Creating a Culture of Professional Learning

The process shared today is a systemic vision by the superintendent of my school district. He emphasizes the importance of a clear vision focused on instruction and quality teaching in which rigorous learning is taking place.  

We have such an amazing staff that has embraced our vision to be the model of a learner-centered school. In order to produce quality learners, we must start by modeling learning as professionals. We are so blessed to have a quality admin team leading the way!- via Twitter @melyon60 Morris Lyon, Superintendent

I  joined the leadership of this district last year.  
On Year One of the game plan, the district began breaking down the state standards.  In Texas, our standards are called the TEKS.  

Year Two, (the year I joined the team), we incorporated Data Meetings/Data Rooms, PLC time for common planning and collaboration, Content-Based Assessments, and Leadership Walks. 
Now in Year Three, we’re implementing Hawk Walks.   You may call these Gallery Walks in your district.  
The goal of Hawk Walks is to ensure quality instruction by balancing student work and products with the standard.  In other words, does the product align with the standard.
Let’s take a look at the process.


Teachers will select a standard of focus.  The standard is totally selected by the teacher.  The teacher dissect the TEK (standard).  He/she will circle the verb, underline the content, and box the content.


The work displayed is not a project.  It is work that is the norm- authentic work samples within their current lesson.  We have criteria such as- no names on the front of the work, no grades to be given, and include at least six samples displayed from various learners.  For example, we would like to see work samples from advanced learners, struggling learners, special education, English Learners, students identified through 504 etc…


Writing is a big focus district-wide and adding this component is a critical piece.  As I write this post it is the end of October, and this is our second Gallery Walk/Hawk Walk.  Writing is on the rise.  For the younger grades, we encourage a sentence stem, word banks, and group discussions to assist students in this piece.  The writing reflection is NOT a step-by-step process of the assignment.  It is a reflective summary of their learning.  If you incorporate this piece, please set criteria of expectations.  



Teacher feedback is important to me.   Hawk Walks/Gallery Walks, as well as, the PLC framework allows for teacher input.   As we walk the halls, a few things happen.
1.  Teachers are asked to leave their classroom for a quick minute and share their student’s work with the team.  They simply explain the lesson, the state standard, and share any other information about the work samples.  It is a pretty quick process.
2.  At least two teachers are preselected prior to the walks.  This gives the admin team a view from the eyes of a teacher, as well as, they hear our dialogue and see it from our eyes.  
3.  During PLC time, we have deeper discussions about the lessons and the rigor of the standard.  During our next Gallery Walk, all teachers will take a walk during their PLC scheduled time.  This will allow all teachers to be apart of the learning.  


This is still in the early stages, but honestly we are seeing big changes in student and teacher learning.  
But let me share some of the comments teachers are saying.

I learned my students could do more than I realized.

I saw the lesson with the end in mind.  It really made me think about the standard from the student’s perspective.


We have a Gallery Walk schedule for the district.  The schedule indicates the date in which to post the student’s work and the week in which walks will take place.  Each semester we will have a least 4 gallery walks.  


Overall, we want students to master the state standard.  In order to do that, the lesson and activities must always align.  If you incorporate PLC’s, this aligns perfectly.   A culture of professional learning is one that is collaborative-not isolated.

Questions you may ask yourself as you consider this process: How can I increase the opportunity for teachers to collaborate?  How can we restructure our current professional development model?  How can we create a culture of ownership and empowerment?  Do my teachers understand the district’s direction?  How will students benefit?

With this model of professional learning, it is ongoing.  It doesn’t happen just at the beginning of the school year.  As administrator of the campus, I can spot overall strengths happening throughout the building.  I can also determine areas of need for a grade level.

Want to see this in action?  

Come visit our school and speak to our superintendent.  Email me and let’s talk.

Stephanie McConnell

Stephanie McConnell

I’m Stephanie, and I’m the face behind Principal Principles. I’m a former principal turned educational consultant, presenter, and edupreneur. I’m obsessed with giving school leaders the tools they need to lead a successful school.

One Response

  1. Hello! I was curious if you would be able to e-mail an editable version of "The Principal Monthly Checklist" document. I have the PDF and would like to tailor it to my needs in my district. If possible, that would be wonderful. I have the black/white stripe w/ flowers version. Thanks so much!

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Hi, I'm Stephanie

Hello friend! Welcome to Principal Principles. I’m Stephanie, and I’m the face behind Principal Principles. I’m a former principal turned educational consultant, presenter, and edupreneur. I’m obsessed with giving school leaders the tools they need to lead a successful school.


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