaging inquiry-based learning for students,” Ms. Noguera explained. “Connection-based learning is when students collaborate with experts, mentors, or students in other schools. And service learning happens when students are at work in the community engaging in volunteer opportunities.”
“Our second graders did a world cultures project this past year. Using Google Hangouts, students talked to peers at Marymount School in Cuernavaca, Mexico,” explained Noguera. “Students had pen pals in the other school and did video chats to explore cultural differences, ultimately making a presentation to their peers in class.”
“Third grade teachers are focused on developing authentic audience. Students will be working with local leaders to find ways to address common social problems in the community,” she added.
Dr. Martinez credits the partnership with LINC for increased use of technology by teachers, a broader variety of teaching strategies in the classroom, and increased use of project-based learning, particularly in the elementary classrooms. “Next year, we plan to expand our work to include the LINCspring platform. We have a general sense of where our teachers are in terms of their stage of generativity. LINCspring will help us push teachers to move along the continuum. Teachers need to feel more empowered to set goals and move forward,” says Martinez.