The second day of the fall PLI update will be Monday, October 9th. Let’s return to the PLI why and how as we prepare for learning!
Professional Learning Culture
We designed the Professional Learning Incentive (PLI) program to enable all staff to immerse themselves deeply in professional knowledge that enhances our work. Why have we invested in this learning?
Setting the purpose and guidelines for collaboration is foundational, but providing space for staff to own their learning and develop new expertise as a community becomes the lever to shift practices.Katie Martin
Improving school culture is not a single step but a series of micro-decisions and consistent messages that communicate, “This is a place where we all learn and grow.” We still prioritize engagement – engaging with students and for students. The engagement focus may look different during the cycles of the PLI program. Sometimes, we’ll be working on our engagement in our work. Often, we’ll be focusing on engaging students.
The ultimate goal of the PLI program is develop a professional learning culture where we are all committed to working together to achieve excellence.
We have evolved the PLI program over the past two cycles. Why have things changed? The simple answer is that this is the first time anyone has done a program like this. We are in uncharted territory! As we have progressed with the program, we’ve learned lessons about the efficiency and effectiveness of our practices. It’s helpful to remember that we are funding the PLI through grants (which have specific parameters) and that we are serving all classified and certified staff (almost 400 employees). That’s a lot of paperwork! Here are a couple of lessons we have learned:
Learning Cycle Choices
The heart and intent of the PLI program is to engage in deep learning with shared learning experiences. These experiences:
- Embed professional learning in everyday practice.
- Make real-time and short-term adjustments.
- Monitor the effects of professional learning.
- Recognize and celebrate growth.
- Share lessons learned.
As we developed the PLI program, we knew that frameworks for learning that gave staff choice and structure would accelerate the learning. We also understood that accountability and evidence of the work were necessary to meet grant requirements. The instructional coaching team developed four frameworks (teaching sprints, peer coaching, impact cycles, and action plans) designed to provide choice in the structure. In the first year, we learned the structures provided frameworks and learning accountability, but the tracking was demanding for staff and supervisors. This year, we are utilizing two pared-down frameworks (teaching sprints and action plans) but leaving all frameworks for learning available. For example, your team may set a teaching sprint goal; then, you may differentiate how the team will reach the goal within the team. In a team of six people, two could be doing a peer coaching cycle, one doing an impact cycle, and three doing the teaching sprint. Then, the team of six studies which strategy was most effective! Regardless of which structures you use, the instructional coaches will help you and we’ll focus on the final product.
Learning experiences directly correlated to goals–district, school, and collaborative teams can dramatically impact student outcomes. When we started the program, we set our professional learning goals and tracked them in Canvas. That proved a bit cumbersome for supervisors to confirm the learning. Last spring, we uploaded goals to Frontline. Frontline worked a little better but was confusing because we were tracking two types of goals – evaluation and PLI. After studying Chapter Four of Learning by Doing (2016), the reminder struck us again that aligning all goals in an organization yields improved outcomes. This year, our PLI goals will serve as our evaluation goals and should support our buildings’ and departments’ continuous improvement plans.
We have found the best way to help people throughout a school district to truly focus on results is to insist that every collaborative team establish SMART goals that align with school and district goals.(DuFour et al., 2016)
Registration & Records
The recording keeping tied to the grants is complex and must survive strict guidelines. The other reality is that Andrea tracks the PLI paperwork, payments, and credits for 400 staff over multiple cycles, and we have almost 100% participation. That is a lot of records! Andrea must also track professional learning to meet rules and statutes in Wyoming. After our first year, Andrea has fine-tuned a process enabling her to meet all the tracking requirements. You must keep track of the deadlines for forms and documentation this year. Due to the large number of records, Andrea won’t be able to make exceptions, as she also has to meet deadlines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t we make exceptions and allow staff to miss the professional learning day?
The administrative team has committed to learning experiences aligned with our goals. The PLI program is intended and funded as a voluntary commitment. We understand that unfortunate circumstances may arise; however, the administrative team has agreed that staff must be present on both learning days to earn the semester’s PLI.
Why don’t we have a specific day we know we’ll get paid?
As noted, Andrea tracks the PLI paperwork, payments, and credits for 400 staff over multiple cycles. Many requirements must be triple-checked, each supervisor must confirm staff learning, and other factors impact the preparation of the stipend payment.
Why do staff groups attend different trainings?
The collaborative administrative team determines the groups’ pieces of training. We examine data, feedback from staff, continuous improvement plans, grant goals, input from instructional coaches and collaborative teams, and current needs to determine the training schedule. It’s worth noting that speakers we bring to the district often must be booked a year or more in advance. The administrative team is thinking forward and balancing current needs to determine the best learning topics.
I didn’t do the PLI this fall or I was not eligible. Can I still do the PLI in the spring?
Will the program continue?
The district plans to sustain the program as long as funding is available.
Check out the rest of the FAQ’s and the Learning Checklist on our PLI Program website!