For teachers, professional development is too often an exercise of sitting, listening and taking in information from an expert—though rarely another classroom teacher.
Teachers from several Puget Sound elementary schools, however, are working to create a new model in which they take charge of their own professional learning. This July, a group of approximately 20 teacher fellows came together to explore how project-based learning can transform the classroom and plan how they’ll build their practice around student inquiry throughout the coming school year.
“Having teachers be told that we can be trusted and creative and just go wild, is so much different than what we’re used to,” said Amanda Sarikaya of Seattle's Green Lake Elementary School. “It’s great to be able to have a format that’s way more responsive to our needs.”
Sarikaya said she plans to begin incorporating project-based learning in her kindergarten classroom, which she co-teaches with two other teachers, this year. By demonstrating how to successfully do so, Sarikaya hopes to encourage other teachers at her school to experiment with their practice.
Sunny Graves, a teacher at Seattle's Louisa Boren STEM K-8 School, said this year’s focus appealed to her because project-based learning gives students a voice in their own learning. And that same ability to direct her own learning has Graves eager to work with fellow teachers in the EduDesign Lab network throughout the year.
“I always like to learn new skills, hear new ideas from other teachers and also share anything I have,” Graves said. “We’re thinking about forming a bit of an intellectual book club, so to speak, and then when we come back together, talking about how we can translate what we’re learning into something tangible for our students.”
Below, hear participating teachers discuss how project-based learning can reshape learning in the classroom and plans to build their practice with fellow teachers in the coming year.
Previous EduDesign Lab summer institutes have focused on incorporating new technologies into teaching practice, elementary science and embedding a social justice lens across the curriculum.
Deborah Massachi, INSPIRE manager director, said participating teachers are planning a variety of activities during the year to continue pushing their practice, including reading groups, classroom visits, roundtables and learning labs where teachers collaboratively develop a lesson, try it with students, and then reflect and revise the lesson.
"I'm excited about the energized team of dedicated teachers across our community—with varying degrees of experience—all supporting and challenging one another to grow around inquiry, project-based learning and in our work as social justice teachers and teacher-leaders in our schools," Massachi said. "The summer institute was a great way to launch our work and really lay the foundation for the cohort to step in and steer their learning together."
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Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications