by Paul Needham, Professional Learning Specialist for the New to Blue Program at Teaching Excellence and YES Prep
Members of the Teaching Excellence team recently had the opportunity to participate in the first TeacherSquared lab, which was held on May 19 and 20 at YES Prep White Oak. TeacherSquared is a collaboration between five of the most successful and respected teacher preparation programs in the country. The program is designed to increase the effectiveness and resource-sharing of all participant organizations, and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The two-day lab focused on the idea of “practice”: how vital it is to novice teacher development, and how each of the organizations is currently using practice in the development of their teachers. Collaboration opportunities included brief introductory overviews by the RELAY Graduate School of Education, Urban Teachers, Aspire Public Schools, Sposato Graduate School of Education, and Teaching Excellence, as well as a three-part “sprint” where members from the various organizations worked together to create a tool or resource that could be immediately applied to all partner institutions in a very short period of time.
For example, my group was tasked with creating a tool or resource that would improve the effectiveness of the online practice of educators. My group included Heather Kirkpatrick, the founder and CEO of AspireU, Brandon Wallace, the Director of Special Education for Urban Teachers, Simon Korzun, the Senior and Lead Developer for RELAY GSE, as well as Calvin Stocker from Teaching Excellence who served as our representative on, and liaison to, the TeacherSquared team. Over the span of three “sprints” during the two-day lab, we created a protocol – a set of guided and structured steps – that can be used by administrators, mentor teachers, or peers to provide empathic, specific, and strategic feedback to a work sample that was submitted online (a video, reflection, lesson plan, etc.). It is our hope that this protocol will result in virtual feedback that is more personal and targeted, which will ultimately result in teachers engaging in more and better practice.
Brent Maddin, the Director of the TeacherSquared collaboration, also secured a visit from Anders Ericsson, author of the book Peak and world-renowned expert on the subject of expertise, who joined the lab for both days. Ericsson, whose work has primarily focused on musicians, athletes, and surgeons, brought an incredibly unique perspective to the event as he answered questions and provided feedback to working groups on the tools they were developing.
Future labs will take place over the coming months and will provide more opportunities for lab participants to refine their ideas, share progress, and tackle new initiatives and focus areas.